An Atheistic Surprise

Posted on May 1, 2015 | in CRC, Library & University Collections | by

2015-05-01 08.52.11sWe keep finding things we didn’t know we had!  Special Collections has been playing host to experts from the London firm of specialist booksellers, Bernard Quaritch.  During their investigations they unearthed this little pamphlet which turns out to be an uncatalogued and unrecorded copy of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s first publication, “The Necessity of Atheism”, printed in 1811.  This cheeky little tract dismisses the entire history of theology and belief in 13 small pages, concluding triumphantly “Every reflecting mind must allow that there is no proof of the existence of a Deity. Q.E.D.”.  Shelley was at the time 19 and a student at University College, Oxford.  As a result of circulating this within the University (and to the Anglican Bishops!) he was expelled and the pamphlet suppressed.  There are only 2 surviving copies listed on COPAC (and another 3 in E.B. Murray’s standard edition of The Prose Works).  Our copy seems to have come from the Dugald Stewart bequest in 1910.  We will now get it catalogued, hopefully without any dangerous consequences.

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