The Vampyre: A Tale
Hard Cover. London: Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, 1819. First Edition. Near Fine.
First edition, third Sherwood issue (Viets IV), with no author credited on the title page and without the references to Mary Godwin and Jane Clermont, and "lmost" to page 36. Finely bound in three-quarter red morocco, with two raised bands to the spine, boards ruled in gilt, spine lettered in gilt, light marbled endpapers. Near fine, with only some light scattered spotting and foxing throughout, lacking the half-title and ads at rear. Overall, an attractive copy of the first vampire story in English literature. The Vampyre was originally published by Henry Colburn in the April 1, 1819 issue of New Monthly Magazine under the title "The Vampyre: A Tale by Lord Byron." Although the tale was in fact written by John William Polidori, Byron's physician, this false attribution was continued in the first book form, also by Henry Colburn. Colburn's first state, with himself as publisher and Byron credited as author, was suppressed and no copies exist today. Colburn's second state (Viets I), of which only 4 or 5 copies survived, retained his imprint, removed the author's name, and included the half-title "A Tale related by Lord Byron to Dr. Polidori." Colburn then sold his printed sheets to Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, who produced a scare first issue (Viets II) with their publishing imprint and listing Byron as author. Sherwood's second issue (Viets III) mentioned no author, and, since the first Sherwood issue was also suppressed, it represents the first edition to be widely accessible to the public. This copy is the third Sherwood issue (Viets IV), with the main change being the removal of a slur referring to Mary Godwin Shelley and Clair Clairmont in the first "Extract" (page xiv). Due to its complicated printing history, The Vampyre in Viets' first and second states are virtually unattainable for modern collectors, and, accordingly, copies of Viets' third state (the second Sherwood issue) are the first truly available issues, yet still exceedingly scarce. The Vampyre is a short gothic novel that is considered the forerunner of the vampire genre; while disparate components of vampirism appeared throughout history's horror stories, Polidori was the first writer to create a cohesive vampire character - a withdrawn, aristocratic male with an insatiable thirst for blood - that would set the standard for all subsequent vampire novels. In The Vampyre, Aubrey, a wealthy, orphaned Englishman, encounters Lord Ruthven, a mysterious nobleman who is, in fact, a vampire. Although he is at first oblivious to his acquaintance's true nature, Aubrey eventually realizes that Ruthven leaves a trail of dead bodies in his wake, but not in time to save his own sister from his clutches. Polidori, Byron's personal physician, first wrote The Vampyre while traveling throughout Europe with Byron, during which time the pair stayed in Switzerland with Mary and Percy Shelley and Clair Clairmont. After reading German horror stories from the French collection Fantasmagoriana (1813), the group penned their own tales, which developed not only into Polidori's Vampyre, but also Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1823). The Vampyre was an instant commercial success, in part due to it being falsely attributed to Byron, although both Byron and Polidori denied the former's involvement.