Mary Shelley’s apocalyptic novel The Last Man is set among survivors of a global pandemic at the end of the 21st century. Published in 1826 by Henry Colburn of London, it features thinly disguised portraits of her circle including her husband Percy, Claire Clairmont and Lord Byron.
The genre has become very popular in recent decades thanks to books and films such as Mad Max and Dawn of the Dead. At the time, however, critics reviled Shelley’s work, one dubbing it “the product of a diseased imagination and polluted taste”.
Copies such as this first edition in the original boards are rare, and it is offered for £25,000.
Five centuries of literature are represented in the catalogue, from a 15th century first printing of Jason and the Argonauts to a limited deluxe edition of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (the basis for the Game of Thrones series) with many other classic works in between.
Sammy Jay of Peter Harrington said: “In this time of isolation, books have proven to be more than usually exciting companions. From escapist fantasy to political dystopia, from Gothic nightmare to spiritual quest, writers have dissolved the boundaries of the possible, reshaping the worlds we think we know.”
Not out and about
Less otherworldly but perhaps just as fanciful at this time is the list of works Andrew Sim has compiled for his catalogue Back to Life – a Visual Elegy.
Through historic pictures it shows a list of activities that would normally be taking place at the moment: watching cricket, partying, swimming in the river or taking trips to the theatre.
Among the works is Village Football, painted in the 1920s by Franklin White (1892-1975), priced at £6500.