Publish Your Own Book: History of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Necessity of Atheism

About the famous writer Percy Bysshe Shelley who self-published the work Necessity of Atheism, history and information.

Publish Your Own Book

A self-publishing mistake occurred in 1811 when Percy Bysshe Shelley published his Necessity of Atheism. Although the contents outlined a position that was merely agnostic, the word "atheism" in the title was calculated to outrage.

During his 1st year at Oxford University, Shelley had the pamphlet printed by the local firm of C. W. Philips. He advertised the event in The Oxford University and City Herald, ballyhooing that the tract "speedily will be published, to be had of booksellers of London and Oxford."

This was at best an overstatement. No bookseller would handle the title. Undaunted, Shelley picked on the Oxford bookshop of Munday and Slatter. While the owners were out, he strewed copies of the Necessity of Atheism on the counters and in the window displays. He instructed the shop clerk to sell them quickly and cheaply at 6 pence each.

Shelley made his escape, but he was foiled 20 minutes later when a reverend strolled by, spotted the pamphlet in the window, summoned the proprietors, and had all copies burned in the shop's kitchen. Booksellers Munday and Slatter advised printer C. W. Philips that if he continued to print such material, harm might visit his machinery.

Shelley didn't quit. He brashly mailed his Necessity to bishops, his professors at Oxford, and heads of colleges. Even though he had published the tract anonymously, he made no secret of his opinions and was soon discovered to be the author. Shelley was expelled from Oxford for his self-publishing efforts.

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