With Shelley in Italy
- McMahan, Anna Benneson

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Commentary

Inspired by the haunts of some of her favourite English poets – the title, With Shelley, attempts to collapse the temporal distinction between contemporary Italy and Shelley’s Italy – Anna Benneson McMahan’s second book of photographically illustration poetry collects both Shelley’s poems and letters and accompanies them with various Italian scenes. McMahan compiled the volume’s photographs from a number of sources – around half are from the Alinari Brothers (the oldest photographic firm in the world, based in Florence and founded in 1852); others from various local photographers in Spezia, Viareggio, and Pisa; some from early nineteeth-century engravings; and the remainder taken directly for the book by McMahan’s eldest daughter Una McMahan, who accompanied her mother on a number of her European travels. McMahan writes a long introductory essay to the volume and accompanies each year of Shelley’s life in Italy with a brief introductory summary. In her introduction, McMahan sets out her bold claim for the volume:

[N]o attempt has been made to set the poems in their original environment, or to conduct the reader himself into that very Italian atmosphere where they were born. To do this as far as may be possible, through illustration and the grouping of letters and passages from note-books with the poems, so that the poems may be seen in the making, so to speak, is the object of the present volume. (Anna Benneson McMahan, With Shelley in Italy (Chicago: A.C. McClurg, 1905), p.xxiii.)

As readers, we are following in Shelley’s footsteps, almost watching him compose his poems in their original atmospheric conditions. McMahan’s volumes are perhaps the moment at which photopoetry and scholarship first become acquainted.

Book Details

Author: McMahan, Anna Benneson
Title: With Shelley in Italy
Publication Year: 1905
Poets Featured: Shelley, Percy Bysshe
Photographers Featured: Fratelli Alinari; McMahan, Una

This book can be found on the Internet Archive HERE

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