Prometheus Bound, by Aeschylus, and Prometheus Unbound, by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Limited Editions Club (1965)

Prometheus Bound, attributed to the great Greek tragedian Aeschylus, is a reknowned classical tragedy stemming from the myth of Prometheus, a Titan who gave fire to mankind and was subsequently punished by the god Zeus for doing so. Those who remember the myth will recall that Zeus had Prometheus bound to a rock while a great eagle ate his liver every day only to have it grow back to be eaten again the next day.

While Hesiod famously presents Prometheus as essentially a fool who deserves blame for many of mankind’s problems (Hesoid tells of Zeus sending Pandora in retaliation for the actions of Prometheus — carrying a jar with her from which were released the evils that plague mankind), Aeschylus  presents Prometheus as a benefactor of humanity; one who taught men writing, math, medicine, architecture and astronomy in addition to actually saving man from complete destruction at the hands of Zeus. Pandora is nowhere to be found in the myth as presented by Aeschylus.  Fragments of two other plays, Prometheus Unbound and Prometheus the Fire-Bringer, show that Prometheus Bound was likely written as the first part of a trilogy.  Ultimately, there is a reconciliation between Prometheus and Zeus which seems to conservatively imply a belief in the ultimate compatibility of humanity with the traditions, beliefs and Gods that were prevalent in classical Greek society.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) published his Prometheus Unbound in 1820, expanding on Prometheus as a human benefactor by turning him into a hero for mankind, utilizing the myth as an allegory for humanity breaking the chains of tyranny in which they have suffered throughout most of history. The Romantics, having watched society go through mass economic and political turbulence as epitomized in the French Revolution, viewed Prometheus as the ultimate freedom enabler, one who fought back against the tyranny of Zeus (who represents the tyranny of church and monarch). In Shelley’s version, Prometheus actually triumphs over Zeus/Jupiter reflecting Shelley’s view of the supremacy of human sprint and intellect over tyranny; free will over pre-destination if you will. In Shelley’s hands, having learned the lessons of the French Revolution, the myth is an optimistic view of humankind with hope, freedom and good will.

The Limited Editions Club (LEC) edition containing both of these classic works is wonderfully done; classic in itself.  It is not a work packaged with an excess of adornments; instead it is conservatively designed in a handsome edition that largely let’s the words of Aeschylus and Shelley take precedence.  The illustrations combine some hints of classical Greek lines and representations with a modernistic flair. As yet another LEC that can be found in very good, even fine condition for under $100, it is well worth seeking out.

About the Edition

  • Designed by Hendrik Clewits
  • Printed at the ancient printing house of Joh. Enschede en Zonen in Haarlem, Holland
  • Illustrations drawn by John Farleigh
  • Translation and introduction by Rex Warner
  • Bound in two tone buckram
  • 184 pages
  • Limited to 1500 copies, mine is #330

Pictures

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Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Slipcase Spine
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Book in Slipcase
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Spine and Cover
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Spine #1
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Spine #2
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Cover
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Title Page and Frontispiece
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Title Page
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Frontispiece
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Contents
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, List of Illustrations
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #1 (Introduction)
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #2 (List of Characters)
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #3
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #3
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #1
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Illustration #1
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #4 (Shelley Preface)
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #2 with Prometheus Unbound Characters
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #5
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #5
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #3
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #6
Prometheus Bound & Prometheus Unbound, Limited Editions Club, Colophon

4 thoughts on “Prometheus Bound, by Aeschylus, and Prometheus Unbound, by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Limited Editions Club (1965)

  1. I can only echo the enthusiasm of Chris and the other posters for this work. Truly one of the gems of the press, and another magnificent job of illustration by John Farleigh. one of the great British illustrators, who was spot on in all his LEC work (and the other book jobs he did that I have seen). I was struck particularly how he really got into the literature and did not just make great pictures–especially after seeing the recent GCP book of Milton’s poems, which were not particularly well illustrated by Blair Hughes-Stanton, though I loved the pictures.

    I’m sure dlphcoracl is aware, though others may not be, that the concluding lines of Shelley’s poem are used in a wonderful spoken prelude to Ralph Vaughan Williams’ stirring 7th Symphony (also known as the Sinfonia Antarctica) which was based on music he wrote for the film “Scott of the Antarctic.”

  2. The LEC of this is quite lovely. I have the Heritage edition, but it lacks the dynamic dual-color binding that really sells this work, methinks. If I can, I’d love to upgrade, despite Farleigh’s passing before signing this work.

  3. One of those LECs I have had for some time – in near Mint condition – which I have yet to read. I woder how the new Scott Ridley film, Prometheus, aproaches the myth?

  4. If you want this text – Printed in a lovely typeface by Joh. Enschede En Zonen with John Farleigh illustrations on nice paper with a two-tone, gilt decorated binding for less than $100 !!

    I am never less than amazed by the staggering value of the LEC books I see featured here and on LibraryThing.

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