JF Ptak Science Books Post 1696
Generally a posthumous publication sees a new book come to life after the author's death, In the case of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a new book from him was brought into being literally from the hands of his seven-years-dead wife, Elizabeth Siddal.
[Elizabeth Siddal was the model for Sir John Everett Millais's Ophelia; she posed for many of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and very often (and later obsessively and exclusively) for Rossetti.]
Elizabeth (1829-1862) was the great muse of Rossetti (a leading painter and one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelitte Brotherhood), as well as to many painters--I imagine that she is depicted in hundreds of paintings. But she may have had a taste for certain drugs, and may have been tubercular, and may have had an intestinal something, one or two or all may have caused her death at age 33.
The book was literally a book from the dead, though it had nothing to do necessarily like one of the real things, the true Book of the Dead that offered assistance to the newly dead in their trip to the ancient afterlife. Evidently a great guilt weighed on Rossetti for something he had done while Elizabeth lay dying, and to help conquer that great unquiet, the painter wrapped a manuscript volume of his poetry in her hair as she held the book in her hands, laying there very dead in her coffin. The lid was closed, the coffin lowered into the ground, and both were sent off into infinity.
That infinity lasted seven years, interrupted by Rossetti's animated alcohol- and drug-induced belief that--now convinced he could no longer paint--the poems in his wife's hands were his way towards creativity. Convinced that his painterly powers were gone, and that his writerly powers were going, the manuscript would help him get back on track. It was the only copy of poems he had written over the years, and he hoped that their publication would (a) reassert his furious creativity with a successful book and (b) honor his dead wife. And so a rat's soup of demented needs conspired and the book was taken from the hands of Elizabeth after her exhumed coffin was opened--Mr. Rossetti not being present for the late-night and dark affair, unable to convince himself of the necessity of his presence.
The deed done, Poems was published in 1870, and I'm not sure what they accomplished. Drugs and booze and some sort of wickedness of mind and a sacking of his health made for perfect conspirators to rid Rossetti of his talents, and he died a lingering death in 1882. It was said that he never overcame his grave robbing--I imagine not.
One of the three surviving leaves of the book of poetry Rossetti stole from his dead wife's coffin.
And so it goes. In the end, everyone is dead.