New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1923. J. J. Lankes. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is the first edition, first printing of the book that won Robert Frost his first Pulitzer Prize, signed by the author in the month of publication. Frost inked this copy in black in two lines on the front free endpaper: “Robert Frost | Amherst November 1923”. Frost's bibliographer (Crane, A6, p.29) clarifies “Though the date of the first printing is given on the copyright page as October 1923, the publisher’s records state that the first edition was published on 15 November 1923”. This means that Frost inscribed this copy within two weeks of publication.
This U.S. first edition is a lovely production, bound in quarter dark green linen cloth over dark green paper-covered boards, with a gold paper label on the front cover illustrated and printed in black, and gilt print and decoration on the spine. The contents are printed on untrimmed white wove paper with gilt top edge, illustrated with four woodcuts by J. J. Lankes (1884-1960), and bound with mottled tan endpapers and yellow and green head and foot bands.
This signed first edition approaches very good minus condition. The lovely but fragile publisher’s binding is square and tight, though worn at the corners and showing a touch of fraying at the spine ends. The contents show no spotting or previous ownership marks other than the author’s dated signature. Moderate age-toning is most evident to the page edges.
Iconic American poet and four-time Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963), the quintessential poetic voice of New England, was actually born in San Francisco and first published in England. When Frost was eleven, his newly widowed mother moved east to Salem, New Hampshire, to resume a teaching career. There Frost swiftly found his poetic voice, infused by New England scenes and sensibilities. Promising as both a student and writer, Frost nonetheless dropped out of both Dartmouth and Harvard, supporting himself and a young family by teaching and farming. Ironically, it was a 1912 move to England with his wife and children – “the place to be poor and to write poems” – that finally catalyzed his recognition as a noteworthy American poet. There, publication of A Boy’s Will (1913) and North of Boston (1914) led to critical recognition.
Accolades met his return to America at the end of 1914 and by 1917 a move to Amherst “launched him on the twofold career he would lead for the rest of his life: teaching whatever “subjects” he pleased at a congenial college… and “barding around,” his term for “saying” poems in a conversational performance.” (ANB) Amherst College was home to Frost for the better part of two decades over a span of more than three. He joined the faculty in 1917 and received an honorary M.A. from Amherst the following year. He left Amherst in 1920, but returned in 1923 – the year New Hampshire was published – for another two years. Frost would return yet again to Amherst College in 1926 and remain until 1938. Following Frost’s death in 1963, his public service was held at Amherst’s Johnson Chapel.
In 1924, New Hampshire won Frost the Pulitzer Prize “For the best volume of verse published during the year by an American author”. It was to be the first of his eventual four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry (1931, 1937, and 1943). In an honor accorded few poets, Frost would achieve significant fame and recognition in his lifetime. Frost spent the final decade and a half of his life as “the most highly esteemed American poet of the twentieth century” with a host of academic and civic honors to his credit. Two years before his death he became the first poet to read in the program of a U.S. Presidential inauguration (Kennedy, January 1961).
Reference: Crane A6. Item #005878