North of Boston
New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1919. Second, limited American edition and first illustrated edition. Hardcover. This is a particularly compelling presentation copy of a striking limited edition of the author’s second published book. This copy not only retains the original dust jacket, but is also inscribed by the illustrator and signed by the author. Robert Frost signed his name in the blank lower right margin of his frontispiece portrait by the illustrator, James Chapin. Chapin himself inked a warm gift inscription in five lines on the front free endpaper recto: “To Max & Ruth who, | in sympathy watched | the growth of this | garment | James Chapin”.
Opening with the famous poems "The Pasture" and "Mending Wall," North of Boston bolstered Frost’s newly minted literary reputation and precipitated his return to the United States from England. In 1919, his American publisher issued this second and limited edition of 500 copies. The binding features a dark green linen spine over lighter green, paper-covered boards with a gilt-stamped spine and gilt front panel with title and author printed in black. The contents feature the frontispiece Frost portrait and fourteen illustrations by James Chapin and are printed on heavy, watermarked, laid, linen-rag paper with untrimmed fore and bottom edges. A dust jacket was issued on dark green laid paper with gilt print on spine as well as the front cover, within a gilt rule frame. The edition is lovely, but fragile, the jacket particularly brittle, the paper-covered boards easily scuffed and soiled.
This copy is near fine in the original dust jacket. The binding is clean, tight, and square with minor bumps to the corners and light wear to the spine ends and corners. The contents are clean and bright with a crisp feel, with no spotting or previous ownership marks other than the illustrator’s inscription and author’s signature. The untrimmed fore and bottom edges are surprisingly clean, the top edge only lightly dust soiled. The dust jacket is noteworthy for having survived and admirably protected the binding. We note chip losses to the top and bottom edges, to a maximum .75 inch depth at the spine head and .25 inch at the spine heel, as well as a horizontal split to the lower spine three inches from the heel and a vertical split along the front hinge. The dust jacket is protected beneath a removable, archival quality clear cover. The volume is protected within a full, dark green morocco clamshell case with raised and gilt-ruled spine bands, tan morocco spine labels, gilt frame rule on the beveled edge covers, and dark green paper lining.
American painter and illustrator James Ormsbee Chapin (1887-1975) was father of jazz musician Jim Chapin and grandfather of folk singer Harry Chapin. Like Frost, Chapin’s art was often rooted in a sense of place. In the mid-1920s he would move to a New Jersey farm where he created a series of paintings that were “realistic depictions of the rigors and rhythms of rural farm life” and whose “idiosyncratic, original style won high praise from critics and fellow artists”.
Iconic American poet Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963) was the quintessential poetic voice of New England. Ironically, Frost was born in San Francisco and it was a 1912 move to England with his wife and children – “the place to be poor and to write poems” – that catalyzed his recognition. Following the 1913 publication of A Boy’s Will, a convocation of critical recognition, introduction to other writers, and creative energy supported the 1914 English publication of Frost’s second book, North of Boston, which strengthened Frost’s reputation as a leading poet. By 1924 he had won the first of his eventual four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry (1931, 1937, and 1943). Frost spent his final years 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 A3.3. Item #003834