A Boy's Will
New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1915. First U.S. edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is a jacketed, American first edition, first printing of the author’s first published book. This edition saw a first printing of 750 copies in April 1915, one month after the American edition of North of Boston (reversing the publication order of the British first editions). Condition is near fine in a very good dust jacket. The blue cloth binding is square, tight, and beautifully clean, with sharp corners, deep color, and vivid gilt. Trivial wear is confined to spine ends and corners. The contents retain a crisp feel. Second state of the first printing is confirmed by absence of the misspelling in the last line on page 14. An illustrated bookplate is affixed to the front pastedown. Spotting is light, appearing confined to the half-title, title, and dedication pages and the top edge of the text block. The untrimmed fore edges are clean with just a hint of age-toning.
Laid in between pages 56 & 57 we found a 23 January 1961 newspaper clipping from The Daily Olympian uncharitably titled “Aging Poet Frost Is Troubled By Sun”, regarding Frost’s reading at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. The newsprint has browned the facing pages in the shape of the folded clipping.
The early state jacket features the “75 Cents” price on the spine and front face. Loss is modest, confined to a triangular piece missing at the spine head to a maximum .5 inch (1.27 cm) depth and fractional loss to the corners at the flap folds. The jacket is quite respectably clean, with only mild spine toning and soiling and a few whitish marks along the front flap fold. Old cellotape reinforcement to the upper and lower spine of the jacket verso has been carefully removed and replaced with a single, small piece of archival tape reinforcing the lower rear hinge. The dust jacket is now protected beneath a removable, archival quality clear cover.
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. 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, a 1912 move to England with his wife and children – “the place to be poor and to write poems” – finally catalyzed his recognition as a noteworthy American poet. A Boy’s Will was completed in England and accepted for publication by David Nutt in 1913. “Yeats pronounced the poetry “the best written in America for some time” and Frost received “two extraordinary tributes in the Nation and the Chicago Dial and a superb review in the Academy.” (ANB) A convocation of critical recognition, introduction to other writers, and creative energy supported the English publication of Frost’s second book, North of Boston, in 1914, after which “Frost’s reputation as a leading poet had been firmly established in England, and Henry Holt of New York had agreed to publish his books in America.”
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) By 1924 he had won the first of his eventual four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry (1931, 1937, and 1943). 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 A2.1. Item #004625