London: David Nutt, 1914. First edition. Hardcover. This first edition, first issue, final binding state of the author’s second published book is inscribed by Frost in black ink in four lines on the front free endpaper recto: "To Gladys C. Combes | from | Robert Frost | Amherst April 1935”. This inscribed “Binding F” copy is in very good condition. The green cloth binding is tight and square with bright spine and front cover gilt and no discernible fading to the green cloth or color shift between the boards and spine. We note only trivial wear to extremities and faint mottling to the cloth. The book is clearly unread; signatures from page 13 on remain uncut. We find no spotting or previous ownership marks apart from the author’s inscription. The contents show modest age-toning and transfer browning to the pastedowns and facing endpapers from the pastedown glue.
Frost and his family moved to Little Iddens in early April, 1914, occupying a two-story cottage with a vegetable garden and orchards of apple, plum, and pear. Mid-May 1914 saw Frost’s second published book, North of Boston, which bolstered his newly minted literary reputation and precipitated his return to the United States. North of Boston opens with the famous poems “The Pasture” and “Mending Wall” and was swiftly hailed by important reviews. Complicating publication history, the 1,000 sets of first edition sheets saw six different binding variants over an eight-year period, due both to transfer of sheets for an American edition and to bankruptcy of the original publisher and resulting sale of remaining first edition sheets. (See Crane, A3, pp.14-15)
In 1922, Dunster House Bookshop of Cambridge, Massachusetts, acquired the remaining 259 sets of first edition sheets, all of which were rubber-stamped “Printed in Great Britain” on the title page verso. Of these, 59 were already bound in blue cloth, subsequently rebound in green cloth taller and narrower than the original 1914 binding. The final 200 sets of first edition sheets were bound in 1923 in coarse green linen cloth “almost identical in dimension with the original Nutt copies which were being imitated. Similarities of cloth and gilt-stamping in binding A and bindings E and F indicate that the work was done by the same binder in England before the later copies were sent to America.” (Crane, A3, p.15) These final 200 first edition, first issue copies (“Binding F” per Crane) were bound with untrimmed fore and bottom edges.
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. A Boy’s Will was completed in England, published by David Nutt in 1913. 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, 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 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) Frost eventually won four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry and spent his final decade and a half as “the most highly esteemed American poet of the twentieth century” with a host of academic and civic honors. 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. Item #005842