New York: The Spiral Press, 1961. Limited "Pamphlet Edition" Paperback. This pristine copy of the elusive “pamphlet edition” is a presentation copy gifted by the American historian and Library of Congress Reference Department Director Roy P. Basler.
This limited fine press edition was produced by The Spiral Press to commemorate Robert Frost’s participation in the January 20, 1961 Inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. Most commonly seen are the 500 hardcover copies. Far scarcer are surviving examples of the “pamphlet edition”. Frost bibliographer Crane (A40,p.103) notes "A pamphlet edition from the same type [as the hardcover] was later printed for Holt as a keepsake for the dinner RF was given by President Kennedy's cabinet." The colophon of this "pamphlet edition" further clarifies "Eight hundred copies of this booklet have been made for those attending the reception given for Robert Frost by the members of the Cabinet of the United States."
“Pamphlet edition” underrates this large, handsome production, measuring 11.25 x 7.5 inches (28.6 x 19.1 cm), the string-bound contents printed in black, red, gold, and grey on laid paper with untrimmed edges. Included are the poems “Dedication” and “The Gift Outright” as well as Kennedy’s inaugural address. The presidential eagle was cut in wood especially for this publication by illustrator Fritz Kredel (1900-1973). The typography is credited to printer, publisher, typographer and Spiral Press founder Joseph Blumenthal (1897-1990).
Condition of this magnificent copy is not merely fine, but immaculate, entirely without discernible wear, soiling, or evidence of handling. The reason for the extraordinary condition is manifest; this copy remains housed in the original envelope in which it was issued. The envelope is clean and intact, just lightly worn at the extremities and toned, having saved the lovely artifact within from similar oxidation. Moreover, the business card laid in at the title page of the pamphlet - that of the American historian Roy P. Basler (1906-1989) – is an intriguing tether to the Kennedy administration.
Basler's business card shows he was then "Director, Reference Department, Library of Congress" – in which capacity Basler served during Kennedy’s administration. On the card he wrote to the unknown recipient "I remembered your interest in this. RPB" Basler was on the Library of Congress staff for 22 years, from 1952 to 1974. As a historian, Basler was best known for editing the collected works of Abraham Lincoln. Basler was proximate to both the beginning and end of Kennedy's presidency. “Just after 10 p.m. on Nov. 22, 1963,” Basler was one of two Library of Congress officials called at home by White House Special Assistant Arthur M. Schlesinger to “relay an urgent personal request from Mrs. Kennedy” for documentation of Abraham Lincoln’s lying in state. “Throughout the national period of mourning, from 3 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 22 until 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 26” Basler was part of “a skeleton staff at the Library of Congress” who “fulfilled numerous media requests, created reports on presidential succession…” and “even offered the cold and weary mourners refuge in the Library’s Jefferson Building as they waited to file past the President’s coffin lying in state across the street in the U.S. Capitol.” (LOC)
On January 20th, 1961, American poet and four-time Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963) became the first poet to read in the program of a U.S. Presidential inauguration. Frost openly supported Kennedy’s candidacy. After Kennedy won, he asked Frost to speak at his inauguration. Frost responded to the young President-elect: “If you can bear at your age the honor of being made President of the United States, I ought to be able at my age to bear the honor of taking some part in your inauguration.” Frost composed a new poem - “Dedication” - for the ceremony, but glare from the sun and snow famously prevented him from reading the sheet on which his poem was typed, so Frost instead recited “The Gift Outright” from memory. Item #006143