New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1924. Hardcover. This is a signed 1924 printing of the U.S. edition of Robert Frost’s second published book, which bolstered his newly minted literary reputation and precipitated his return to the United States from England, where his first two books were published. North of Boston opens with the famous poems “The Pasture” and “Mending Wall” and was swiftly hailed by important reviews when originally published in 1914.
Rendering this otherwise humble later printing special is wonderful New England provenance. The book is both signed and dated by Robert Frost on the front free endpaper recto in two lines: “Robert Frost | Deerfield March 10 1927”. Directly above Frost’s signature is the signature of Massachusetts author “Richard W. Hatch”. The illustrated bookplate of “Richard Warren Hatch” is affixed to the facing front pastedown.
Like Frost, Richard W. Hatch (1898-1985) was a writer and teacher steeped in New England. It was in Deerfield, where Hatch taught English, that this book was signed. Hatch “grew up in Pennsylvania but lived for most of his adult life in Marshfield, Massachusetts, in a house that had been continuously occupied by his family since the middle of the seventeenth century.” This house is the one depicted on Hatch’s bookplate affixed to the front pastedown of this volume and is reputedly the oldest continuously lived-in house in New England, sufficiently notable to be the subject of a book (Red House: Being a Mostly Accurate Account of New England’s Oldest Continuously Lived-in House, by Sarah Messer). “After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1918, he joined the US Naval Reserve Flying Corps and later served during World War II. It was while stationed on an aircraft carrier that he came up with the idea of writing about the adventures of a very old lobster. From 1925 to 1941 Hatch taught English at Deerfield Academy, eventually becoming head of the English Department, and during the 1950s he lectured at the Center for International Studies at MIT. In addition to his books for children, he also wrote novels for adults set in coastal Massachusetts towns.” (New York Review of Books)
Condition of this signed and dated copy approaches very good. The binding, featuring quarter green linen spine over green paper-covered boards, is square and tight, the binding lightly scuffed overall and showing minor shelf wear to extremities, but nonetheless respectably clean, unfaded, and sound. The contents, including the frontispiece portrait of Frost’s bust by Aroldo Du Chene, are clean, with no spotting. Modest age toning shows on the otherwise clean page edges, the fore and bottom edges being untrimmed. The binding is protected beneath a removable, clear, mylar cover. The title page verso indicates a printing date of “Dec., 1924” with seven preceding printing dates for the edition beginning with “May, 1916”.
Iconic American poet Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963), the quintessential poetic voice of New England, was actually born in San Francisco and first published in England. Ironically, a 1912 move to England with his wife and children – “the place to be poor and to write poems” – catalyzed his recognition as a noteworthy American poet. A Boy’s Will was published in 1913. 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.” In 1924, when this copy was published, Frost 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” enjoying 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). Item #006308