New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1939. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This first edition, first printing is noteworthy both for being signed by Robert Frost and for superior condition. Frost signed this copy in in black ink on the second preliminary sheet recto: “Robert Frost”. This attractive edition is bound in tan linen cloth with gilt illustration on a maroon background on the front cover and gilt title and author on a maroon field on the spine, the contents bound with rust-red stained top edge and head and foot bands. The red-brown dust jacket is illustrated with Lankes’ wood-engraving of a house.
Condition is truly fine – as well-preserved as a collector may reasonably hope to see - in a very good plus dust jacket. The binding is immaculate, square, and tight with sharp corners and no reportable wear. Searching for flaws, we can report only a trivial hint of wrinkling to the spine ends. The contents are likewise immaculate. We find no spotting, no soiling, no toning, and no previous ownership marks apart from the author’s signature. The topstain retains flawless, uniform, dark color. The bottom edges and untrimmed fore edges are likewise improbably clean. The dust jacket is unclipped, retaining the original “$5.00” front flap price, and complete apart from a tiny chip at the head of the rear hinge. The spine is very mildly and evenly sunned, but shelf presentation is nonetheless quite good. Minor wear is confined to extremities, the rear hinge, and a tiny blemish above the publisher’s name on the lower spine. The jacket is protected beneath a removable, archival quality clear cover.
This 1939 edition was Frost’s second volume of collected poems, following that of 1930 (which won Frost his second Pulitzer Prize in 1931). Pages vii-xii and text pages 1-349 are apparently printed from the plates of the 1930 edition of Collected Poems, while pages xiii-xv are in a new setting intended to match the preceding contents pages and comprise the contents listing for A Further Range. Pages 351-436 are similarly in new imitative setting. Frost’s introduction ‘The Figure a Poem Makes’ is printed herein for the first time. The collection contains all poems from first editions of North of Boston, New Hampshire, and A Further Range. Poems from A Boy’s Will, Mountain Interval, and West-Running Brook are those included in the 1930 Collected Poems. (Crane, A23, p.65)
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 New Hampshire to resume a teaching career. There Frost found his poetic voice, infused by New England scenes and sensibilities. Promising as a student and writer, Frost nonetheless dropped out of both Dartmouth and Harvard, teaching and farming to support himself and a young family. A 1912 move to England with his wife and children – “the place to be poor and to write poems” – finally catalyzed his recognition. There A Boy’s Will (1913) and North of Boston (1914) were published, 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 A23. Item #006577