North of Boston, inscribed by Robert Frost to a neighbor
New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1915. First American edition, second printing. Hardcover. This first U.S. edition, second printing of Robert Frost’s second published book is inscribed in four lines on the front free endpaper recto: “Samuel Bissell | from | Robert Frost | Franconian Neighbors."
Frost and his family made their home on a farm in Franconia, in northwest New Hampshire, from 1915 to 1920, and summered there for 18 years thereafter. Known as The Frost Place, it has been operated as a museum since 1977, hosting poetry conferences, workshops, and an annual festival. From another Frost book owned by Bissell with 1919 dated ownership inscription, we know that Frost and Bissell were Franconian neighbors while the Frost family were still full-time residents.
North of Boston bolstered Frost's 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. What renders this otherwise humble and somewhat weathered second printing noteworthy is, of course, the inscription.
The copyright page erroneously designates this copy as “Third edition, 1915”. This is inaccurate; it is actually the second printing of the first American edition printed and published by Holt in 1915, with binding and contents the same as those of the first printing of the same year.
Condition of this copy is only good. The publisher’s blue cloth is square and tight, with uniform hue to the boards and spine and strong gilt, but nonetheless showing overall dulling and scuffing, as well as minor blemishes. The contents are only moderately age-toned with no spotting. However, there is a small flower pressed into the lower gutter at pp.12-13, causing browning there and the preceding and following gutters. Moreover, the inscribed front free endpaper and the following blank were both long ago reinforced at the gutter with non-archival tape, which has browned and which overlaps the “S” an the “F” in the first and fourth lines of Frost’s inscription. The only other previous ownership mark is the tiny sticker of a Boston Bookseller – “Chas E. Lauriat Co.” – affixed to the lower left recto of the blank following the front free endpaper.
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.” Of note, North of Boston was actually the first of Frost’s books published in America, preceding Holt’s publication of A Boy’s Will in America by one month and reversing the publication order of the British first editions.
Accolades met Frost’s return to America at the end of 1914 and – precipitating the end of his residence in Franconia - 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 A3.2. Item #007257