Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2004 Issue

Literary Firsts and More from<br>James S. Jaffe Rare Books


A collection of rare books from James S. Jaffe.

By Michael Stillman

James S. Jaffe Rare Books
has issued a catalogue focused on literary first editions, illustrated books, fine printing, and poetry. This is their 74th catalogue, though it is their first we have reviewed. We will admit to having a little more familiarity with the books that fit under the heading of "literary firsts", and it is a superb group that Jaffe offers. Many of these books come with author signatures or even inscriptions.

Here's an example. Item 209 is an inscribed first issue in the first binding of the first edition of Robert Frost's first (almost) book, A Boy's Will. We say "almost" because many years earlier he privately printed a couple of copies of a book of poetry, only one of which survives. Frost published A Boy's Will in 1913 in London, England. Oddly, Frost was born in San Francisco and went to England to write his first book of poetry, but most of the rest of his life was spent in the New England with which he is intimately associated. Many of our more youth-challenged readers may still remember him reciting his poetry at New Englander John F. Kennedy's presidential inauguration. This copy of A Boy's Will is inscribed to Margot Adamson and is signed and dated by Frost on October 4, 1913. Priced at $20,000.

Item 211 is the first American edition of this same title, from 1915, and comes with the first issue of its rare dust jacket. $3,500. Item 210 is the 1914 London printing (first edition) of Frost’s second book, North of Boston. It is one of 350 copies of a total of 1,000 printed that was bound in coarse green linen. $3,500.

Items 212 and 213 are another Robert Frost work, Mountain Interval. This 1916 book includes what is probably Frost's best known poem, "The Road Not Taken". You know that one: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference". I cannot remember all that went in between the beginning and end, but like countless other grade school children of another generation, I once had to memorize this poem. That was long ago, and yet those opening and closing lines still come back. I guess Frost made a difference too. Item 212 is a copy of this first Frost book to be originally printed in the U.S., and is in fine condition. $3,500. Item 213 is the same title "virtually as new" for $5,500.

Item 132 is an inscribed copy of the first book by Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms. This was inscribed to David (Diamond) on March 12, 1948. $3,750. A copy of this book with just Capote's signature from December 1947 is available as item 133. $1,250.

Item 723 is an inscribed copy of Tennessee Williams' first book The Glass Menagerie. This is a presentation copy inscribed to James Laughlin, who would publish many of Williams' later works. William writes "For Jay who I wanted to do it. Hope there'll be others he will. 10." There were. $25,000.

Rare Book Monthly

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