Harmonium. Wallace Stevens.


New York: Knopf, 1923. Octavo, original blue cloth over patterned paper boards, paper spine label, uncut and partially unopened. First issue, with blue, red, yellow and white checkered pattern and red top edge. Light toning to spine label and boards, faint ring of a demitasse cup on the front board. Without extremely scarce dust jacket. Edelstein A1a-1. Item #10006

First edition, first issue, one of only 500 copies in the first-state binding. Although Stevens' poems had appeared in magazines for almost ten years, Harmonium was his first book, published when he was a middle-aged lawyer for a Hartford insurance company. Initially overshadowed by T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, which had appeared the previous year, Harmonium stands alongside that work now as a milestone in modern American poetry; a few of the many highlights include "The Emperor of Ice-Cream," "Sunday Morning," "Anecdote of the Jar," "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," and "Le Monocle de Mon Oncle": "The honey of heaven may or may not come, / But that of earth both comes and goes at once." This copy bears the bookplate of popular Connecticut writer Annie Eliot Trumbull. A younger member of Mark Twain's circle and frequent contributor to the Atlantic Monthly, Trumbull had provided Stevens with his literary introduction to Hartford in 1913, driving him around the countryside by day and inviting him to a dinner party at her country club. Stevens reported to his wife: "The Miss Trumbull was, after all, a most agreeable person, with very pleasant manners and a sense of humor." Stevens and Trumbull would soon be neighbors: his longtime Hartford office was just down the block from her home. As a leader of the local Poetry Society, Trumbull organized events for Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, and William Butler Yeats over the years, but Stevens repeatedly turned down her invitations to appear (Brazeau 115, 304). Trumbull, in turn, does not seem to have made it through Harmonium: this copy is partially unopened. Small Hartford bookseller's ticket. A lovely association copy of a modernist landmark, housed in a custom clamshell box.

Price: $6,200.00

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