(Boston: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1850). 181 x 111 mm. (7 1/8 x 4 3/8"). iv, 322 pp., 4 pp. (ads). FIRST EDITION, First Issue, with advertisements dated March 1, 1850, and with the misprint on p. 21, line 20 "reduplicate" for "repudiate."
FINE MODERN DARK BROWN CRUSHED MOROCCO BY BAYNTUN (stamp-signed on front turn-in), covers with single gilt fillet border, raised bands, spine gilt in single-ruled compartments containing an antique-style letter "A," gilt titling and turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Original blindstamped brown cloth covers bound in at rear. Front flyleaf with bookplate of Robert LeGresley. BAL 7600. Leaves a shade less than bright (as in the typical copy), occasional corner creases, isolated spots of mild foxing, otherwise A FINE COPY, the text clean and fresh, and in a pristine binding.
This is a volume of firsts: the first edition, first issue of Hawthorne's first novel, his first publication for Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, and generally recognized as the first major American novel. Described by Day as "Hawthorne's masterpiece and one of the world's greatest novels," "The Scarlet Letter" probes the nature of sin, guilt, repentance, and salvation. Set in Salem in the early years of the Massachussetts Colony, the story tells of the scarlet "A" (standing for "adultery") embroidered on the dress of Hester Prynne, and the secret "A" searing the heart of her child's father, the seemingly saintly Reverend Dimmesdale. According to ANB, "Hawthorne's tightly plotted, densely symbolic, and psychologically probing story of concealed and revealed sin in seventeenth-century Boston is his most serious work of moral and cultural history. In his day as in ours, readers struggle to understand its main characters in the context of a repressive society. Arguably, Hawthorne's greatest achievement is his heroine Hester Prynne." One of the major figures in the history of literature in the United States, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-64) was among those who first inspired the idea of "American literature," a national literature that could take its place alongside its well-established European forebears. Probably more than any other writer of stature in 19th century America, Hawthorne combined vivid imagination with careful, structured craft. The press run for this title was 2,500, so the book is not difficult to find for sale, but well-preserved copies in original cloth are quite uncommon now. Consequently, an attractively bound copy like the present one (with original covers and spine bound in) is a desirable alternative. (The book may be purchased without the bag.). (ST12239)
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PJP Catalog: SE16BF.044