A Boy's Will First (Edition Second Issue Binding D Signed and Numbered)

BY Robert Frost
Book Information1/1/0/UK/DN/1913/o.135 of 1,000  •  181x125x5  •  58

This is the first edition, second issue, binding D, signed and number copy of Robert Frost's first commercial publication - A Boy's Will, published by David Nutt of London in 1913. As the name implies, the first edition for this poetry collection is complicated. I'll attempt a summary here based on the account in Crane:

1. "A Boy's Will" was originally published by David Nutt in London in 1913. These books - known as first edition, first issue - were sold in two variant bindings: A and B.
     1a. Binding A was sold by Nutt in 1913. It was bounded in bronze-brown pebbled cloth, and gilt-stamped on the front cover, ornamented by eight-petaled flower. There is a horizontal bar on top of the "A" in the gilted "A Booy's Will" on the front cover.
     1b. Binding B was sold around 1917. It was in cream vellum-paper board with lettering and decoration identical to binding A but stamped in red.
     1c. The printer - Spottiwoode, Ballantyne, and Co. - reported that 1,000 sheets (copies, but unbounded) were printed. Crane suggested that the number could be 1,066 instead, but there is no way to verify it now.
     1d. The combined copies of first edition, first issue in bindings A and B was estimated to be 350, with no information on further breakdown.

2. David Nutt went bankrupt by the end of Spring 1921, and the remaining unbounded sheets were acquired by Simpkin Marshall & Co. All bounded copies from these sheets are henceforth known as first edition, second issue.

3. Simpkin Marshall bounded around 100 copies in cream linen-paper wrapper (as opposed to board) with the lettering identical to bindings A and B but stamped in black by gluing the sheets to the wrapper spine. This is the first edition, second issue, binding C copy, and Simpkin sold about 30 such copies.

4. In 1923, the remaining unbounded sheets and 70 copies of binding C were purchased by Dunster House Bookstore in Cambridge Massachusetts under some intervention by Frost himself. Dunster House ordered for the remaining sheets to be bounded before shipping to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and these became first edition, second issue, binding D. Binding D was in cream linen-paper wrapper with the lettering identical to previous bindings but in heavier font and without the horizontal bar on top of "A". The ornament also changed to four-petaled flower.

5.A total of 686 copies were shipped to Dunster House - 70 in binding C and 616 in binding D (the numbers don't add to 1,000, and this is the basis for Crane's 1,066 claim). These 686 were all hand stamped with "Printed in Great Britain" on page iv.

6. Dunster House went out of business subsequently, and Chiswick Book Store in New York bought out Dunster House's stock. In it, Chiswick found 135 copies of the first edition, second issue, binding D. The owner, through his acquaintance, got Frost to sign and number these 135 copies at, apparently, 50 cents a copy. This is the signed and numbered first edition, second issue, binding D, and I'm the fortunate owner, for now, of copy 122.

7. All subsequent publication by Henry Holt (rather than David Nutt) are considered second edition. They are sometimes labelled as first American edition, which is true, but they are not the true first edition.

Quite a remarkable story, and it is amazing how the last 135 survived, got number and signed by the author, and are now in the hands of collectors. Considering the vicissitude and age, I have to say copy 122 is a rather fine one.  The book is NF and is very clean with no foxing at all, thanks to its impeccable storage. The glue the binds the sheets with the wrapper is drying after 92 years, especially at the bottom of the spine, and there are a few closed tears at the spine top and bottom, and that's about it. Quite amazing.

The book is quite rare and VG copies are not easily available. The going price for VG copies in various bindings go for at least $2,000.

My favourite from this collection is the last poem - Reluctance - especially the final stanza:

 "Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things
To yield with a grace to reason
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?"

Note the four-petaled flower ornament and the lack of a horizontal bar above the letter "A". There are a total of 686 binding D copies. The linen paper wrapper is textured and a little soiled with age.

Frost signed and numbered on the half-title page. This indicates that this book is one of the final 135 first edition copies. There are also 481 such copies that are unsigned and unnumbered. Note the glue residue from the binding, and how the bottom portion is drying and detaching from the wrapper.

This is the full title page. Note that it indicates "David Nutt" and "1913", both of which are true first edition points (The Henry Holt version published on 1915 and beyond is at least second edition)

The "Printed in Great Britain" stamp on the verso. All binding D copies are stamped, and some binding C ones as well. The book is dedicated to Elinor Miriam Frost (E.M.F), Robert's wife.

The content page follows after the dedication page.

Parts II and III of the content page. Note how clean the pages are.

Into My Own - the first poem of the book.

The last page of the book at the verso, with information of the printer at the bottom.

The final page of advertisement.

The book is protected by a board chemise...

And then a slipcase.


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