16 May, 2015

A Streetcar Named Desire

BY Tennessee Williams
Book Information1/1/0/US/ND/1947/?  •  ?  •  ?  •  Pulitzer'48

This is the first edition of Tennessee Williams' famed play, A Streetcar Named Desire. I previously introduced its Limited Editions Club edition along with Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.

I was expecting the book to arrive on Monday, so it is a pleasant surprise to receive it on a nice Saturday morning. Plus the book is in a better shape than I had anticipated. This first edition is a notoriously perishable book, and the dust jacket is especially prone to sunning. I had rue on the condition of this book because of my impetuous, and sometimes perilous, tendency to bid for books at auctions without close examinations. Good thing this one turned out fine.

The dust jacket is in a pink-lavender background and features the silhouette of a man at the center holding back a woman on his left and grabbing another on his right. The man is surely Stanley, and my guess is the woman on the left is Stella, and the right,  Blanche. This "entanglement" graphic is designed by Alvin Lustig, a famed book designer, and you can see his facsimile signature on the bottom left hand corner of the front. The book boards have identical designs. One can't help but to feel for Blanche and her despondent inevitability. I can't help but to think that Blanche could have benefitted from Jake Barnes, of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, and his ability to accept and laugh off all of life's sadness. Well, as Jake would have it, "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

Here are some pictures of this quintessential American play that won the 1948 Pulitzer.

--- "What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it's curved like a road through mountain."



This is the front dust jacket. Note the chips at the top and the sunning that faded the words "A Streetcar". The dust jacket is made of pretty poor quality paper, and most of them don't survive well, especially when the play was such a success. Note also Lustig's facsimile signature at the bottom left corner.

This is the back of the dust jacket. Again there are chips at the top. The design is identical to the front but without the wordings.

This picture doesn't show it well, but the spine is usually the most heavily tanned section. I've seen spines so tanned the author's name is hardly readable. This book also suffers the same problem, albeit at a lesser degree.

Unclipped dust jacket. A very important plus point.

This is the back flap that lists 11 books also published by New Directions.

The boards have the same design as the dust jacket. So a mint dust jacket should look like that. There are such copies in the market and they usually go for over 2,000USD. If you find one, be sure to check if the jacket is a facsimile.
The bottom edges are shelf worn and the corners are bumped.

This is the full title page.

This is the copyright page. There should be no mention of additional prints.

The next page is a cast list of the play's premier on 3 Dec 1947. Legend has it that the audience gave a 30min standing ovation. Marlon Brando plays Stanley and Jessica Tandy as Blanche.

The next page is a character list.

On the verso is an epigraph from Hart Crane.

The page starts on page 9 with a Negro woman speaking to Eunice.

These are the last 2 pages. Note Blanche's famed line on page 170: "Whoever you are - I have always depended on the kindness of strangers". One of the reasons I love first editions is I get to see famous lines in their full originality. Here, we now know it is a hyphen rather than the commonly seen comma.

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