05 June, 2015

A Witness Tree

BY Robert Frost
Book Information1/1/0/US/HH/1942/o.8,500  •  222x152x18  •  321  •  Pulitzer'43

"A Witness Tree", published in 1942 by Henry Holt, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1943, Frost's fourth and final. This is the first trade edition and there is a first limited edition of 735 copies. It is difficult to say which of these is the true first edition. According to Crane, this trade edition was publsihed on April 06, 1942 while the limited edition was published 17 days later on the 23rd. However, Crane also mentioned that the trade edition was printed from the lates of the limited edition, suggesting that the limited edition was in fact printed first. There were 8,500 first trade copies.

This is the first trade edition first printing with first state dust jacket that is unclipped, showing the correct price of $2.00. The dust jacket depicting a wash drawing of a tree was designed by Alan Haemer, whose fascimile signature in white is on the lower left corner. The book is bound in greenish blue clothed board with gilt lettering and has green topstain. The copyright page should state "FIRST PRINTING". 

This book is getting increasingly rare and a VG copy can be purchased from eBay or Abebooks for about $150. This is a VG+ copy with a VG+ dust jacket with minor chippings, rubbings and closed tears, and a NF book that is tight and clean.


The only official signed edition is the 735-copy limited signed edition. There are many association or signed copies of this trade edition, and some are priced as high as a few thousand dollars, some with very bad dust jacket. Robert Frost has a signature that is relatively easy to forge, as is his handwriting in general, so caveat emptor. If you really want a signed copy, go for the official signed edition for about $500.



The dust jacket is in beige woven paper and the front cover is a wash drawing of a tree by Alan Haemer. This jacket has some rubbing and closed tears, especially along the spine.

These are the internal flaps with their corners clipped but I think this clipping is a deliberate design. Most clippings are to remove the printed price but the original price is still clearly presented here.

This book is actually quite beautiful. It is bounded in greenish-blue linen cloth with clearly visible fabric pattern. The letterings on the front and spine are gilt and bright.

On the verso of the full title page is a crayon sketch of Robert frost by Enit Kaufman.

The "First Printing" on the copyright page, with no mention of additional printing is likely the definitive first trade edition point. The book was dedicated to Kathleen Morrison, who was Frost's secretary-manager from 1938 till his death.


Content page.

Content pages.

Two introductory poems, "Beech" and "Sycamore", on page 9.


First  poem of the book on page 13.

The final printed page.

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