Collecting Rare Books and First Editions - Robert Frost’s First Book
By Michael Slicker
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Robert Frost wasn’t much of a farmer but he loved living on a farm. Though he was born in the city (San Francisco), some of his formative years were spent on his grandfather’s farm in Massachusetts. Indeed, much of his poetry seems influenced by his rural life.
His grandfather left him a farm when he died and Robert worked it for a few years but he really wasn’t suited for farming. He wrote poetry and he wanted to make a living doing it. In the end, he sold his farm and moved his family to Great Britain in 1912. The family lived briefly in Glasgow and then settled into a cottage in Beaconsfield, a small town northwest of London.
It was in England, where he found a more receptive audience for his pastoral poetry, that his literary career began to blossom. He met Irish poet William Butler Yeats and American expatriate poets Hilda Doolittle (known as H.D.) and Ezra Pound. His first book, A Boy’s Will, was published by David Nutt in 1913.
Still, Frost was largely unknown in the literary world. His publisher had only 1,000 copies printed and bound them only as needed. One of the earliest copies of this volume is in our collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA.
It is a remarkable book in near fine condition. It is bound in bronze pebbled cloth and signed on the half-title page by the author. The title and author’s name are gilt-stamped on the front cover. It is thought to be one of less than 350 copies in this earliest binding. The remainder of the edition were bound in batches, and there are four other known bindings.
The book is divided into three parts, with 20 poems on Part I, seven in Part II and five in Part III. Many of the poems in this book reflect the rural and natural influences on his work, in imagery, at least.
Frost and his family returned to the United States in 1915, and he promptly bought a farm in New Hampshire, where they lived for several years. Rural life, indeed, seemed to suit Robert Frost and feed him creatively. Of course, Frost’s work is far deeper and too full of symbolism to simply be considered a Currier and Ives poet.
(Posted on the Lighthouse Books Blog, presented here by permission of the author.)