"AMERICA'S FIRST MAJOR
The Scarlet Letter
"When the young woman--the
mother of this child--stood fully revealed before the crowd, it seemed
to be her first impulse to clasp the infant closely to her bosom; not so
much by an impulse of motherly affection, as that she might thereby
conceal a certain token, which was wrought or fastened into her dress.
In a moment, however, wisely judging that one token of her shame would
but poorly serve to hide another, she took the baby on her arm, and with
a burning blush, and yet a haughty smile, and a glance that would not be
abashed, looked around at her townspeople and neighbours. On the breast
of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery
and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter A..."
FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, in unrestored original cloth
of one of the great masterpieces of American Literature. One of only
2500 copies printed.
In November 1849, "James T.
Fields--the junior partner in Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, Boston's most
eminent publishing firm--entered Hawthorne's professional and personal
life. He called on Hawthorne in Salem, returned to Boston with an
unfinished manuscript, and soon began advertising 'a new volume by
Hawthorne.' At that point Hawthorne planned to lighten his dark tale of
adultery with a group of 'old-time legends' that presumably included
'Ethan Brand,' but Fields soon dissuaded him. Hawthorne then wrote the
long autobiographical introduction called 'The Custom-House' and
completed his novel. The Scarlet Letter appeared in March 1850, a
story of a proud adulteress sentenced by her stern Puritan judges to
wear a scarlet A on her breast, the hypocritical minister who was her
lover, her beautiful, unruly child, and her revenge-obsessed husband.
Despite Salemites' complaints of being maligned in the introduction and
some critics' objections to the novel's 'scandalous' subject, it was
immediately hailed as a work of genius and America's first major novel"
(American National Biography).
Ticknor, Reed and Fields, 1850. Octavo, original blind-stamped brown
cloth; custom cloth box. With publisher's ads dated March 1, 1850
between front endpapers. With first-issue points: page 21, line 20:
"reduplicate"; page 41, line 5; page 132, line 29; page 199, line 4;
final page of contents "iv". Discreet markings noting issue points
in text. A hint of wear at the corners and spine ends, a few spots of
discoloration to cloth; gilt exceptionally bright. A magnificent copy.