Boston: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1850. First edition, with Hawthorne's signature bound in. 8vo (177 x 112 mm; 7 x 4½ in.). 322 pages. Title-page printed in red and black. Red morocco gilt by
P. B. Sanford, spine in six compartments with five raised bands, gilt-lettered in two, a repeated leafy block in the rest, two triple-fillet panels on the sides, turn-ins gilt, top edges gilt; original cloth covers and spine bound in at end. Provenance: Alfred Nathan (morocco bookplate); with Inman’s (1975 slip laid-in). Bound without the ads, a fine copy with a few minor touches to joints and corners. Bound without the ads, a few touches to joints and tips. Item #401323
A very attractive copy of this landmark American novel, with a document bearing the author’s signature bound in: inlaid to size in a sheet facing the title is Hawthorne’s signature as customs examiner. From 1839, Hawthorne worked for three years as a weigher and gauger at the Boston Customs House. He was then living in a rented room, and furtively writing in what he called the home’s “owl’s nest” when not consumed with his bureaucratic duties at work. Of this period in his life he wrote to Longfellow, “I have not lived, but only dreamed about living.” Hawthorne left Boston in 1841 to join the utopian community at Brook Farm (mainly to save money in order to marry, not due to any sense of affinity with the social ideals of the place).
Hawthorne titled his introduction to The Scarlet Letter the custom-house and writes of his three years’ employment there, making several allusions to local politicians. The inclusion of a signed document from this period in the author’s early career is thus an appropriate and evocative enhancement. BAL 7600; Clark A16.1; Grolier American 59. .