Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.

The Scarlet Letter, title page of first edition, first issue.

The Scarlet Letter, title page of first edition, first issue.

The Scarlet Letter was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of America’s most well-known writers, and was first published in March 1850 by Ticknor Reed and Fields in Boston. In November of 1849, James T. Fields, the junior partner in the firm (Boston’s most eminent) went to Salem to see Hawthorne, came back with an unfinished manuscript and began advertising this new work of Hawthorne’s. The tale of Hester Prynne (the adulteress branded with the scarlet letter A by her Puritan judges,) the Reverend Dimmesdale (father of her child) and Pearl (the child of the ill-fated union) is one with which most of us are familiar, since it’s often “required reading” in high school English classes. If you haven’t read it since high school, however, get it out again. You may find that your reaction to this masterpiece is quite different now.

The Scarlet Letter, title page verso.

The Scarlet Letter, title page verso.

Thanks to Dr. Wilber Fugate, Davidson class of 1934, we have a first edition, first issue of The Scarlet Letter in the Rare Book Room, one of only 2500 copies printed. According to one antique bookseller, Phillip J. Pirages, “this is a volume of firsts: the first edition, first issue of Hawthornes’ first novel, his first publication for Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, and generally recognized as the first major American novel.” There are several points which determine the first issue, including the absence of the preface which Hawthorne added later, and several misprints which were corrected in later issues.

Printing error: reduplicate for repudiate

Printing error:
reduplicate for repudiate

Printing error: mortal for moral

Printing error:
mortal for moral

Printing error: characterss

Printing error:
characterss

Printing error: tobelieve

Printing error:
tobelieve

Printing error: The number 21 printed at the foot of page 321.

Printing error:
The number 21 printed at the foot of page 321.

 

 

 

 

 

Our copy has been rebound in quarter red morocco with red linen boards, and uses raised bands, black morocco spine labels, and gilt spine lettering. The inscription on the title page reads “C. G. Atherton to Hon. J. Hurst Jr.” Charles Gordon Atherton was a lawyer and politician who served as a U.S. Senator from New Hampshire from 1843-1849, and from 1852 until his death in 1853. He served as Chairman of the Committee on Printing (Twenty-ninth Congress), the Committee on Roads and Canals (Twenty-ninth Congress), and the Committee on Finance (Thirtieth Congress.)

The Scarlet Letter binding

The Scarlet Letter binding

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