Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1891. 1st Edition. 12mo, publisher's gilt-stamped gray cloth, bevelled edges, top edge gilt, tissue-guarded title-page. Housed in custom clamshell box.
Rare first edition of the second collection of poems by "the Belle of Amherst," one of fewer than 1000 copies issued: "I bring an unaccustomed wine / To lips long parching, next to mine, / And summon them to drink." Only a handful of Dickinson's nearly 1800 poems were published in her lifetime, with roughly a third of them seen through the press by her sister Lavinia and a cohort of family intimates in the years following her death in 1886. Disputes within the family, however, and with those tasked with editing the work, impeded further publication, with several piecemeal collections issued by the rival factions over the next half century, until the estate passed in its entirety to Harvard University. The present collection (along with two others issued in the 19th century) was edited by Mabel Loomis Todd, the mistress of Emily and Lavinia's older brother Austin, who solicited the assistance of prominent abolitionist, Unitarian minister and man of letters Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Higginson had encouraged Emily's efforts when she was alive, but notably passed on the opportunity to publish her poems when it might have made a difference to her. "The eagerness with which the first volume of Emily Dickinson's poems has been read shows very clearly that all our alleged modern artificiality does not prevent a prompt appreciation of the qualities of directness and simplicity in approaching the greatest themes,–life and love and death... This second volume...shows also the same shining beauties" (from Todd's preface). With a facsimile of Dickinson's manuscript of the poem "Renunciation." Binding B (no priority), with gray cloth gilt-stamped with floral "Indian Pipes" design. (The design was taken from a painting Todd had given Dickinson and which hung in the poet's bedroom, becoming her "preferred flower of life," and a recurrent motif in future publications of her work.) Myerson A2.1a. BAL 4656. Owner signature to front free endpaper, occasional pencil marginalia. Joints strengthened, some offsetting to endpapers, else a fresh and lovely copy of a scarce landmark in American literature. Item #1008