“DUNBAR CREATED BLACK DIALECT WITH GRACE AND BEAUTY”: EXCEPTIONAL FIRST EDITION OF DUNBAR’S OAK AND IVY, 1893, ONE OF ONLY 500 COPIES
DUNBAR, Paul Laurence. Oak and Ivy. Dayton, Ohio: Press of United Brethren, 1893. Slim octavo, original russet cloth gilt, patterned endpapers. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $6000.
First edition of Dunbar’s first book, one of only 500 copies published, an elegant volume of 56 poems that offers up a peerless “expression of his own soul… rare and beyond the reach of most collectors” (Blockson), in lovely unrestored original gilt-stamped cloth. An exceptional copy.
Paul Laurence Dunbar was the first black American author to support himself solely through his writing and became “a powerful interpreter of the African American folk experience in literature and song” (Braxton, Modern American Poetry). As a boy Dunbar published poetry in local newspapers but, too poor for college, took a job as an elevator operator. At a meeting of the Western Association of Writers in 1892, “one of Dunbar’s former teachers arranged to have him deliver the welcoming address,” and his work was soon encouraged by poets such as James Whitcomb Riley. In 1893 Dunbar located a small firm to publish his first book Oak and Ivy, issued in an edition of only 500 copies. In this slim volume of 56 poems, Dunbar offers “an expression of his own soul. Dunbar created black dialect with grace and beauty… His first two books of poetry Oak and Ivy and Majors and Minors are rare and beyond the reach of most collectors” (Blockson, Commented Bibliography 54). “Dunbar’s success inspired the next generation of black writers… to dream of and achieve literary success during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s” (ANB). Issued in gray, russet, or blue cloth; no priority established. As issued without dust jacket. Blockson 6021. BAL 4916.