“1938-1971 IS A RESPECTABLE STRETCH, ISN’T IT”: EXCEEDINGLY SCARCE PRESENTATION/ASSOCIATION FIRST EDITION OF WALKER EVANS’ AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHS, WITH PHOTOGRAPHIC PRINT ADDITIONALLY INSCRIBED AND SIGNED BY EVANS, IN RARELY FOUND ORIGINAL DUST JACKET
EVANS, Walker. American Photographs. (New York): Museum of Modern Art, (1938). Square octavo, original black cloth with cream paper spine label, original dust jacket. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $8000.
First edition of Evans' landmark photo-book, an exceptional presentation/association copy inscribed by him to longtime friend, journalist William McK. Chapman, “To Bill Chapman, (1938-1971 is a respectable stretch, isn’t it. Congratulations!) Walker,” this copy also with a vintage black-and-white photographic print (4-3/4 by 6-3/4 inches) captioned by Evans and signed by him, “Eliza Hobson with love to Bill Chapman, W. Evans,” with the print tipped to the front free endpaper above Evans’ inscription to Chapman.
In 1938 Walker Evans was the first photographer to have a solo exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art. Published in conjunction with that landmark show, the 87 images presented here revolutionized photography's documentary role, and the book's very design reconfigured the photo-essay into "a complex, elliptical, hugely ambitious work." From its opening sequence of a photographer's shop, American Photographs "declares itself not just a book about the world, but about photography… It constitutes a document of 1930s America so persuasive that John Szarkowski has remarked: 'It is difficult to know now with certainty whether Walker Evans recorded the America of his youth, or invented it" (Parr & Badger I:114). With text by Lincoln Kirstein, "Evans' closest collaborator in the realization of the book" (Roth, 98). Without tipped-in errata slip. Open Book, 128. Recipient William McK. Chapman was a writer and editor for publications such as Time and Sports Illustrated from 1915-1960. Over the course of their careers, Evans and Chapman became friends, and this book may have been inscribed when Evans stayed at Chapman's Charleston, South Carolina home in the early 1970s. The photographic print additionally inscribed by Evans and tipped to the same front endpaper shows a smiling young woman, Eliza Hobson, who was the daughter of a mutual friend of the two men. Her father, Wilder Hobson, was an editor at Time and Fortune, and her mother, Verna Harrison Hobson, was J. Robert Oppenheimer's personal secretary at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey. In 1937, when Wilder Hobson and his first wife Peggy rented a house on Long Island, Walker and James Agee "were among the Hobsons' regular guests," and in 1943, when Hobson "was placed in charge of the arts and entertainment section of Time… he found a place for Evans as a contributing editor" (Rathbone, 150, 190). In June 1944, Evans visited Hobson and Verna at their Fire Island cottage, and one of the "major portfolios Evans produced in 1946 at Fortune… [was] notably, 'Homes of Americans—Portfolio,' a ten-page spread with a text by Wilder Hobson, now on the editorial board of Fortune" (Mellow, 283, 490). Hobson, together with Evans and photographer Helen Levitt were among those who attended the funeral of James Agee in May 1955. Hobson, who had a passion for jazz, also wrote one of the first major books on jazz, American Jazz Music (1939). Bookseller ticket.
Mild edge-wear to cloth; very light edge-wear, minor toning and small closed tear to spine of very scarce unrestored dust jacket. A rarely found near-fine inscribed presentation copy with an especially memorable association.