"A VAST LEGACY OF FINISHED AND INTRICATE BEAUTY": ILLUSTRATED EDITION OF LAFCADIO HEARN'S WRITINGS, HANDSOMELY BOUND AND WITH A MANUSCRIPT LEAF IN HEARN'S HAND
HEARN, Lafcadio. The Writings. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin; Dodd, Mead, 1922. Sixteen volumes. Octavo, contemporary three-quarter brown morocco, raised bands, marbled endpapers, top edges gilt, uncut and largely unopened. $7500.
Large-paper limited edition of Hearn's writings, number 186 of 750 sets, with 16 color frontispieces and 149 full-page plates and photogravures, many after photographs and several of them reproducing Japanese artworks in color. With a manuscript leaf in Hearn's hand from In Ghostly Japan mounted to a preliminary leaf of Volume I. Handsomely bound at the Riverside Press.
Journalist and translator Lafcadio Hearn traveled to Japan in 1890 to write an article for Harper's. He never returned to the U.S., instead becoming one of the most renowned western authors of Japan of his day. His goal was "to create, in the minds of the readers, a vivid impression of living in Japan— not simply as an observer but as one taking part in the daily existence of the common people, and thinking with their thoughts" (ANB). Hearn's ghost stories and tales of the macabre would later influence a generation of Japanese writers, including Natsume Soseki (Ten Nights of Dreams) and Akutagawa Ryunosuke (Rashomon). This collection includes Hearn's Creole writings from his days as a New Orleans journalist, in addition to the many books he wrote on Japan and other Asian cultures, and Bisland's landmark Life and Letters. "Of the East and the West he left a vast legacy of finished and intricate beauty, and whether it was so highly polished as to take on a transparency and a fragility that will not age is a question that will write its own answer" (Kunitz & Haycraft, 356).
The manuscript leaf reads: "[chapter] I. I see a lotus in a vase. Most of the vase is in darkness; but I know that it is of bronze, and that its handles are bodies of dragons. The lotus itself shines as if made of fire: three dazzling white flowers, and several great leaves of gold and green,— gold above," This is a draft of the opening lines of Hearn's piece titled "Incense," from In Ghostly Japan, the published version of which can be found in Volume IX, page 221 of the present set. The published version differs slightly, reading: "I see, rising out of darkness, a lotus in a vase. Most of the vase is invisible; but I know that it is of bronze, and that its glimpsing handles are bodies of dragons. Only the lotus is fully illuminated: three pure white flowers, and five great leaves of gold and green—gold above…" Not every set of the 750 produced for this limited edition was issued with a manuscript leaf; the number that did include a leaf is unspecified. This set is also signed by Koizumi Setsuko, Hearn's second wife, in Japanese characters and with her red seal, on a tipped-in leaf of japon vellum. BAL 7977.
A splendidly illustrated set with manuscript leaf in fine condition.