PORGY, THE BASIS FOR PORGY AND BESS, A DESIRABLE PRESENTATION COPY INSCRIBED BY DU BOSE HEYWARD TO LITERARY CRITIC AND AUTHOR EDWIN AUGUST BJORKMAN
HEYWARD, Du Bose. Porgy. Garden City: Grosset & Dunlap, (1925). Octavo, original black cloth, original dust jacket. Housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box.
Early edition, presentation/association copy, of Heyward's "poignant picture of a culture seldom before depicted without quaintness or condescension" and the inspiration for George Gershwin's classic opera, inscribed to a prominent literary critic, newspaperman, and author: "To Edwin Björkman, with fraternal greetings and always the best wishes of Du Bose Heyward. September 1932."
An extremely successful real estate and insurance salesman, Heyward in 1924—encouraged by both a growing resume of published poems and his wife—devoted himself to writing full-time. "Porgy, published in 1925, was a powerful story of a crippled African-American beggar, set in a black waterfront neighborhood of Charleston called Catfish Row. A poignant picture of a culture seldom before depicted without quaintness or condescension, Porgy was an immediate success, described in the New York Times Book Review as 'a noteworthy achievement in the sympathetic interpretation of negro life by a member of an "outside" race,' and conveying 'an intimate and authentic sense of the dignity, the pathos… the very essence of his chosen community… A dramatization of Porgy done in collaboration with his wife [was] the first major Broadway play with an all African-American cast, [and] was a great hit, running for a total of 367 performances in 1927-28… The play was later turned into an opera, titled Porgy and Bess (1935), with music by George Gershwin and libretto by Heyward and Ira Gershwin. Hailed as the first great American folk opera, it was influential in opening the American theater to African-American musical forms and was made into a successful motion picture in 1959" (ANB). The first edition was published by Doran in 1925; this is a later Grosset & Dunlap edition. Bruccoli & Clark III:153. Blockson 6165. This copy is inscribed to Edwin Björkman, a native Swede who began his career as a translator of Swedish literature and drama in Minnesota and moved on to life as a newspaperman in New York. During World War II, Björkman worked back in Sweden for both the British Department of Information and the American Committee on Public Information. This intensive English-language immersion, including a stint as a lecturer on Scandinavian literature at Yale, led him toward the American South, specifically North Carolina. There, he worked as the literary editor of the Asheville Times and, later, as director of the North Carolina Federal Writers' Project. Björkman was also a published author in English—often incorporating the themes of civil rights and progressive causes—and frequented the same circles as Heyward, who also lived in the Carolinas. Owner signature on title page of pianist and conductor George Darden, an internationally recognized expert on Porgy and Bess. According to UNC-Greensboro, where his papers reside, "Darden [was] acclaimed as the authority in productions of Porgy and Bess, having directed the musical preparation for 165 performances." George Gershwin commemorative stamp affixed to title page. Illustrated postcard of Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina, home of Porgy, laid in.
Book about-fine, dust jacket extremely good with faint stain to front bottom corner and light wear and toning mainly to extremities. A desirable inscribed presentation copy.