First Book of Rhythms

Langston HUGHES

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Item#: 127334 price:$5,500.00

First Book of Rhythms
First Book of Rhythms

A "DECEPTIVELY PROFOUND LITTLE BOOK": PRESENTATION FIRST EDITION OF FIRST BOOK OF RHYTHMS, 1954, BOLDLY INSCRIBED IN THE YEAR OF PUBLICATION BY LANGSTON HUGHES

HUGHES, Langston. The First Book of Rhythms. New York: Franklin Watts, 1954. Square quarto, original red-stamped green cloth, pictorial endpapers, original dust jacket. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $5500.

First edition, first printing of the pivotal second work in Hughes' influential series, showing "how all the world is connected by rhythm," an exceptional presentation copy boldly inscribed by him in the year of publication to his long-time friend Zell Ingram, "For Zell, sincerely, Lang, New York, May, 1954." Ingram (1910-71), active in the Harlem Artists Guild, was Hughes' traveling companion on a trip to Haiti and Cuba in 1930.

In his five-volume First Book series, Hughes "traces the African journey… from First Book of Negroes (1952), through First Book of Rhythms (1954), First Book of Jazz (1955) and First Book of the West Indies (1956) to First Book of Africa (1960)… To Hughes, the 'rhythms of life' connect idioms, for the universe seems to be an almost living organism that connects all people and things" (Miller, Art and Imagination of Langston Hughes, xvii). Hughes was especially "pleased with his First Books of Rhythms, a 'deceptively profound little book,' one scholar judged" (Rampersad, Life V.II: 232). "Starting with zigzag lines on paper, Hughes' book proceeds through musical notes, the ebb and flow of water, a man batting a ball,and a child spinning a top to show how all the world is connected by rhythms" (Kirkus), and he skillfully "ties it all together into one big beautiful package" (New York Times).

The book's passages on rhythms "put into music and poetry" also point to "Hughes' representation of jazz, blues and Black vernacular speech rhythms in his poetry… Wynton Marsalis suggests that Hughes based his model for rhythm's interconnectivity on a jazz ensemble where all the players must keep the rhythm, unlike other genres of music where the drummer alone takes on this responsibility. Extending this metaphor… it could be said that Hughes conceptualized the relationship between writer, reader and text as a jazz ensemble… jazz rhythm (as opposed to metrical verse rhythm) presents a model of democratic collectivity, without implying the need for hierarchy or unison" (Neigh, Recalling Recitation, 87). In Marsalis' introduction to a 1995 edition, he notes: "As a writer, Hughes likes to swing his thoughts on the printed page. Rhythm was his business, too." First edition: with "First Printing" stated on title page. The lively, colorful "illustrations by Robin King are closely integrated with the text and dramatic in their simplicity" (New York Times). Blockson 5259. Bruccoli & Clark III:163. Recipient Zell Ingram (1910-71) was active in the Harlem Artists Guild, and accompanied Hughes on a trip to Haiti and Cuba in 1930. He supplied the striking image of a Black Christ that accompanied Hughes' essay "Southern Gentlemen, White Prostitutes, Mill-Owners, and Negroes" that appeared on the front page of Contempo review in December 1931.

Interior clean, light rubbing to cloth at corners and spine ends. Price-clipped dust jacket with some light scuffs along gently toned spine. An extremely good inscribed copy.

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