"THIS NOW RARE BOOK SIGNED": FIRST EDITION OF SHAKESPEARE IN HARLEM, INSCRIBED BY LANGSTON HUGHES
HUGHES, Langston. Shakespeare in Harlem. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1942. Octavo, original half orange and black cloth, original dust jacket.
First edition of Hughes' major book of poetry—"a work of genuine talent and artistry"—inscribed by him in his characteristic green ink, "To Mrs. P— this now rare book signed years after publication—Sincerely, Langston Hughes, Westport October 30. 1965."
"Shakespeare in Harlem was emphatically, unashamedly about being black… resounding in its success as a representation of the lives and thoughts of the mass of black Americans… In building this book of poems on the blues, Langston had returned to the inspiration for his greatest creative period." While Hughes was distressed over the design of the dust jacket, Van Vechten assured him: "The whole book sings with that kind of wistful loneliness you have made peculiarly your own" (Rampersad, Life V.I:390). On publication the Christian Science Monitor praised it as "'a work of genuine talent and skillful artistry." The Saturday Review of Literature noted: "rarely in our poetry do we find this subtle blending of tragedy and comedy. It is an exquisite art and a difficult one," and the Herald-Tribune reviewer especially "spoke of 'so sure a touch and an insight so genuine' in Hughes' brilliant gliding between exhilaration and despair" (Rampersad, Life V.II: 40-42). "First Edition" stated on copyright page. With frontispiece and 12 full-page illustrations after drawings by E. McKnight Kauffer. Bruccoli & Clark, 160. Blockson 6355. Bookseller ticket. With "negroes" in an unidentified hand on the same page as the inscription. Trace of clippings removal to rear blank and pastedown.
Book fine: lightest edge-wear to about-fine dust jacket. A handsome inscribed copy.