“THE FIRST FLIGHT OF A FINE WRITING TALENT”: EXCEEDINGLY SCARCE FIRST EDITION OF STEINBECK’S SECOND BOOK, THE PASTURES OF HEAVEN, ONE OF A SCANT 650 COPIES SOLD
STEINBECK, John. The Pastures of Heaven. New York: Brewer, Warren & Putnam, 1932. Octavo, original green cloth gilt, original dust jacket. Housed in a custom clamshell box.
Scarce first edition, first issue, one of a scant 650 copies sold, of Steinbeck’s lyrical and incisive portrait of the verdant heart of California and its people—“points the way to most of his subsequent writing”—a beautiful copy in original dust jacket.
The Pastures of Heaven, Steinbeck’s second-published book, “began as an idea for a volume of interconnected short stories… The setting was also prepared for the writing of Pastures by Steinbeck’s interest in family history, continuity and inheritance, particularly in father-son relationships.” Shortly after submitting the completed manuscript, Steinbeck wrote, “‘If the reader will take them for what they are, and will not be governed by what a short story should be (for they are not short stories at all, but tiny novels) then they should be charming… There is no grand writing nor any grand theme, but I love the stories very much” (Benson, 209, 219). Critics praised The Pastures of Heaven on publication as “the first flight of a fine writing talent” (Nation), especially “noteworthy for its originality of phrase and image and a strongly poetic feeling” (New York Times Book Review). Among other achievements, it “represents Steinbeck’s first effective use of local color and legend” (Salinas Public Library, 19). “Today The Pastures of Heaven is the most popular of Steinbeck’s three early books. It points the way to most of his subsequent writing” (Valentine 14). First issue, with original publisher’s imprint at spine foot. “Brewer, Warren & Putnam printed 2500 sets of sheets, of which 1650 were bound and about 650 copies sold. The remainder were sold to Robert O. Ballou in 1932” (Goldstone & Payne, 22). Ballou produced the second and third issues in that year, with binding (in second and third issue) and title page (in third issue) differing from this first issue, notably by having the Ballou imprint on the bottom of the spine. Around 1935, Covici-Friede purchased the remaining portions of the first issue sheets and brought them out as the fourth issue. First issue dust jacket (height:195 mm); front flap with portrait of Steinbeck. Goldstone & Payne A2a. Bruccoli & Clark I:353. Valentine 14.
Near-fine dust jacket lightly rubbed with minor abrasions to spine, light wear to edges. Book fine. A lovely, desirable copy of an elusive and significant Steinbeck first edition.