THE “FIRST WORK IN PHOTOFICTION”: FIRST EDITION OF MORRIS’ INHABITANTS, WITH 52 EVOCATIVE PHOTOGRAPHS
MORRIS, Wright. The Inhabitants. New York and London: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1946. Slim quarto, original pale green cloth, original dust jacket. $2500.
First edition of this “first work in photofiction,” with 52 black-and-white photogravure plates of America at mid-century, an often haunting record of a people known by their imprint on the land.
“Often called one of the nation’s most unrecognized writers,” Wright Morris was frequently compared to Faulkner and Cather for his “evocation of an idiosyncratic America” (New York Times). In addition to a legacy of 19 novels, Morris produced five books of photography, a passion first inspired by a 1938 cross-country trip where, in his words, he “saw the American landscape crowded with ruins I wanted to salvage.” In 1942, having won the “second Guggenheim Fellowship ever awarded in photography (the first had gone to Edward Weston in 1937),” he photographed a history he felt was disappearing. This groundbreaking “first work in photofiction” wedded Morris’ prose and a photographic focus that searched out not merely a nation’s people, “but their artifacts-objects (mostly of wood) bearing their imprint.” On seeing Morris’ images, Thomas Mann wrote him, praising these photographs so vivid with “the harsh beauty of ugliness, the romanticism of the commonplace, the poetry of the unpoetical” (Roth, 122). The Inhabitants would become the first of a trilogy by Morris, followed by The Home Place (1948) and God’s Country and My People (1968). Owner inscription to front dust jacket flap.
Book fine; light edge-wear and soiling, some chipping and slight abrasions minimally affecting text on spine of extremely good, unrestored dust jacket.