THE “FIRST WORK IN PHOTOFICTION”: RARE ASSOCIATION COPY OF THE INHABITANTS, SIGNED BY WRIGHT MORRIS, FROM THE LIBRARY OF NOTED COLLECTOR AND PUBLISHER DANIEL BERLEY
MORRIS, Wright. The Inhabitants. New York and London: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1946. Slim quarto, original pale green debossed cloth, original dust jacket. $2500.
First edition of this “first work in photofiction” (Roth), signed by Morris on the title page, a memorable association copy from the library of renowned photography collector and publisher Daniel Berley, featuring 52 black-and-white photogravure plates of rural America.
“One of the nation’s most unrecognized writers,” Wright Morris is often likened to Faulkner and Cather for his brilliant “evocation of an idiosyncratic America” (New York Times). In addition to 19 novels, Morris produced five books of photography, 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),” Morris produced this groundbreaking “first work in photofiction,” which expertly wedded his prose to images that captured not only a generation of Americans, but also “their artifacts-objects (mostly of wood) bearing their imprint.” Thomas Mann praised Morris for vividly capturing “the harsh beauty of ugliness, the romanticism of the commonplace, the poetry of the unpoetical” (Roth, 122). The Inhabitants became the first of a trilogy by Morris, followed by The Home Place (1948) and God’s Country and My People (1968). This rare association copy is from the library of collector and publisher Daniel Berley, who joined with noted gallery owner Lee Witkin in 1981 to produce “the Witkin-Berley portfolio… a limited edition portfolio of a dozen of Morris’ best-known images” (Afterimage).
Book fine; light edge-wear, minor tape reinforcement to verso of scarce, bright dust jacket. A near-fine, signed copy with a notable association.