"I AM GOING AWAY FROM 'FREELANDS', AND FROM A DAILY COMPANIONSHIP WITH YOU": FIRST EDITION OF JAMES STEPHENS’ THE CROCK OF GOLD, INSCRIBED TO EDITH TRANTER, BOOK COLLECTOR AND SECRETARY TO AMERICAN BOOK COMPANY PRESIDENT W.T.H. HOWE
STEPHENS, James. The Crock of Gold. London: Macmillan, 1912. Octavo, original gilt-stamped green cloth. Housed in a custom cloth chemise and half morocco slipcase. $15,000.
First edition of James Stephens’ masterpiece, inscribed to American Book Company President W.T.H. Howe's secretary: "To Edith Tranter: Dear Miss Tranter. Here am I going away from 'Freelands', and from a daily companionship with you which I am going sadly to miss. I shall remember you often; and, though you are surely the busiest person in the world, I hope you will remember me now and again when you have nothing better to do. Give, occasionally, my love to Larkspur: and when you & she turn your next fifty thousand miles break a flask of coca-cola on her bonnet in my name. Au revoir: James Stephens."
The Crock of Gold, with its rich Celtic theme, established Stephens' fame; his astringent, ironic style has invited comparisons with his friend, James Joyce. This copy is inscribed Edith Barbara Tranter and bears her bookplate. Tranter was secretary to W.T.H. Howe, president of the American Book Company in Cincinnati, and subsequently administrator of his estate. Howe was a prominent book collector and Tranter appears to have followed in his footsteps, the sale of her library occasioning a 1952 auction. Howe, presumably with Tranter's secretarial help, amassed many of James Stephens' personal papers, which now largely reside in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library. While Stephens was an Irish poet and author—a contemporary of Joyce and Yeats—this book was inscribed in the United States, "where between 1925 and 1935 [Stephens] went almost annually for lecture tours and stays with his friend and patron W.T.H. Howe at 'Freelands', Kentucky" (Rafroidi, et al., Ireland and France: A Bountiful Friendship, 104). "Stephens' strongest supporter was W.T.H. Howe, the President of the American Book Company. Howe first invited Stephens to Freelands, his summer home in Kentucky, in 1929 after an exchange of letter that began in 1913. He bought Stephens' manuscripts, he offered at Freelands food, drink, and the company of a burro from Texas, and he arranged for several editorial assignments. By 1935 the relationship was beginning to wear on both Parties. Howe complain… that the Irish were an odd group whose love of words and whose whimsicality, insincerity, and propensity to dramatize were not always understandable or interesting… Howe did not invite Stephens to Freelands in 1936 or thereafter" (McFate, Writings of James Stephens, 8). Yet, Stephens seems to have developed a separate friendship with Tranter during this time. She is mentioned eight times in his published correspondence. This inscription seems likely to have been written toward the end of Stephen's time at Freelands, rather than at the end of a summer, based on its content. Morocco bookplate.
A few tiny spots of soiling to interior, binding lovely. A very nearly fine inscribed copy with a fascinating association.