Frost’s New Hampshire (1923)

   Posted by: rring   in book history, Classes, Students

[Posted by Sophie Vitzthum​ for ENG 812 Modern Poetry, Professor Rosen]

Frost3Robert Frost first published his Pulitzer Prize-winning volume of poems, New Hampshire, in 1923. The copy that I stumbled across at the Watkinson Library in Trinity College was the 165th copy of the limited three hundred first edition copies printed. This collection of Frost’s poetry contains forty-six poems in total, which are divided into two sections: Notes and Grace Notes. This collection includes several of his most well known poems such as “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” and “Fire and Ice.”

Frost2Inside the cover of this book I found two bookplates, one that read “The Brick Row Shop,” and another that was labeled with the name Harry Bacon Collamore. The Brick Row Shop is one of the oldest antiquarian book businesses in the United States, and specializes in first editions, rare books and manuscripts from the 17th through the 20th centuries. Indeed, it makes sense that a book such as the one that I found in the Watkinson Library was associated with a business that dealt with rare books. Harry Bacon Collamore’s bookplate, however, has some history behind it. Harry Bacon Collamore donated many modern English and American first editions to the Watkinson Library, including major poetry collections of Robert Frost. He was the president of the Watkinson trustees as well as of the Trinity College Library associates. Although the relationship between Frost and Collamore is undocumented, the two clearly had a unique friendship. I can attest to this fact because out of the many Frost books that I looked at in the Watkinson, many of them were signed to Harry Bacon Collamore from Frost.

The physical aesthetics of this edition of New Hampshire are quite striking in their simplicity. The book itself was in formidable shape as well, considering it has been around for almost a century now. The binding was completely in tact and there was no sign of fading to be seen. Both the title and the woodcut on the cover are painted in gold, which could be linked to his poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” The unique typeface of the title is only seen in three other sections of this book: in the introduction of the volume, in the introduction of Notes, and in the introduction to Grace Notes.

Frost1The typeface is complemented by the woodcuts that pop up throughout this book. The unified, rustic style of both the typeface and woodcut suggest that Frost may have wanted his poetry to be read in a certain way. Seeing that his poems deal with primarily pastoral topics, it seems appropriate that the typeface appears handwritten and simple, while the woodcuts depict bucolic, natural scenery. In fact, the woodcuts were created by print artist JJ Lankes, a close friend of Frost’s. Lankes also created woodcuts for Frost’s other publications, as well as prints for other authors such as Sherwood Anderson and Beatrix Potter.

When I found this book it was presented in a cardboard casing that contained three other editions of New Hampshire. This edition, however, caught my attention more than the others when I opened the first page to find an original, handwritten poem of Frost’s. Frost’s script is somewhat hard to decipher, though it is quite attractive, but after reading the poem over with close attention several times, this is what I was able to make out:


I shall see the sorrow all go down hill

In water of a slender April rill

That flashes tail in last years’ withered brake

And dead weeds like a disappointing snake.

Nothing will be left white but here a birch

And there a clump of houses with a church.


The poem is followed with a second signature from Frost, as well as a dedication to Harry Bacon Collamore. Nowhere has this poem been printed other than in this edition of New Hampshire. Although the poem consists of only six lines, the image that it describes, of a vanishing winter and a blossoming spring, is quite striking. The poem’s primary focus on the white objects that remain after the snow dissipates makes this a colorist poem, which could be a parallel to his poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

This edition of New Hampshire personified Frost in many ways, in my opinion. The simplicity of its façade is a testament to the way that Frost wanted his poetry to seem simple on the exterior, yet intricate and tricky beneath the surface.

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