Boston, MA: The Four Seas Company (1924)
First Edition. Only Printing. Signed and dated 19 December 1924 by William Faulkner.
This is one of three copies that belonged to Bessie Storer and presumed to be one of the first 25 copies received by Phil Stone from the publisher on December 19, 1924. This copy of The Marble Faun is one of the earliest signed copies and thus one of the first books ever signed by William Faulkner.
Condition: The book is in very nice shape with light wear on the nearly 100-year old dust jacket. The boards are fine and there is no interior writing. The book has been in a lock box for the past 50 years.
For Sale $100,000
William Faulkner's relationship with a thirty-one-year-old lawyer named Phil Stone was instrumental in the publication of Faulkner's first book The Marble Faun. Their first idea was to publish Faulkner's pastoral poem sequence in pamphlet form accompanied with a letter from Phil Stone in the Memphis papers. Stone proclaimed Faulkner as the poet who would put the South in position to “succeed the Midwest as the center of modern American letters” (Phil Stone and William Faulkner by Susan Snell).
The pamphlet idea was realized to be too ambitious an undertaking for the legal secretaries at James Stone & Sons (Snell), but one of Stone's legal secretaries by the name of Bessie Storer typed the manuscript of The Marble Faun.
THE FOUR SEAS COMPANY
Faulkner's efforts to secure publication with The Four Seas Company of Boston, Massachusetts, resulted in a standard offer to publish 1,000 copies with Faulkner's financial backing. Stone solicited reviews, set up promotions and mailed out copies of the book to select Mississippians.
He also wrote the preface to The Marble Faun proclaiming the promise of a young writer while noting his innocence:
“These are primarily the poems of youth and a simple heart. They are the poems of a mind that reacts directly to sunlight and trees and skies and blues hills, reacts without evasion or self-consciousness . . ."
"They have youth's sheer joy at being alive in the sun and youth's sudden, vague, unreasoned sadness over nothing at all . . ."
"It is seldom that much can be truthfully said for a first book beyond that it shows promise. And I think these poems show promise. They have an unusual feeling for words and the music of words, a love of soft vowels, an instinct for color and rhythm, and—at times—a hint of coming muscularity of wrist and eye.”
Twenty-seven-year-old Faulkner submitted his biographical sketch to the publisher on September 9, 1924:
Born in Mississippi in 1897. Great-grandson of Col. W. C. Faulkner, C.S.A., author of 'The White Rose of Memphis,' 'Rapid Ramblings in Europe,' etc. Boyhood and youth were spent in Mississippi, since then has been (1) undergraduate (2) house painter (3) tramp, day laborer, dish washer in various New England cities (4) Clerk in Lord and Taylor's book shop in New York City (5) bank- and postal clerk. Served during the war in the British Royal Air Force. A member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. Present temporary address, Oxford, Miss. 'The Marble Faun' was written in the spring of 1919 (Selected Letters, Joseph Blotner).
Faulkner was eager to travel to New Orleans and set sail to Europe following in the footsteps of Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway. His plan was to depart soon after the copies arrived.
Faulkner sent this telegram to Four Seas on December 16, 1924:
"IF YOU HAVE NOT SHIPPED MY TEN FREE COPIES MARBLE FAUN AND IF CAN BE SHIPPED FOR GODS SAKE SHIP THEM AT ONCE AS THIS IS HOLDING UP MY SAILING EVERYDAY. WILLIAM FAULKNER" (Selected Letters by Joseph Blotner).
BOOK ARRIVAL AND SIGNING
In Faulkner: A Biography, Joseph Blotner writes that on December 19, 1924, William Faulkner finally “held a copy of the slim green volume in his hands” (378) and signed the first copies of The Marble Faun, his first published book.
The Carl Petersen Collection cites that at least 10 copies were signed on December 19, 1924, “of which five are in university libraries at Harvard, Princeton, Texas, Vanderbilt, and New Orleans. A sixth appeared at auction in 1989; a seventh inscribed to Mrs. Josephine C. McCormack . . . was offered by William Reese of New Haven in a 1989 catalogue” (56).
Over the years, antiquarian book dealers have cited that a hundred or less copies of The Marble Faun remain in existence. Several hundred were remaindered and some were pulped.