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Cather, Willa.

Alexander's Bridge; 2 copies, variant jackets.


Two Copies Of Cather's First Novel,
Each Differently Bound And With Uncommon Variant Jackets
Cather, Willa Sibert. Alexander's Bridge. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1912.
8vo.; half-title following title page; an illustration by Cootes for Alexander's Bridge (after the front panel of the dust-jacket) carefully removed from a contemporary periodical and affixed to the last page of ads in rear; purple cloth; spine faded; contemporary owner's inscription on front pastedown; dust-jacket; worn, with closed tear running the length of spine, a chip to spine lower portion.
Together with:
Cather, Willa Sibert. Alexander's Bridge. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1912.
8vo.; half-title following title page; endpapers offset; pale blue-grey cloth, small bleach stain to front cover, affecting "B" of title stamping; dust-jacket; lightly darkened at points but otherwise handsome.
Two first editions, both second issues, of Cather's first novel; each in a different binding and featuring a different and scarce variant dust-jacket: Crane A5a1, with the half-titles following the title pages and other issue points as described by Crane. Each also with four pages of advertisements bound-in at rear. Alexander's Bridge first appeared in book form in April 1912 in an edition of 5,270 copies; the intricacies of its binding and publication history have yet to be unraveled. The earlier of our two copies is in the "b" binding, described by Crane without priority: rough purple, approximately 245 copies extant; and the "b" jacket. The later copy is distinguishable as such by the lack of the middle initial "S" on the spine (see Crane's note, p. 21). This copy is in an unrecorded jacket printing an ad for Houghton's 1918 first edition of My Ántonia.
Alexander's Bridge, Cather's first novel and her earliest mature work of fiction, tells the story of the tortured inner life of the scion of a prominent Boston Brahmin family. In it Cather first works through the themes of identity, doubling, and the interior versus exterior romantic conflicts that would occupy her throughout her career. Although Alexander's Bridge is not Cather's most critically acclaimed work-she herself disliked it intensely in later years-her companion Edith Lewis would later embrace it as one of her most heartfelt creative efforts: "[when it] at last moves into its true theme, the mortal division in man's gathers an intensity and power which comes from a deeper level of feeling....It is as if her true voice, submerged before in conventional speech, had broken through, and were speaking in irrepressible accents of passion and authority." (Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice, by Sharon O'Brien, New York: Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 386)
Cather, Willa Sibert. My Ántonia. With illustrations by W.T. Benda. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, (1918).
8vo.; bookplate on front pastedown; brown cloth; light wear to extremities. In a specially made quarter-morocco slipcase.
First edition, second or third printing of Cather's greatest prairie novel, with the eight illustrations printed on text stock instead of coated paper (the two printings are indistinguishable). Crane A9a.ii. A presentation copy, inscribed on the front endpaper: Mr. & Mrs. D. A. Ellsworth With Christmas Greetings from Mr. & Mrs. William Allen White and Willa Sibert Cather. 1919. All in Cather's hand with the possible exception of the date. William Allen White (1868-1944) was aPulitzer Prize-winning Kansas author and journalist who influenced Cather's early work while at the University of Nebraska.
The 1912 publication of Alexander's Bridge marked Cather's final farewell to journalism and her complete focus on her fiction. The first phase of her novels centered on "the drive of strong-willed persons to achievement and their discovery of how illusory success can be" (NAW, p. 307). In Alexander's Bridge she traces this theme in an urban setting. In O Pioneers! (1913) and My Ántonia she identifies the upward struggle of immigrant communities on the prairie, drawing from her experiences in Nebraska from the age of nine:
the desire of the immigrant farmers to better themselves, their high hopes, their abiding love of their newfound land, their courage, their tenacity…they are the last of the older stock and are loyal to their heritage. Already, however, the real estate agent and the middleman are in their midst, watering down the values created by pioneer toil. (ibid.).

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