Significant Association Copy of E.E. Cummings's &
Cummings, E. E.; [Stewart Mitchell, presentation inscription]. & [a.k.a. "And" or "Ampersand"]. New York: Privately Printed [by Samuel A. Jacobs], 1925. First edition, limited. New York: Privately Printed [by Samuel A. Jacobs], 1925. 116 pages. Original gold-flecked light green paper covered boards with red lettering on spine and front cover. [21.8 cm.] Spine faded to tan and showing tiny chips at ends and surface wear; short tear to base of front joint with neat internal glue repair; light wear to edges and corners. Good only, but sound and internally respectable, with only a few minor traces of marginal soiling.
FIRST EDITION. #151 of 333 copies, being one of 222 copies on De Coverly rag laid paper. PRESENTATION INSCRIPTION SIGNED BY STEWART MITCHELL, with his first name, to Davis Lawler James, Jr., on the front free endpaper, dated July 1926. James's ownership signature and his bookplate appear on the front pastedown.
Stewart Mitchell (1892-1957) was a longtime friend and literary associate of E.E. Cummings. The two met at Harvard where Mitchell was known as "The Great Auk" for his birdlike countenance. Mitchell and Cummings worked together on "The Harvard Monthly" as editors and contributors, with Mitchell serving as editor-in-chief. In 1917, Mitchell compiled a book of their university writings titled "Eight Harvard Poets," which featured the first appearance of Cummings's poems in a book, as well as the early work of Jon Dos Passos, Robert Hillyer, and others. After serving in France during World War I, Mitchell became managing editor of "The Dial," under the new ownership of Scofield Thayer and James Sibley Watson, fellow alumni of "The Harvard Monthly." Together they transformed the periodical from a political journal to the magazine of modern literature where E. E. Cummings gained fame. Mitchell worked at "The Dial" for a year, leaving to travel in Europe and continue his education. Mitchell also acted as Cummings's agent in an effort to publish the original manuscript of his first book of poetry, "Tulips & Chimneys." Mitchell submitted the manuscript to several publishers who all turned it down, however, he was successful in convincing "Vanity Fair" to print some of the poems (see Kennedy, "Dreams in the Mirror," p. 243). Mitchell also published a volume of his own "Poems" in 1921, which included one verse dedicated to Cummings ("A Farewell"), but that was to be his last literary title. Mitchell became best remembered not as a poet, but as a historical editor. He eventually completed his doctorate at Harvard (1933) and worked briefly as editor of the "New England Quarterly," but he spent most of his mature years serving as editor and then director of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Mitchell remained friends with Cummings throughout his life. According to Kennedy, Mitchell assisted Cummings when he was struggling financially, giving him $1,000 in 1949. Mitchell was also the subject of at least two portraits by Cummings, one a pencil drawing held by the Houghton Library and the other an oil painting currently on the market (as of September 2018). Mitchell presented this copy of "&" to Davis Lawler James, Jr. (1896-1969), who was the son of the noted Cincinnati bookseller, Davis Lawler James (1848-1933). The younger James served for a time as vice president of his father's company, The James Book Store Co., and later settled in Buncombe County, North Carolina.
"&" was the follow-up to Cummings's second book, "Tulips and Chimneys" (1923), and featured poems from the original manuscript of that work which the publisher, Thomas Seltzer, refused to print because of their experimental nature or controversial subject matter. Seltzer had also changed the conjunction in the title from "&," as Cummings originally wrote it, to “and.” This annoyed Cummings and prompted him to title the present volume with the excluded ampersand. Despite these editorial disagreements, Cummings was pleased with the typography and printing of the Seltzer edition, which were accomplished by Samuel A. Jacobs at his Polytype Press in Manhattan. Cummings asked Jacobs to privately print "&" and Jacobs agreed (see Sawyer-Lauçanno, E.E. Cummings, p. 241). This was the beginning of a long collaboration in which Jacobs thereafter worked as Cummings's exclusive typesetter, as well as his sometimes printer and publisher, a partnership of importance both to the history of typography and the development of modern literature. SAMUEL AIWAZ JACOBS (1890-1971) was an Assyrian-American born near Urmia, Iran. He learned how to set Linotype at the Qalla school in Urmia, emigrated to the U.S. in 1906, and settled in New York by 1914. There he developed his talents in multilingual typography, setting the "Persian-American Courier," publishing a guidebook for Assyrian immigrants, and designing Syriac fonts for the Mergenthaler Linotype Company. In 1922, he established Polytype Press in Greenwich Village and printed for several contemporary authors in addition to Cummings, including Eugene O'Neill and Marianne Moore. He also designed numerous books for notable publishers including Covici-Friede, Boni and Liveright, and Stratford Press. In 1934, he moved his press to Mt. Vernon, New York, renamed it the Golden Eagle Press, and continued to print fine, limited editions of significant literary works. (See Eden Naby, “Samuel Aiwaz Jacobs,” in "Encyclopædia Iranica" and Walker Rumble, “Reclaiming S.A. Jacobs: Polytype, Golden Eagle, and Typographic Modernism,” at printinghistory(dot)org. Firmage A4.
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