Boston: S.G. Goodrich and Co. 1829. Three twelvemo volumes, early twentieth-century brown pigskin over textured tan cloth boards, raised bands, spines tooled in gilt, marbled endpapers, text blocks uncut and partially unopened. Catalogue of American Poetry at rear of volume III. Bookplate of collector Perry Beaver Strassburger (1888-1954) to front free endpaper of volume I. Light foxing throughout, occasional light scuff to bindings, closed tear to preliminary blank of Volume I. Laid into Volume I is a handwritten note from Strassburger’s widow, presenting “the Early American Poetry books which belonged to your Uncle Perry,” along with his spectacles, to her nephew Peter.
First edition of this landmark collection of early American poetry, conceived as a patriotic project to counter “the insinuation thrown out some years ago by our neighbors across the ocean, that there was no such thing as an American book worthy of being read.” Casting a wide net, editor Kettell collected the work of over two hundred early American poets in support of his claim that “we are now becoming a literary people.” Highlights include an excerpt from the Bay Psalm Book, Philip Freneau’s “The Dying Indian,” William Cullen Bryant’s “Thanatopsis,” and the lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Seventeen of the poets included are women. Volume III concludes with a catalogue of books consulted by the editor, a valuable addition for the historian, representing the earliest bibliographic mention of Edgar Allan Poe’s first book, Tamerlane. A near-fine copy of an American literary monument, “the fullest anthology of American literature published to that time” (Oxford Handbook of Early American Literature).