New York: The Viking Press, 1925. Single volume, measuring 10 x 7 inches: [1-10] 11-187. Original light brown cloth decoratively stamped in brown and blue. Historical preface followed by 137 pages of musical arrangements. Ink presentation inscription on front free endpaper: “For Ring W. Lardner / with sincere regards / James Weldon Johnson.” Light edgewear, foxing to endpapers, no dust jacket.
First edition of this Harlem Renaissance anthology of more than sixty African-American spirituals, a collaboration by the talented Johnson brothers, inscribed by James Weldon Johnson to Ring Lardner. In his introduction, James Weldon Johnson observes that the spirituals, created under slavery and kept alive by generations of unrecorded singers, are “America’s only folk music and, up to this time, the finest distinctive artistic contribution she has to offer the world.” The songs collected here include “Go Down Moses,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” “Deep River,” “Roll Jordan, Roll,” “Steal Away to Jesus,” and “Nobody Knows de Trouble I See.” Most of the musical arrangements are by composer J. Rosamond Johnson, best remembered for writing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” still considered the African-American national anthem. This copy is warmly inscribed by James Weldon Johnson to another master of American dialect, the popular writer Ring Lardner, who once scandalized his Great Neck neighbors by hosting a party for J. Rosamond Johnson, the hit composer from Harlem. A near-fine copy, with an excellent literary association.