Bibliotaphy 7: Remarks on Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales

I’ve been fortunate to come across yet another fine copy of one of Hawthorne’s books. Why any human would discard such a precious, rare book, I do not know. Since one man’s trash is old Hank’s treasure, I cannot complain. I only hope that one day I will find myself in the Custom  House with a copy of The Scarlet Letter; given my recent knack for finding 19th century copies of Hawthorne’s books, it may be wise to tell the good Reverend that Chillingworth is on his way to town.

This particular copy is a Riverside Press edition, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin and Co., first published in 1883 (mine is a later printing from 1890). The copy is only lightly worn, the design on the front cover and ads on the back all perfectly legible. What’s most impressive is that the spine is nearly like new, as if it had been read once and then shelved. The book contains Hawthorne’s early stories based upon Greek myths, as he had written them for children to read. While much is said about the “darkness” in these tales I find the lighter stories to be the more compelling ones, particularly that in which Hercules comes to admire the courage of the diminutive but brave Pygmies.

But one must wonder how it is possible, in this day and age, when Hawthorne’s stature as our first truly great American novelist so assured, that such a valuable work should find itself discarded without remark. When nearly every public school student has read Hawthorne, there can only be on conclusion: the tyranny of the “text” is complete and it has come at the expense of the book.

More information on this edition can be found at this link: http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=Hawthorne&bi=h&bx=off&ds=20&pn=Houghton&recentlyadded=all&sortby=1&sts=t&tn=Tanglewood+tales

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