New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1899. Original olive green cloth decorated and embossed in gilt.
First Edition of this early title by this African-American poet whose parents, before they met, had both been Kentucky slaves; his father escaped to Canada, and wound up fighting in the Civil War for the Massachusetts 55th Regiment; his mother escaped to Ohio. Dunbar was born in Dayton, where he would be the only black student in his class at Central High School (one of his classmates was Orville Wright). His first book (published as a favor by Orville's father) came out in 1893; by the time this book came out, he was badly ill with the tuberculosis that would take him seven years later, at age 33.
As with many of his books, some of the verse is in proper English -- for which Dunbar wished he would be known -- and some is in "black dialect" -- for which he was widely known and praised. One of the former type is "Sympathy," which ends with the line "I know why the caged bird sings!" -- from which came (many decades later) the title of Maya Angelou's first book; despite his intellect, Dunbar's race dictated that he could find work only as an elevator operator, so in this line he was referring to himself.
Included is a frontispiece photograph of the poet; the binding design (initialed), in matte and embossed gilt, is by Alice Morse. This copy is in bright, close-to-fine condition (just the very faintest mottling of the cloth). Blanck 4925. Item #14160