London: Grant Richards, 1902. Original blue cloth.
First Edition of Masefield's first book, which consisted of only 500 copies. Encouraged by Yeats and with the title chosen by the publisher, Masefield quit his bank job and decided to try his hand at nautical verse and (later) prose. The title unfortunately led to comparisons with Kipling and his "Barrack-Room Ballads" (whose verse Masefield "hated") -- especially as both poets used the vernacular in their ballads. (Incidentally the publisher went bankrupt just two years later -- though most of the copies were by then sold.) In Masefield's opening poem "he proclaimed that he had no intention of glorifying heroism or imperialism; his concern was with the outcasts, the despised, the despairing" [Babington Smith]. Sadly, though Masefield would live 65 more years, SALT-WATER BALLADS is regarded by most as his best work; it includes his best-known poem, "Sea-Fever" (which in subsequent printings, inserts the word "go" into the famous opening couplet "I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky...").
This copy is about as fine as this book gets (very light foxing on a few leaves); atypically, the spine of this copy is not discolored. Simmons 1; Wight 1; Handley-Taylor p. 27. Housed in a (slightly worn) morocco-backed slipcase with inner chemise. Item #14502