[an as-new copy] With Thirty Illustrations by the Author. (London and New York: Harper & Brothers, 1898.) Original dark green cloth with monogram device in gilt.
First Edition of Hardy's first volume of verse, which consisted of only 500 copies. None of Hardy's exceedingly scarce multi-volume novels consisted of fewer copies; for example, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE and TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES each had a 1000-copy first edition. This volume "marks the final emergence of Hardy's primary interest, verse. The thirty years that remained to him were devoted to the composition of poetry." The reason that he forsook fiction is that the public had just reacted vehemently against his daring last two novels, TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES in 1891and JUDE THE OBSCURE in 1896 -- both way ahead of their time.
Of particular interest in WESSEX POEMS are the 31 illustrations by Hardy himself (the number cited on the title page apparently excludes the frontispiece); they serve as "a pleasant reminder of Hardy's architectural training and his skill as a draughtsman" [quotes from Purdy].
This is an amazingly fine, bright copy: we seldom use the phrase "as-new" to describe 125-year-old books, but here it is apt. The only complaint one could have is that there is some foxing on the endpapers (caused by the original binder's glue under the paste-downs), and on the frontispiece tissue guard. Purdy pp 99-106. Item #15153