Boston: Charlestown: printed by Samuel Etheridge, for E. and S. Larkin, 1802. Second Edition. Leather bound. Octavo size, 262 pp. Very good. Item #19082804
One of the first novels published by an American woman, "The Coquette" relates, in a thinly disguished story, the sad tale of the author's cousin, one Elizabeth Whitman who died in childbirth in 1788, under an assumed name, in a tavern in Massachusetts.
As is related in numerous online sources, "The Coquette" was so popular that it went through at least thirteen printings between its initial publication in 1797 and the author's death in 1840; her name would not appear on the title page until 1856, a full sixteen years after her passing.
The author, Hannah Webster Foster (1758-1840) was herself married to a Unitarian minister. We have no idea if her marriage was happy or not, but it was her cousin's story she chose to tell. With its ostensible themes of seduction, elopement, and death - with the lesson that wanton women would be punished for their sins, it was acceptable in its day. However, there is more underlying the story that one might think at first glance, and prompts one to consider the societal conditions which might impel a young woman to make such dangerous choices.
Early editions of "The Coquette" are scarce in the marketplace, with only approximately four copies of the first editions (1797) appearing in auction records for the last 100 years. As of this writing there are no second edition (1802) copies available online and only a single third edition copy (1811).
___DESCRIPTION: In contemporary leather over boards, new spine with the original red leather spine label laid down with gilt lettering and rules, renewed near-contemporary endpapers, the name of "Charles Spalding" written in a vintage hand in sepia ink at the top right margin of the title page, the same name but in a different hand written at the top of the first page of text; twelvemo size (7.25" by 4.75"), pagination: [1-3] 4-261, [1 - notice of deposit of copyright].
___CONDITION: Very good, we had a professional (name available upon request) replace the spine and renew the endpapers, the binding is now strong and sturdy with solid hinges, the leather boards smooth with light overall wear, the corners were also strengthened and are now slightly rounded but without rubbing, the interior has the above mentioned prior owner names but no other markings we see, there is an old dampstain on the title page,with toning, light foxing and light soiling throughout; still a very good solid copy.
___CITATIONS: Wright, no. 987; American National Biography (online), and the New England Historical Society (online).
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