New York: Boni and Liveright, 1926. First Edition. Hardcover. 1st edition of his first book (500 printed). Contemporary signed presentation copy inscribed by Crane (in ink), “For John Wolcott in memoriam the Cleveland days ‘where cuckoos clucked to finches’ Hart Crane.” The quote is from Crane’s poem, For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen, page 37 of this book (I found no other copy of White Buildings inscribed with a quotation). Very good in a 1st printing dustjacket, the spine faded and one fold strengthened, else very good. Rare, one of only 2 inscribed copies sold at auction in the last 40 years, the other in a defective jacket. Cancelled title page with Allan Tate’s name correctly spelled, but only review copies had the uncorrected state so our copy is not a 2nd issue since it exactly replicates the book as it was for sale on the day it was published, and Crane’s own copy was also in this state. Very good / very good. Item #91
The line “Where cuckoos clucked to finches” appears in the penultimate stanza of the aecond part (of 3) in Crane’s poem For The Marriage of Faustus and Helen, considered by critics one of his greatest poems, which appears on pages 37–44 of this volume of poetry. “O, I have known metallic paradises Where cuckoos clucked to finches Above the deft catastrophes of drums. While titters hailed the groans of death Beneath gyrating awnings I have seen The incunabula of the divine grotesque. This music has a reassuring way.” The line apparently suggests the animated conversations taking place at a frenzied jazz club. Crane grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, in the north tower of his family’s large home (his father invented Lifesavers, and other candies) at 1709 East 115th Street, his “sanctum de la tour.” Wolcott was almost certainly one of the childhood friends that Crane left behind when, at the age of 17, he abandoned Cleveland for New York. The first book (of only 2 before his suicide at the age of 32) and a significant copy of one of the preeminent and influential modernist poets.