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Willa Cather – First Edition Books Identification Guide

Willa Cather
Willa Cather

Willa Sibert Cather (born Wilella Sibert Cather; 1873 – 1947) was an American writer known for her novels of life on the Great Plains, including O Pioneers!, The Song of the Lark, and My Ántonia. In 1923, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours, a novel set during World War I.

Although Cather began her writing career as a journalist, she made a distinction between journalism, which she saw as being primarily informative, and literature, which she saw as an art form. Cather’s work is often marked by—and criticized for—its nostalgic tone and themes drawn from memories of her early years on the American plains. Consequently, a sense of place is integral to her work: notions of land, the frontier, pioneering and relationships with western landscapes are recurrent. Even when her heroines were placed in an urban environment, the influence of place was critical, and the way that power was displayed through room layout and furniture is evident in her novels like My Mortal Enemy. Though she hardly confined herself to writing exclusively about the Midwest, Cather is virtually inseparable from the Midwestern identity that she actively cultivated (even though she was not a “native” Midwesterner). While Cather is said to have significantly altered her literary approach in each of her novels, this stance is not universal; some critics have charged Cather with being out of touch with her times and failing to use more experimental techniques in her writing, such as stream of consciousness, as well as defining her literary genre as nothing but romantic.

Despite her success, she was the subject of much criticism, particularly surrounding One of Ours. Her close friend, Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, saw the novel as a betrayal of the realities of war, not understanding how to “bridge the gap between [Cather’s] idealized war vision … and my own stark impressions of war as lived.” Similarly, Ernest Hemingway took issue with her portrayal of war, writing in a 1923 letter: “Wasn’t [the novel’s] last scene in the lines wonderful? Do you know where it came from? The battle scene in Birth of a Nation. I identified episode after episode, Catherized. Poor woman, she had to get her war experience somewhere.”

Cather achieved recognition as a novelist of the frontier and pioneer experience. She wrote of the spirit of those settlers moving into the western states, many of them European immigrants in the nineteenth century. Common themes in her work include nostalgia and exile. A sense of place is an important element in Cather’s fiction: physical landscapes and domestic spaces are for Cather dynamic presences against which her characters struggle and find community.

Cather was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 1945 and underwent a mastectomy on January 14, 1946. About a year later, on April 24, 1947, Cather died of a cerebral hemorrhage, at the age of 73.

Willa Cather – First Editions Identification Guide

Willa Cather - First edition Books: Identification Points
YearTitlePublisherFirst edition/printing identification points
1903April TwilightsRichard G. Badger: Boston, 1903First edition. No statement of printing on the © page. Olive boards, paste-on label. Issued without Dust jacket.
1905The Troll GardenMcClure & Philips & Co, NY, 1905First edition. "Published March, 1905" stated on © page, with "McClure Philips" at foot of spine.
1909The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian ScienceDoubleday Page, NY, 1909First edition. "Published, November, 1909" stated on © page. First serialized in McClure's Magazine 1906-1907 under the name Georgine Milmine.
1912Alexander's BridgeHoughton & Mifflin, NY, 1912First edition. "Published April 1912" stated on © page, with "Willa S. Cather" on the spine. Dust jacket: Gray with blue lettering, price $1.00 on the spine.
1913O Pioneers!Houghton & Mifflin, NY, 1913First edition. "Published June 1913" stated on © page with "Willa S. Cather" on the spine. Three variants, no priority: A) Light yellow-brown cloth, the period in CO. touching the O on the spine. B) Pale yellow-cream cloth with the same lettering. C) Light yellow-brown cloth, with a space between the period and the O (CO .)
1915The Song of the LarkHoughton & Mifflin, NY, 1915First edition. "Published October 1915" stated on © page. Blue cloth, gilt lettering. Lists three Cather titles on the © page. "Moment" for "moments" on page eight, lines 33-34.
1918My AntoniaHoughton & Mifflin, NYh, 1918First edition. "Published October 1918" on © page. Gray cloth, gilt lettering. Two states, priority as listed: A) Illustrations are printed on glossy/coated paper. 2500 copies printed. B) Illustrations are printed on regular text paper. 1000 copies printed. Dust jacket: Yellow with black lettering. Prince $1.60 on the spine.
1920Youth and the Bright MedusaAlfred A. Knopf, NY, 1920First edition. Two issues, no priority:
A) Limited edition of 35 numbered copies, signed by the author.
B) Trade edition. No statement of printing on © page. Green cloth, black lettering.
1922One of OursAlfred A. Knopf, NY, 1922First edition. Three issues, no priority:
A) Limited edition of 35 signed numbered copies on Japan vellum. Issued with glassine dustwrapper.
B) Limited edition of 310 signed numbered copies on Perusia Italian paper in slipcase.
C) First trade edition. "First printing, September, 1922" and "Second [sic] Printing, September, 1922" stated on © page. Gray cloth, yellow and orange lettering. Dust jacket: Three variants, no priority: Dark orange, yellow and blue. Price $2.50 on bottom of front flap. No mention of printing on the spine.
1923April Twilights and Other PoemsAlfred A. Knopf, NY, 1923First edition. Two issues, no priority:
A) Limited edition of 450 signed numbered copies in slipcase.
B) Trade edition. "Published April, 1923" stated on © page. Decorative boards.
1923A Lost LadyAlfred A. Knopf, NY, 1923First edition. Three issues, no priority: A) Limited edition of 20 lettred copies, signed by the author in slipcase. B) Limited edition of 200 numbered copies, signed by the author in slipcase. C) First trade edition. "Published September, 1923" stated on © page. Green cloth. Dust jacket: patterned green, black lettering.
1925The Professor's HouseAlfred A. Knopf, NY, 1925First edition. Three issues, no priority:
A) Limited edition of 40 signed numbered copies on Imperial Japan Vellum, in slipcase.
B) Limited edition of 185 signed numbered copies.
C) First trade edition. "Copyright 1925, by Willa Cather" stated on © page with no statement of printing. Orange boards. Dust jacket: Decorative cream, blue and orange lettering.
1926My Mortal EnemyAlfred A. Knopf, NY, 1926First edition. Two issues, no priority:
A) Limited edition of 220 signed numbered copies in slipcase.
B) First trade edition. "Copyright 1926" stated on © page, no statement of printing. Cream boards, green lettering. Dust jacket: Light green, black lettering, yellow decorative borders.
1927Death Comes for the ArchbishopAlfred A. Knopf, NY, 1927First edition. Three issues, no priority:
A) Limited edition of 50 signed numbered copies, in box.
B) Limited edition of 175 signed numbered copies, in slipcase.
C) First trade edition. "Copyright 1926, 1927 by Willa Cather" stated on © page, no statement of printing. Green cloth, paste-on label. Dust jacket: Indian yellow, black and burgundy lettering. "Price $2.50" on top of ads on rear panel.
1931Shadows on the RockAlfred A. Knopf, NY, 1931First edition. Three issues, no priority:
A) Limited edition of 99 signed numbered copies, in slipcase
B) Limited edition of 619 signed numbered copies, in dustwrapper and slipcase.
C} First trade edition. "First edition" stated on © page. Dust jacket: Light green, red lettering.
1932Obscure DestiniesAlfred A. Knopf, NY, 1932First edition. Two issues, no priority:
A) Limited edition of 260 signed numbered copies, in dustwrapper and slipcase.
B) First trade edition. "First edition" stated on © page. Dust jacket: Two variants, no priority: Yellow with green border on the bottom and pale cream-yellow with red border at the bottom.
1935Lucy GayheartAlfred A. Knopf, NY, 1935First edition. Two issues, no priority:
A) Limited edition of 749 signed numbered copies, in dustwrapper and slipcase.
B) First trade edition. "First edition" stated on © page. Green cloth, paste-on label. Dust jacket: Blue and cream, white and black lettering. Price $2.00 on front flap.
1936Not Under FourtyAlfred A. Knopf, NY, 1936First edition. Two issues, no priority:
A) Limited edition of 333 signed numbered copies, in dustwrapper and slipcase.
B) First trade edition. "First edition" stated on © page. Green cloth. Dust jacket: White decorative, red and blue lettering. Price $2.00 on front flap.
1940Sapphira and the Slave GirlAlfred A. Knopf, NY, 1940First edition. Two issues, no priority:
A) Limited edition of 520 signed numbered copies in dustwrapper and slipcase.
B) First trade edition. "First edition" stated on © page. Green cloth, paste-on label. Dust jacket: Green with red lettering.
1948The Old Beauty and OthersAlfred A. Knopf, NY, 1948First edition. "First edition" stated on © page. Indian red cloth. Dust jacket: Decorative white, black and blue lettering. Price $2.50 on front flap.

Willa Cather – First Printing Dust Jackets Identification Guide

Gallery of First state Dust Jackets of Willa Cather’s works. Only includes the first appearance in book form. Either the UK or US edition and does not include later printings.

Reference:

BOOKSTORE: Rare, Antiquarian, First editions, Illustrated Children's Books

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