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The Celestial Rail-Road, in wrappers

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Celestial Rail-Road

Boston: James F. Fish, 1843

Original printed wrappers. Resewn, lightly worn. Fine. Red morocco pull-off case.

First edition. One of the most famous Hawthorne rarities, The Celestial Rail-Road was pirated from the May 1843 Democratic Review to Hawthorne’s chagrin. This copy bears the James F. Fish imprint. Other copies bear the Wilder & Co. imprint, which Clark suggests appeared first. BAL does not assign priority. Wakeman catalogue notes that “both issues are excessively rare, and particularly so in immaculate condition, as are the present copies [Wakeman had an example of each imprint].” Carroll Wilson notes that “the Fish imprint is rare rarer.”

Written in 1843 when the railroad linked the reflective solitude of Concord and the frenzied commerce of Boston, The Celestial Railroad examines the parallels between timesaving modern industry and the search for a time-saving route to salvation. This satirical allegory was inspired by Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. “The Celestial Railroad … is the finest tribute ever paid to Bunyan’s genius. It is also the height of Hawthorne’s humor” (Moncure Conway).

Rare: the last copy to be sold at auction was the Fleming copy, sold in 1988.