Collecting Rare Books and First Editions: Edith Wharton
By Tom Congalton
Her first book, Verses (published by her parents when she was 16 in 1878) is a great rarity. If you find one, call me up, so we can begin negotiating about the location of the new house I'll be buying for you. However, if you are going to wait to find a copy before you find a place to live, you might as well pay for it yourself, as they don't turn up very often. She has three avidly sought after novels: Ethan Frome (1911), The House of Mirth (1905), and The Age of Innocence (1920), all of which will set you back if you have to have them in jacket (yes, they all came with jackets originally). Her first regularly published book, The Decoration of Houses (1897, co-written with architect Ogden Codman, Jr.) is something of a classic in its field, and the easily worn marbled paper-covered boards make it difficult to find in reasonably fine condition, although copies in middling condition turn up occasionally. Italian Villas and Their Gardens (1904) is prized not only by Wharton collectors, but also by fans of Maxfield Parrish, who contributed the illustrations. The book was reprinted several times, and fine copies of the first edition are getting scarce, but are still occasionally obtainable for a not-too-unreasonable price.
The article is published by permission of Between the Covers Rare Books, Inc. Thank you very much.