The Scarlet Letter: A Romance, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Second Edition Printing, with Tipped-In Signature, 1850

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter, A Romance. Boston: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1850. Printed Cambridge: Metcalf and Company. Second edition printing. 8vo. Tipped-in cut signature. Rebound in ¾ red leather and cloth boards, with raised bands, gilt titles to spine, gilt tooling to spine and boards. Matching archival red cloth slipcase.

Presented is a second edition printing of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, A Romance, with Hawthorne’s signature tipped-in, facing the title page. This second edition was published in Boston by Ticknor, Reed, and Fields in 1850 and has the Metcalf and Company Cambridge imprint on the copyright page.

The Scarlet Letter was Hawthorne’s greatest work and stands as one of the high water marks of nineteenth century American Literature. With the success of this book, Hawthorne, who had published only a few books of short stories and an anonymous novelette, saw himself raised to the highest rank of American men of letters. The Scarlet Letter “made Hawthorne’s fame, changed his fortune and gave to our literature its first symbolic novel a year before the appearance of Melville’s Moby Dick” (Bradley). It is one of only a handful of novels of the era still familiar to students everywhere.

A work of historical fiction set in the Puritan settlement of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1640s, A Scarlet Letter the story of Hester Prynne. After having a child from an extra-marital affair, Prynne attempts to live a life of repentance and dignity despite being marked with a scarlet “A” on her person. Throughout the novel, Hawthorne explores themes of legalism, sin, and guilt.

The Scarlet Letter was one of the first mass-produced novels in the United States; prior printing of books was generally done by hand. The first printing of 2,500 copies sold out in ten days, and the mass-production of books promoted books and new authors to a wider audience and on a national level.

This is the second edition, printed in 1850, with the word “repudiate” substituted for “reduplicate” on page 21, line 20. The book contains publisher’s advertisements from Ticknor, Reed and Fields dated October 1, 1849 bound in the front. It also contains a preface, “The Custom-House. Introductory to ‘The Scarlet Letter’”, on pages 1-54, in which Hawthorne discusses his time as a surveyor at the Salem Custom House. Hawthorne was appointed to the position of Surveyor in 1846, the year which saw the publication of his collection of short stories, Mosses from an Old Manse. He was fired from his Custom House position by the incoming Whig party in 1849 and began work on The Scarlet Letter shortly thereafter. “Purportedly a straightforward account of his experience as surveyor, [in the preface Hawthorne] attacks officials who connived in his dismissal while vindicating himself. Like the novel's heroine, Hester Prynne, Hawthorne confronts a self-righteous society with self-assured dignity" (ANB).


Good condition overall. Tipped-in cut signature, facing title page. Signature reads “Nath: Hawthorne” in brown fountain ink. Some fading to signature, as well as damp staining to cut paper. Book paper is generally healthy, save light damp staining to a few leaves. Title printed in red and black. 4-page publisher's advertisements dated “October 1, 1849” bound in front. Engraved bookplate on front paste-down endpaper.

Rebound in 3/4 red leather and cloth boards, with raised bands, gilt tooling, and gilt titles to spine. Gilt tooling to front and back boards. New red marbled endpaper. Top edge gilt. Book presented with custom red cloth slipcase, with Hawthorne’s portrait inlaid on front. Book Dimensions (with slipcase): 7 3/4” H x 5 1/8” W x 1 5/8” D.

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