Porgy and Bess.

An Opera in Three Acts. Libretto by Dubose Heyward. Lyrics by Dubose Heyward and Ira Gershwin. Production directed by Rouben Mamoulian.

New York: Random House, 1935 Stock Code: 137418
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Signed by George and Ira Gershwin

First edition, signed limited issue, number 39 of 250 copies bound in publisher's full red morocco and signed by George and Ira Gershwin, DuBose Heyward, and Rouben Mamoulian.

In summer 1926, and in one sitting, George Gershwin read DuBose Heyward's 1925 novel Porgy, about the Gullah community in South Carolina. "The potential of this book to become the basis of a powerful opera - his opera - jumped out at him. In the morning, he wrote to Heyward saying they ought to get together to discuss the idea" (Rimler, p, 21). The immediate plan to adapt it into an opera was curtailed by Heyward's wife first adapting the novel as a stage play, Porgy and Bess, which opened in 1927.

It was not until 1933 that Heyward and Gershwin settled on doing the adaptation, with the agreement on 3 November 1933 that "Gershwin would write the score, Heyward the libretto, and that Heyward and Ira would collaborate on the lyrics" (ibid.). On its opening night, 30 September 1935, Boston's Colonial Theatre gave the performance "a fifteen-minute standing ovation", and the work is now considered Gershwin's masterpiece. "Combining the dramatic structure of opera and the musical style of jazz and Tin Pan Alley, the work was especially important in the development of American musical theater. Although it did not recoup its investment, Porgy and Bess was an outstanding achievement that brought black singers to the Broadway stage in significant roles" (American National Biography).

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Quarto (311 x 230 mm). Original red morocco, spine lettered in blind with raised bands, black morocco label to front board lettered in gilt with publisher's device in blind, top edge gilt, silken straw weave endpapers. Housed in the original raffia-covered slipcase.


Colour frontispiece and pictorial title page by George Biddle.


Customary wear to fragile raffia covering of slipcase, stain to one side, book spine a little darkened and a little worn at extremities, lacking "Porgy" and "Bess" labels to raised bands, inner hinge cracked at gutter after title page but sound, short closed-tear to fore-margin of last leaf, yet this remains a very good copy.


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