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CROSBY, Harry.

Sonnets For Caresse.

Paris: Albert Messein, Editeur, 7 October 1926 Stock Code: 144892
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The most complete edition of Crosby's first book, the third overall, number 23 of 100 copies on Arches paper (there were also 7 issued on japon, and one on vellum). This copy, which is in beautiful condition with the original wrappers bound into the hand-painted vellum binding as issued, is a presentation copy, inscribed by Harry Crosby to Helenka Adamowski Pantaleoni "Helenka from Harry Paris MCMXXVII".

Pantaleoni (1900-1987) was a renowned actress and intellectual who founded the US Fund for UNICEF and served as the president of the US Committee for UNICEF from 1953 until her retirement in 1978. Pantaleoni met Crosby at Harvard when he was there as a student after the First World War. She remembered him at this time as "an incredibly sensitive, high-strung, poetic individual" (Wolff, p. 68).

Sonnets for Caresse was first printed in October 1925 and marked the beginning of Crosby's extraordinary literary love affair. The first and second edition contained 30 and 37 poems respectively, whereas this third was expanded to 48. The fourth edition of the following year was halved in size with only 24, making this third the most complete edition.

Harry Crosby (1898-1929) was born the heir to one of Boston's wealthiest banking families (he was the nephew of J. P. Morgan), but after serving as an ambulance driver during the First World War he met and fell in love with a married lady, Mary Peabody (née Jacob), another Bostonian heiress with a passionate and unruly disposition. (She was also, incidentally, the inventor of the backless bra.) They soon eloped to Paris and she changed her name to Caresse (though she briefly entertained "Clytoris", before bestowing that name on her pet whippet). Harry and Caresse embedded themselves in the avant-garde cultural scene, holding wild parties in their palace on the île Saint-Louis, and founding the Black Sun Press, which published (in small, exquisite editions and with no expense spared) the work of English and American expatriate modernists such as Crane, Eliot, Jolas, Joyce, Lawrence, MacLeish, and Pound.

The couple lived a life of utter dissolution off Harry's inheritance which, when it ran out, had to be supplemented by telegrams to his banker father such as the infamous, "PLEASE SELL 10,000 WORTH OF STOCK. WE HAVE DECIDED TO LIVE A MAD AND EXTRAVAGANT LIFE", (to which the father, reluctantly but nonetheless amazingly, assented). Following Crosby's tragic death in 1929 (he was found shot dead in the same bed as Josephine, "The Fire Princess", one of his many lovers), the Black Sun Press continued issuing books in Paris and New York under the directorship of Caresse, who survived until 1970.

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Octavo (164 x 111 mm). Original presentation vellum, hand-painted titles to spine and border to sides, yapp edges, marbled endpapers, top edge gilt, others untrimmed, silk page marker loosely inserted. With the original wrappers bound in.


Title page vignette in red.


Spine a little greyed, page marker detached but retained, contents clean and bright; a near-fine copy.


Minkoff A3-c; Geoffrey Wolff, Black Sun: The Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby (1976).


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