Benda, Wladislaw Theodore. Hard Cover. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1909. 1st Edition. Near Fine.
First edition, first printing. Illustrated by Wladislaw Theodore Benda. Bound in the publisher's decorative steel blue cloth, with gilt lettering and ornamental borders, illustration of Danish rooftops stamped in black and blue. A near fine copy, clean and fresh, inscribed by the author's granddaughter on the front free endpaper: "Ruth Valgerda Riis Jones / (granddaughter of Jacob A. Riis) / 5500 Grove Avenue / Richmond, VA 23226". The Old Town is an autobiographical novel about the author's childhood in Denmark. Riis grew up in Ribe, a small city located in the southwestern part of the island of Jutland. In this text, Riis presents a nostalgic description of Denmark and the Danes, who he describes as having "a keen sense of the ridiculous" and who are "above all a loyal people." A city preserved from the Middle Ages, Ribe is the oldest city in both Denmark and Scandinavia. Many of the attractions and features Riis fondly describes are still a part of the city today. The Old Town is about the fusing of one's past and present, similarly to how Ribe preserves its medieval history while retaining modern attraction. Jacob Riis (1849 - 1914), immigrated to New York City in 1870 at the age of twenty-one. After working as an itinerant worker, Riis began working as a police reporter for The New York Tribune, during which time he began experimenting with the newly invented German magnesium flash powder that allowed for photographs to be taken in darker spaces. Considered a predecessor in both the fields of social reform and photography, Riis photographed New York's tenement slums during the 1880's and wrote the 1890 international bestseller How the Other Half Lives, which together exposed the abominable conditions in which impoverished citizens lived. Today, Riis's legacy in New York is commemorated with a Queens park bearing his name and his photograph collection at the Museum of the City of New York.