Isabel; or, Sicily. A Pilgrimage
Hard Cover. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1839. First Edition. Very Good.
First edition. Publisher's original red cloth, spine lettered in gilt. Signed by James Fenimore Cooper on title page. Very good, with some toning to spine and board edges, boards lightly rubbed, a hint of dampstaining to top left of front board, a bit of wear to spine ends including a small closed tear to head of spine, and some separation to cloth at lower front hinge. Overall, a very nice and solid copy. Isabel, Henry Tuckerman's sole novel, is a travel romance written by the author after spending 1833-34 and 1836-38 in Italy. In addition to Isabel, the Boston-born writer published acclaimed essays, biographies, poems, and sketches. Friends with authors like Herman Melville and Washington Irving, Tuckerman was active in the New York literary world after 1845. He received an order from the King of Italy "in recognition of his labors on behalf of Italian exiles in the United States." This copy of Isabel was owned by the great American author, James Fenimore Cooper. After achieving fame with his novel, The Spy, Cooper commenced writing his renowned Leatherstocking Tales. The series follows Natty Bumppo, a white American living off the land, over five historical novels: The Pioneers, or the Sources of the Susquehanna; a Descriptive Tale (1823), The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 (1826), The Prairie: A Tale (1827), The Pathfinder, or The Inland Sea (1840), and The Deerslayer, or The First War-Path (1841). The series examines the effects of settlements expanding and becoming more advanced, within the larger territory of the New American Frontier. The first book in the series, The Pioneers, has been called the "first and finest detailed portrait of frontier life in American literature" and "the first truly original American novel." (Britannica). Cooper lived in Italy from 1828 to 1830 and fell in love with the country's beauty and the Italian way of life. Upon departing from the country, he wrote to his American sculptor friend, Horatio Greenough, "Italy haunts my dreams and clings to my rib like another wife." In 1838 he published Excursions in Italy, a travel narrative based on his experiences there. That year, he wrote to Horatio again, remarking, "My heart is in Italy, and has been ever since I left it.... I could wish to die in Italy." Isabel was published the next year, and it is possible that Cooper found some relief for his longing in its pages.