Hard Cover. Boston: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1850. 1st Edition. Very Good.
First edition, first printing, with "reduplicate" on page 21, publisher's advertisements dated March 1, 1850. Publisher's ribbed brown cloth, decorated in blind, lettered in gilt. Very good, with some fraying to the spine ends, corners bumped and rubbed, spine cracked and holding at pages 16/17, slight lean to the spine, some faint spotting to the endpapers, otherwise very clean pages. A bright and unsophisticated copy. BAL 7600. Housed in a custom red ¼ morocco slipcase with matching chemise. The Scarlet Letter is set in the author's hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, in the early 17th century, just before the onset of the infamous Salem witch trials. The novel features Hester Prynne, an adulteress facing the shame and judgment of her Puritan community. In addition to officially sanctioned public humiliation, Prynne must wear a scarlet "A" pinned to her chest as a symbol of her transgression. After being released from prison, Prynne is exiled from her church and community, and she is forced to raise her daughter, the product of her adulterous relationship, and continue her work of helping the poor in solitude. Through the juxtaposition of Prynne's social condemnation and her charitable endeavors, Hawthorne explores the themes of guilt, sin, and Puritanism. Interestingly, The Scarlet Letter was published before Hawthorne achieved literary success, as indicated by his inclusion of his introductory essay "The Custom-House," in which the author chronicles his years working in Salem prior to writing The Scarlet Letter. This essay was met with harsh criticism from his local community, prompting the inclusion of a preface in subsequent editions in which Hawthorne defends "The Custom-House," which he says "could not have been done in a better or a kindlier spirit, nor, so far as his abilities availed, with a livelier effect of truth."