The Public Poet

HWL. Hyperion: A Romance (Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1868).


*2001G-19. Purchased with the Bayard Livingston and Kate Gray Kilgour fund, 2001. Houghton Library.

This elaborately gilt-decorated leather copy of the novel is a re-issue of the 1865 British edition of Hyperion, illustrated by photographer Francis Frith (1822-1890). An example of the more "expensive" Longfellow, it sold for $25.00.

Frith was a pioneer of travel photography who went on trips with a wagon that he had turned into a photographic darkroom where he would process his wet-plate collodion prints. Frith's illustrated edition of Hyperion was the first American literary volume published with original photographs. The frontispiece ("The Devil's Bridge") refers to Hyperion III, 2, where Longfellow's gloomy protagonist Flemming reaches the St. Gotthard Pass and crosses the legendary "Teufelsbrücke": "A mighty cataract howls beneath it, like an evil spirit, and fills the air with mist; and the mountain wind claps its hands and shrieks through the narrow pass, Ha! ha!"