“We dream in our waking moments, and walk in our sleep": First Edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Classic Novel The Scarlet Letter

  • The Scarlet Letter.
  • The Scarlet Letter.
  • The Scarlet Letter.

The Scarlet Letter.


Item Number: 5049

Boston: Ticknor, Reed and Fields, 1850.

First edition, with 4 pages publisher’s advertisements inserted between preliminary blanks, dated March 1, 1850. Octavo, original brown cloth. One of only 2500 copies printed. A near fine example with minor rubbing to the extremities, with the spine gilt title quite bright. Housed in a custom cloth clamshell box.

"The most memorable and original aspect of The Scarlet Letter lies in Hawthorne's portrait of Hester Prynne, who has been described as "the first true heroine of American fiction", a woman whose experience evokes the biblical fate of Eve. Hawthorne's achievement is to make her passion noble, her defiance heartbreaking and her frailty inspiring. She becomes the archetype of the free-thinking American woman grappling with herself and her sexuality in a cold, patriarchal society" (The Guardian). The first edition of The Scarlet Letter sold out in ten days and “made Hawthorne’s fame, changed his fortune and gave to our literature its first symbolic novel a year before the appearance of Melville’s Moby-Dick” (Bradley).

Ask a Question