Trial Sheets for Poems. M. C. Richards.

Trial Sheets for Poems

Black Mountain, NC: Black Mountain Print Shop, 1947. Loose leaves, letterpress printed in Futura on various types and dimensions of paper. Provenance: from Serendipity Books, with research notes and correspondence by Peter Howard laid in.

Mary Caroline Richards, a graduate of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, joined the Black Mountain College Faculty in 1945, and was an important member of the faculty during its heyday, until she moved to Greenwich Village in the early 1950’s with David Tudor. She later helped form the commune known as The Land, where she became an innovator in ceramics - the work for which she is best known - and developed theories that would inform her landmark 1964 book Centering in Pottery, Poetry and the Person.

We believe these to be trial sheets for M. C. Richard’s first book, Poems, which was handset and printed by the author in an edition of 50 copies in 1947 at Black Mountain - one of the earliest, and rarest Black Mountain College Print Shop publications. Most of the leaves (40) are printed on different colors of colored paper stock, similar to construction paper, all printed on the recto only, with duplicate sheets, some on different colors of paper, and in one case typeset differently. There is also 9 x 7" sheet printed on onionskin paper on recto only, perhaps in similar format to that of the finished, bound book, which was approximately 9” tall.

Finally, there are also three folded sheets, 5 1/2” tall, which are printed on both recto and verso on watermarked paper and folded once into booklet form. This section prints six poems, only two of which are present in Poems; of the remaining four poems, we find two that are included in Imagine Inventing Yellow: New and Selected Poems (1991), but with different line breaks. The remaining two poems are not included in Imagine Inventing Yellow.

All of the text of the finished book is represented, but some of the sheets differ - for example, one sheet prints the same couplet twice on the same sheet, while another prints it once. Given the variance of the sheets and the inclusion of poems which aren’t present in the text of the published book, we believe these to be trial sheets rather than proof sheets, perhaps made as Richards was testing out the appearance and look of the pages, and deciding what poems to include in the final version.

The sheets are accompanied by faxes, notes and correspondence between Peter Howard of Serendipity Books and others, collating the sheets and attempting to find out what these sheets are. Howard states that he believes them to be proof sheets or a different format. Peter’s correspondence also notes also state that one page of the finished book is not present here, which begins with “walking over pulverized mariners. . . “ (which Howard refers to as p. 16), but the text is present - because of the larger sheet size found here, that section of the text is present at the foot of the previous leaf.

An artifact that illuminates the artistic process of the search for form and exemplifies the experimental approach of Black Mountain College at the time.

OCLC locates three holdings, two in 8vo format, and a third, at Stanford, printed on 8 1/2 x 11” sheets such as the majority of these sheets.

Sheets slightly brittle, with a couple of wormholes to the margin of several sheets, else very good. Item #23419

Price: $1,250.00

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