Browse Lots

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
STAR-SPANGLED BANNER. KEY, Francis Scot (1780-1843), Poet. Star Spangled Banner, Philadelphia: A. Bacon & Co., no date, [1814?].
THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN 
STAR-SPANGLED BANNER. KEY, Francis Scot (1780-1843), Poet. Star Spangled Banner, Philadelphia: A. Bacon & Co., no date, [1814?].

Details
STAR-SPANGLED BANNER. KEY, Francis Scot (1780-1843), Poet. Star Spangled Banner, Philadelphia: A. Bacon & Co., no date, [1814?].
2 pages, 4to, 8¼ x 12 3/8 in). Text and music printed from two engraved plates on pages 2 and 3 of a bifolium. (Neatly removed from an album and professionally backed, central fold repaired, several short tears neatly mended without affecting text.)

"AND THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER IN TRIUMPH SHALL WAVE O'ER THE LAND OF THE FREE, AND THE HOME OF THE BRAVE..." FIRST PHILIDELPHIA EDITION AND FIRST TO CARRY AN IMAGE OF THE NATIONAL FLAG

A very rare printing of the second overall and the first Philadelphia edition, first issue, without a price and publisher's plate number (see Wolfe). Bacon's Philadelphia printing -- undated as are all early editions -- is closely copied from the Baltimore first edition. This edition also displays a sriking image of the nation's flag. Scott Key's patriotic verses were inspired by a shipboard vigil on the night of September 13-14, 1814, when a British naval flotilla bombarded Fort McHenry for hours, prefatory to a full-scale assault. Key and a colleague had boarded a British ship under flag of truce to secure the release of an American physician, Dr. William Beanes. To ensure secrecy, Key too was detained. He watched anxiously as cannon-fire, incendiary bombs and rockets rained onto the American fort. During the bombardment, the very large stars and stripes flag flying from the fort's ramparts was clearly visible, giving heartening evidence that the fort's defenses had weathered the storm of shot and shell. But when the bombardment unexpectedly ceased, the flag was obscured. Key was heart-sick. Had the fort been forced to surrender? But at dawn, when the smoke of the shelling lifted, the flag was again visible. Key's patriotic emotions were powerfully stirred by the welcome sight. His first draft of the anthem was written on shipboard, on the back of a letter, and a final version, containing four 8-line stanzas, was completed in the next few days.

His rousing song perfectly mirrored Americans' heightened patriotic fervor in the wake of the burning of Washington and the bombardment of Fort McHenry. Broadside and newspaper printings under the title "The Defence of Fort McHenry," swiftly circulated. The verses' runaway popularity was increased when Key's lyrics were combined with a well-known drinking tune "The Anacreontic Song," attributed to the English composer, John Stafford Smith (1740-1846). (On Smith's music see Richard S. Hill, "The Melody of the Star-Spangled Banner," in Essays Honoring Lawrence C. Wroth, Portland, 1915.)

Capitalizing on the song's immediate popularity, the enterprising Baltimore music publisher Thomas Carr (1780-1849) issued the first edition with text and words together. Signs are that Carr's was a rushed job: the name of the poet, Francis Scott Key, was omitted, and the heading proclaimed the song to be "A Pariotic Song." Only 11 copies of Carr first edition are recorded; one of these was sold at Christie's, 3 December 2010, for $550,000. The present Philadelphia printing is clearly based on the Carr's first; it also omits Key's name, but is adorned by a bold engraving of an American flag (bearing 12 stars) fluttering in the wind, with billowing clouds and rays behind.
REFERENCES: Bibliography of American Literature, vol. 5, p. 246; P.W. Filby and E.G. Howard, eds., Star-Spangled Books, S12 (dated 1816); J. Fuld, Book of World-Famous Music, pp. 529-534; J. Muller, The Star Spangled Banner, no.2; R.J. Wolfe, Secular Music in America, 1801-1825, vol. 3, no. 8345 (locating only 5 copies of this first issue).

More from Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana

View All
View All