London, South Kensington
12 November 2007
This lot is offered without a reserve
KELLEY, Emma Dunham (1863-1938). Megda. Boston: James H. Earle, 1891. 8° (186 x 120mm). Half title, photographed portrait frontispiece with facsimile inscription and signature (somewhat browned, repaired tear in one leaf, half title detached). Original gilt decorated cloth (extremities lightly rubbed, small spot on back cover). Provenance: Sadie Prince (Christmas gift inscription from L.C. Curtis, dated Dec. 22 1891) -- Boston University Library (deaccession letter provided).
FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST NOVEL by a writer haled in recent decades as a rediscovered African-American female author. It was Kelley-Hawkins (she married in 1893 and thereafter published under her hyphenated name) who inspired the Schomburg Library of 19th-century Black Women Writers, a multi-volume series devoted to reprinting such works and thereby establishing a literary canon; her second novel, Four Girls at Cottage City (1895) was the first work in the Schomburg series. Recent genealogical investigation has shown, however, that Kelley-Hawkins was white, not black. Her identification as black seems to date from the 1950s, almost certainly owing to the misperception of her photograph, contained in Megda, as depicting a light-skinned African-American. Cf. Katherine Flynn, 'A Case of Mistaken Racial Identify: Finding Emma Dunham (nee Kelley) Hawkins", National Genealogical Society Quarterly, March 2006. Megda was a success, and enjoyed two printings.
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