London: J. Dodsley in Pall Mall, 1773. First edition. Early appearance of Phillis Wheatley's poem Recollection (later titled On Recollection) on pages 214-15 (leaves P3-P4), predating its revision and appearance in the Gentleman's Magazine and her cornerstone volume Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral of 1773. Contemporary calf rebacked to style with gilt to spine. Joints cracked but holding firm; chipping to spine ends; boards with minor shelfwear and small leather repair to front board near foot of spine. Early bookplate of Elizabeth Digby to front pastedown. Occasional light, inoffensive foxing else unmarked. Collating , 64, *65-*105, , 65-256; 246,  and measuring 125 x 205mm: complete, including the final five leaves of contents. Scarce institutionally and in trade, the present volume offers the opportunity for comparing the editorial choices Wheatley made on her poem prior to its final release in a standalone volume. The only copy on the market, ESTC reports copies at only 13 North American institutions.
Kidnapped from Gambia and brought to slavery in the American colonies, Phillis Wheatley rose to prominence as a poet. Purchased by the Wheatley family at the age of 7, she quickly stood out for her apt and creative mind; "soon she was immersed in the Bible, astronomy, geography, history, British literature, and the Greek and Latin classics," being educated in a similar manner to the family's two children (Poetry Foundation). This classical humanistic education prepared Wheatley for authorship, and she began writing a collection of poetry and sought subscribers for their publication. "When the colonists were apparently unwilling to support literature by an African, she and the Wheatleys turned in frustration to London for a publisher" and were able to secure funding from "a wealthy supporter of evangelical and abolitionist causes" (Poetry Foundation). On her arrival in London, Wheatley was hailed by dignitaries, scholars, and activists who anxiously awaited the release of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773), which would become the first volume of poetry published by an African American in modern times. A master of iambic pentameter, Wheatley's work was rich in Biblical and classical references.
This appearance of her poem Recollection offers readers and scholars the opportunity to consider how Wheatley revised and reworked her lyric prior to its release in Poems on Various Subjects. Choices do not seem to be accidental but, rather, work to create a tighter and more precise final work. Some alterations between the two come down to the subtleties of punctuation (the removal of an exclamation point in favor of a comma on the first line, for example, which alters the opening tone and pushes the reader ahead to the next line); several changes come in the use of pronouns, wherein Wheatley's "I" is removed, pushing her identity away from the center of the poem in favor of placing the reader in that position.
ESTC T212970. (Item #4607)