Lot 247
  • 247

Faulkner, William

100,000 - 150,000 USD
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  • paper, ink
Unique typewritten book entitled Vision in Spring, signed on the front cover ("William Faulkner"), inscribed on recto of lower free endpaper, title-page, contents, and 87 numbered pages, (8 1/2 x 5 1/2 in.; 216 x 140 mm), [Oxford, Mississippi,] 1921; occasional underlining and other marks in pencil, some notes in pencil in an unidentified hand erased, lower edges of a few leaves unevenly cut.  Bound by the author (1926): spine covered in cream paper, boards in marbled paper, calligraphic label by the author on upper cover; some rubbing and chipping to spine and extremities, some darkening from glue on upper cover label, small portion of upper right corner of front free endpaper torn away. 

Laid in between pages 52–53: Autograph manuscript comprising 3 poems ("A Song," "Dawn," and "An Orchid") in Faulkner's calligraphic hand and a pen-and-ink drawing by him, bifolium (5 1/2 x 3 3/4 in.; 140 x 95 mm, sewing holes at central fold), [Toronto, ca. July–December 1918]; some browning, small chip at right edge of upper leaf — 2 snapshot portraits of William Faulkner, one of the young man in his RAF uniform, the other of the middle-aged author in tweed jacket and tie, smoking a pipe, (the larger photo: 3 3/4 x 2 3/4 in.; 95 x 70 mm) [Oxford, Mississippi, nd]  — a newspaper clipping from the 5 February 1940 edition of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, "Rites Held for Former Slave in Novelist Faulkner's Home," (7 1/2 x 4 in.; 190 x 102 mm); lightly browned.


Blotner, Faulkner: A Biography (revised edition), pp. 55, 113; Sensibar, Faulkner and Love, pp. 362–367; Sensibar, Faulkner's Poetry: A Bibliographical Guide to Texts and Criticism, 116, 173, figures 33, 34; Sensibar, ed.  Vision in Spring, pp. ix–xxvii.  Cf. Brodsky & Hamblin, Faulkner: A Comprehensive Guide to the Brodsky Collection, V, 21


condition as described in catalogue entry.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

The only known copy of Faulkner's important early sequence of poems, Vision in Spring, believed lost for almost forty years and only rediscovered in the summer of 2012.

William Faulkner wrote Vision in Spring for Estelle Oldham Franklin in 1921 and presented it to her in Oxford during the summer of 1921.  Estelle was in Mississippi with her daughter Victoria, visiting her parents, while her husband, Cornell Franklin, remained at their home in Hawaii.  It is not known whether the typescript went back to Hawaii with Estelle.  The book was in Oxford five years later and Faulkner rebound it.  The recto of the lower free endpaper is inscribed in india ink in the author's miniscule hand, "Rebound 25 January 1926.  Oxford Mississippi."  Estelle's marriage to Franklin was ending at this time and she returned to Oxford—this time from Shanghai—in March 1926. This inscription and the calligraphic label on the front cover are the only holograph notations in the author's hand, marking a departure from his earlier handmade books.  Faulkner was likely anticipating publication of the book and aimed for the appearance of a printed book with his bound typescript.  The caption on the lower portion of the title-page imitates a publisher's imprint and reads "Manuscript Edition. 1921." A few lines in the book have been underlined by Estelle Faulkner and she has circled the page numbers of certain poems on the contents page.  There are also pencilled comments in an unknown hand vigorously erased on several leaves.  The mystery of this still-anonymous "editor" has not yet been solved.  The top portion of pp. 65–66 has been torn away, but is still present, with the loss of one word ("gold") on page 66.  There are several very minor corrections in the text, possibly in Faulkner's hand. 

According to Faulkner's daughter, Jill Summers, this small book was always kept on her father's bedside table.  After his death, it remained the property of Estelle Faulkner, who died in 1972.  The book was obviously seen and photocopied in the late 1960's or early 70's, most likely for Joseph Blotner at Linton Massey's request.  It was presumed lost after Estelle's death.  In 1979, Judith L. Sensibar discovered the photocopy in Jill's attic, in a box labelled "Papers of Value—Mama's." Sensibar edited and published the poem from the photocopy in 1984 (University of Texas Press).

"Vision in Spring," Sensibar notes in her introduction to the poem, "stands in his apprenticeship as a record of Faulkner's intellectual journey from the nineteenth-century world of Keats, Swinburne, Tennyson and the Symbolists through the early twentieth-century world of the Modernists," particularly Conrad Aiken and T. S. Eliot. Written four years before he wrote his first novel, Soldiers' Pay, "Vision in Spring shows Faulkner attempting Modernist techniques in an extended piece of work …. Its form and content anticipate the shape and style of Soldiers' Pay, The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, and other fiction. Evidence that accumulates from analysis of this and earlier cycles casts new light on such old questions as whether Go Down Moses is a mere collection of stories or a unified work, or whether The Wild Palms is two novellas or a novel."  Elsewhere Sensibar has written of the book as "valuable for several reasons: among them are that it records his dawning realization, arrived at in part from imitating Aiken's extended narrative lyrics and symphonic poem sequences, that to become a great writer he must give up his dream of being a poet.  Its further lasting value for Faulkner was its form.  The poem sequence of interior monologues and dialogues that are connected, in part, by the voice of a third-person narrator, showed Faulkner the limitations of his poetic voice—limitations that in poetry became the major strengths of his fiction" (Faulkner and Love).

Estelle Franklin's role as muse of Vision in Spring cannot be overstated.  At the time of the poems were written, she was still married, the mother of young children, and living in Hawaii, with only annual visits to Oxford.  In the untitled poem later known as "Marriage," the lonely young poet imagines a beautiful young woman who does not reciprocate her husband's desire.  "His eyes like hurried fingers fumble and fly | About the narrow bands with which her dress is caught | And lightly trace the line of back and thigh."  While Vision in Spring  marks a crucual turning point in Faulkner's art, it also serves to solidify his growing attachment to Estelle Franklin.

Almost as revealing as the poems themselves are the mementoes preserved by either Faulkner or Estelle between the pages of the small book.  Most striking is a bifolium which must have once had a cover of some sort or was gathered with other bifolia into a small booklet.  The first three pages contain three early poems in Faulkner's exquisite, carefully controlled calligraphy: "A Song," "Dawn," and "An Orchid," all clearly written for Estelle,  the verso of the second leaf contains a drawing of the familiar image of Pan seated blowing his pipes and a lithe standing nymph (see also lot 246).  The scene is observed by what Joseph Blotner calls "a Mephistophelian face" in the upper left corner. Based on almost identical drawings in the Brodsky Collection at Missouri State University, this bifolium can be dated to the second half of 1918, when Faulkner was a pilot cadet with the Canadian Royal Air Force Squadron stationed at Toronto.  1918 was also the year Estelle married Cornell Franklin.  Like Vision in Spring, this earlier piece was only known to scholars through a photocopy most likely made for Blotner. 

Of the two photographs, the one of Faulkner in his RAF uniform dates from this period immediately after World War One.  The other photograph was taken in the late 1930's or early 1940's, nearer the time of Caroline Barr's death, which is commemorated in the Memphis newspaper clipping. 

This unique copy of Vision in Spring, along with the accompanying artifacts, constitutes the most important discovery of Faulkner's work to surface in the past few decades.