- Poems. London: S.H.S[pender], 1928
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"It was [Auden's] vitality, though, rather than his intellectual power, which most impressed me at the start - a vitality so abundant that, overflowing into certain poses and follies and wildly unrealistic notions, it gave these an air of authority..." (Cecil Day-Lewis, The Buried Day (1960), p.176).
Stephen Spender began the printing of Auden's first book on a small hand-press intended for the printing of chemists' labels. Spender had been printing his own poems when Auden visited him at home in north London over the summer of 1928 and suggested that Spender could also print a a small book of his poems as well. However, the press proved unsuitable for the task, and Spender eventually had the remaining sheets and the binding of Poems completed at the Holywell Press in Oxford.
It is thought that only two thirds of the forty-five copies specified in the limitation were eventually completed. Spender himself described the book existing in "an edition of thirty copies, which is sought after today" (World Within World (1951), p.116). When he received the finished copies, Auden distributed them to his friends and associates, although he could not resist making improvements to his writing before he did so.
In this copy, alongside his many minor emendations and corrections to errors in Spender's printing, Auden revises the third stanza of 'I chose this lean country' with a draft of an additional line which was adopted for future editions: "Who puckered mouth and brow | In ecstasy and pain..."
Auden and Day-Lewis were contemporaries at Oxford, and together had edited Oxford Poetry in 1927. Numbered 4, this would have been one of the first copies Auden gifted to the members of his circle. Copies 1 and 3 are assumed to be those kept for author and printer and are likely to have been left unnumbered; Spender's copy was later given by Auden to Cyril Connolly and not replaced. Number 2 was given to Christopher Isherwood, to whom the collection is dedicated.
Bloomfield and Mendelson record twelve known copies, three of which lack the printed errata leaf. At least five are now held in UK libraries including the Bodleian, Durham University Library and the British Library.