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Jerome McGann's Afterword to the Rice University Press facsimile edition of Crane's "Black Riders and other lines."

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Stephen crane and "the black riders and other lines"

To genius must always go two gifts, the thought and the publication. The first is revelation, always a miracle. . . . But to make it available, it needs a vehicleor art by which it is conveyed to men. (R. W. Emerson, “Intellect”)


There are four books published in the nineteenth century that define the shape of American poetry. First is Poe’s 1845 volume The Raven and Other Poems , then Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1855), then the posthumous Poems by Emily Dickinson (1890), and finally Stephen Crane’s The Black Riders and other lines , published in 1895. The significance of the first three is well known and has been extensively discussed. Not so Crane’sbook. Its importance is less recognized partly because he is, with good reason, celebrated as a prose writer and not as a poet. But there is another, equally good and equally important,reason.

Unlike the other three volumes, Crane’s book is notable less as a collection of poetical works than as a book whose graphic design was created as “an echoto the sense” of Crane’s texts.

Something like that might also be said—has been said—of Whitman’s and Dickinson’s volumes. We know that Whitman was muchconcerned with the design of his book, and Dickinson’s first volume would become notorious for the ways its editors, Mabel Loomis Todd and Thomas Higginson, reshaped Dickinson’s strange andwonderful manuscript texts for their appearance in print. But the case of Crane’s book is quite different.

The Black Riders and other lines is the first American book printed with a clear Modernist design. Its publisher was the adventurous new Boston firm Copeland and Day, consciously founded in 1893 as anAmerican exponent for the innovative ventures in graphic and typographic design begun in England in the mid-1880s (see Frankel, Hammond, McGann, Nelson, and Stetz). Herbert Copeland and Fred Daymoved in a circle of young Americans, men and women, who were enthusiasts of the revolution in art and literature that began in the 1850s with the Rossetti circle and the founding of The Germ and Morris’s Oxford and Cambridge Magazine , and climaxed in the 1890s of Wilde and Beardsley, Ricketts and Shannon, The Hobby Horse , The Dial , and The Yellow Book . The firm began its operations sometime in 1893, largely through the efforts of its leading sponsor Fred Day, who hadbegun to cultivate important connections with the London literary and publishing world: with William Heinemann, J. W. Dent, and particularly with John Lane and Charles Elkin Mathews, thepublishers of The Bodley Head.

Copeland and Day signaled their allegiances with an elegant bookplate designed by Charles Ricketts and the announcement of theirfirst set of publications. These included a portfolio of Walter Crane designs illustrating The Tempest , the American printing of The Hobby Horse and of Wilde and Beardsley’s Salome , an Aesthetic manifesto by Ralph Adams Cram titled The Decadent: Being the Gospel of Inaction , and a Kelmscott-inspired edition of Rossetti’s House of Life . These works began appearing early in 1894.

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Source:  OpenStax, Stephen crane's "the black riders and other lines". OpenStax CNX. Jul 30, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10822/1.1
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