The Top 5 Most Coveted Association Copies in American Literature

 If you could own one book that inscribed by one famous author to another, what would it be? What association would mean the most to you, or to history? Here’s my list for Americans:




5. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Abraham Lincoln


Although the abolitionist movement had been gaining strength for decades, Stowe’s book galvanized the public to support the cause more than any other printed work. Upon meeting Stowe, Abraham Lincoln is famously said to have remarked, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.”




4. Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises to F. Scott Fitzgerald


Hemingway and Fitzgerald were close friends in the ‘20s, Hemingway striving to control his envy for his successful friend and Fitzgerald trying to retain the confidence necessary to continue writing. Before The Great Gatsby, Hemingway believed that the novel form was dead. After reading Gatsby, Hemingway was convinced that it continued to thrive and produced his own first masterpiece, The Sun Also Rises.




3. T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land to Ezra Pound


American-born Eliot was already famous for his poetry before the Waste Land, but his lasting importance and influence rests primarily on this particular work. A work that, incidentally, would have looked very different without Pound, who heavily edited it. Eliot dedicated the poem to Pound, whom he called “the greater craftsman.”




2. Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass to Ralph Waldo Emerson

Before publishing Leaves of Grass, Whitman had read Emerson’s essays calling for a truly American voice in literature. Whitman took up the challenge, and after publication he sent a copy of his beloved work to Emerson. Emerson’s approval of Leaves of Grass brought it to the attention of other serious critics, leading Whitman to create a second edition that quoted the great Transcendentalist on the cover.


1. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick to Nathaniel Hawthorne

It is well documented that Melville had somewhat of a literary crush on Hawthorne, particularly after The Scarlet Letter. In fact, The Scarlet Letter is what proved to Melville that a novel-length symbol could be successful. The very next year he applied it to his own writing and created what is often called the first Great American Novel.

I adore the idea of these books. Not only do they signify a moment in time when the author held that particular book, but they signify a relationship with the author. It’s a splash of the writer’s true life, in which acquaintances, admirers, friends, and family are woven together, recorded on that page for literary history.

Let’s just be honest, I love Top 5 and Top 10 lists. Not because they capture a subject or even summarize it. I love them because they cause conflict. There’s always going to be an item on a Top list you would replace, or disagree with. What association copies would you add, or remove?


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Great article – I love top ten lists!

  2. Thanks! More to come.

  3. mamarriott says:

    This is a really inventive blog post! I would love to own that Hemingway-Fitzgerald Sun Also Rises. The one I’d really like to own though is a For Whom the Bell Tolls signed by Ernest Hemingway to famed war photographer Robert Capa*… partially because i’m also a photographer but mainly because Capa was a really fascinating individual (as was Hemingway).
    The two began a lifelong friendship during the Spanish Civil War and some of the characters in the book are said to be partially based on Capa. When Hemingway sold the movie rights for FHTBT he even recommended Capa for the role of Rafael and although it went to someone else he did manage to land an affair with the movie’s leading lady, Ingrid Bergman!

    *Capa also wrote a few books so he qualifies as a writer too

    1. Yes, at work we sell Capa as well, so I’m familiar with the connection and I think it’s a good one. Great story about Ingrid Bergman, I didn’t know that one. It would be a good blog post idea!

    2. tenders says:

      * FWTBT unless the reference was to For Hemingway The Bell Tolls, a rare book indeed


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