(s. L. ): (S. N. ), 1869. First Edition. Wrappers. Duodecimo. 46 pages. Very good.
The first printed appearance of the popular play that Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in 1865. Laura Keene had acquired the rights to Tom Taylor's "Our American Cousin" in 1858, and opened it that year in her theatre in New York. The play was a great success and Ms. Keene was very careful to protect her property. Besides the original manuscript owned by Keene and one other manuscript copy found in the estate of Joshua Silsbee, the play only existed in the manuscript prompt books used by the actors until Ms. Keene finally allowed this version of the play to be printed in 1869. Even then, despite its tragic link to Lincoln's murder, the play retained enough popularity that Keene was careful to prominently state on the title page that the work was "Printed, but not published. " Copyright law at the time was not very protective of dramatic works deemed to have been "published. " (See Bryan, "The Great American Myth, " p. 176; Taylor, "Our American Cousin: the Play that Changed History, " p. 25.) This copy is bound in original plain light blue wrappers over a sewn binding. Original cast from the 1858 opening at Laura Keene's Theatre, New York, appears on verso of title page. The last words that Lincoln heard on this earth appear on page 37. Heel of spine has some shallow chewing along last 3/4, " title and year lightly pencilled on front cover, title penned in contemporary ink on spine. A nice example of this scarce piece.