Wharton, Edith: The Age of Innocence
(researched by Amanda Muir)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

D. Appleton, New York and London, 1920

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

red cloth

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

pp. (vi) + 365(the first 6 unnumbered and preceded by a blank fly-leaf)

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?


6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?


7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

The bo
ok has an attractive, simple appearance inside and out. The text is presented well with decent margins, and the typography is readable. In my opinion the book is well printed.

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

Original paper is good quality, it has held up extremely well and is only faded a little. White end papers, all edges cut.

11 Description of binding(s)

The binding seems to be original and if so is in amazing shape. It is not frayed or coming loose at all.

12 Transcription of title page

The(italic)Age of(italic)/Innocence/by/Edith Wharton/Author of"The House of Mirth,"/ "The Reef," "Summer," etc./(publisher's device)/ D. Appleton & Company/New York::MCMXX::London (The whole inclosed in a rectangle formed by 2 parallel lines)

13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

On the first blank page, of the copy i looked a
t, Wharton has written the name of the person she is giving this copy of the book to, and signed her name and date. A small Arabic one in parenthesis (1), at the end of the text on p. (365) indicates the first printing of the first edition.

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

N/A. However, Wharton made extensive stylistic, punctuation and spelling changes from serial to book. From the first to second impression, line 7 on page 186 was changed from, "Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God--," from the burial service, was, changed to, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here--," from the marriage service.

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

6 impressions. After the second impression, Wharton made 30 subsequent changes.

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

Everyman,London Scribner, 1968 New American Library, 1962 GK Hall and Co., 1994(large print edition) Collier, 1993(reprint edition) Penguin, 1996(reprint edition) Ivy Books, 1996(reprint edition) Washington Square Press, 1995(reprint edition)

6 Last date in print?


7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)


8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

1920-66,000 copies sold in first 6 months earning her over $70,000.

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

Advertised in the New York Times Book review and magazine,by her publisher. 1920:Oct. 17, 24, 31, Nov. 28, and 1921

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion


12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

Play: Nov. 27, 1928, Empire Theater,Broadway drama by Margaret A. Barnes. Then toured for four months. Movie: 1924, Warner Bros. Movie:1934 RKO Radio. Movie:1993 Colombia Pictures. Pictures.

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

Au Temps de l 'innocence. Paris, Plon. 1921. 292p. Revue des deux mondes, Nov. 15, 1920. to Feb. 1, 1921. Im Himmel Weint Mannicht, by Lotte Katscher and Herbert Brunar Wiesbaden, Roher, 1951. L ' eta' dell' innocenza. Milano, Feltrinelli, 1960. 358p. De Jaren der Onschuld, by MB. BinnendijkPaauw, Amsterdam, Em. Querido. 1953. 235p. Grevinde Olenska, by Eva Kraiberg. Kobenhavn, Jespersen and Pio. d.? 388p. Viattomuuden aika. by Sirkka-Liisa Norko-Turja. Helsinki, Otara, d.? 388p.

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A

Before it was published as a book, it was printed in serial form in the Pictoral Review in four large installments from July-Oct. 1920.

15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A


Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

Edith Wharton was born Edith Newborn Jones to George and Lucretia Jones on January 24, 1862. She was born in New York City, and brought up there in a rich, elitist society. She had two older brothers, Frederic and Harry. She received no formal education, but received an honorary Ph.D. from Yale in 1923. She married Teddy Wharton in 1885 and later divorced him and moved to France in 1907. She was the first woman to win a pulitzer prize, which she won for The Age of Innocence in 1921, the year that it made the bestseller list. She died in Paris of a stroke on August 11, 1937.She was thirty-seven when her first book was published in 1899, but she had been writing before then. During her forty years of writing she wrote twenty-one novels, and novellas, eleven collections of short stories, poetry, and nine works of non-fiction. Her works include the following: The Greater Inclination. 1899 The Touchstone. 1900 Crucial Instances. 1901 The Valley of Decision. 1902 Sanctuary. 1903 The Descent of Man and Other Stories. 1904 The House of Mirth. 1905 The Fruit of the Tree. 1907 Madame de Treymes. 1907 The Hermit and the Wild Woman and Other Stories. 1908 Tales of Men and Ghosts. 1910 Ethan Frome. 1911 The Reef. 1912 The Custom of the Country. 1913 Xingu and Other Stories. 1916 Summer. 1917 The Marne. 1918 The Age of Innocence. 1920 The Glimpses of the Moon. 1922 A Son at the Front. 1923 Old New York. 1924 The Mother's Recompense. 1925 Here and Beyond. 1926 Twilight Sleep. 1927 The Children. 1928 Hudson River Bracketed. 1929 Certain People. 1930 The Gods Arrive. 1932 Human Nature. 1933 The World Over. 1936 Ghosts. 1937 The Buccaneers. 1938 POETRY Verses. 1878 Artemis to Actaeon and Other Verse. 1909 NONFICTION The Decoration of Houses. 1897 Italian Villas and their Gardens. 1904 Italian Backrounds. 1905 A Motor Flight through France. 1908 Fighting France, from Dunkerque to Belfort. 1915 French Ways and Their Meaning. 1919 In Morocco. 1920 The Writing of Fiction. 1925 A Backward Glance. 1934

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

In contemporary reviews, Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence was claimed as one of the best novels of the twentieth century. The majority of her reviews, and all that I read was nothing but highly favorable. The Advertisements often included small blurbs proclaiming the novel's success. One example from the New York Times Book Review and Magazine in 1920 is, "A brilliant panorama of New York's 450 years ago. The novel in most demand at public libraries and a best seller in the bookstores." William Lyon Phelps wrote in his 1920 review in The New York Times Book Review and Magazine, "The Appearance of such a book as ?The Age of Innocence' by an American is a matter for public rejoicing. It is one of the best novels of the twentieth century and looks like a permanent addition to literature." Critics praised her for her attention to details and vivid description of scenes. Also they praised the books "unity and simplicity of action"(Beach). Critics were drawn to this book because it broke the current mold for fiction literature in 1920. Phelps wrote "The style is a thing of beauty from first page to last." Reviews praised her for her effectiveness of accurately depicting New York in the 1870's. Edmund Wilson wrote in 1924, "New York society and customs in the seventies are described with an accuracy that is almost uncanny; to read these pages is to live again." Many reviews proclaimed The Age of Innocence as Wharton's best book.
Canby, Henry Seidel, "Our America," New York Evening Post, 6 Nov. 1920, p.3.
Edgett, Edwin Francis, "The Strange Case of Edith Wharton," Boston Evening Transcript, 23 Oct. 1920, part 4, p.4.
Hackett, Francis, "The Age of Innocence," New Republic, 24 (17 Nov. 1920), 301-2.
Loving, Pierre, "When Old New York Was Young and Innocent," New York Call, 12 Dec. 1920, p.10. Parrington, Vernon L. Jr., "Our Literary Aristocrat," Pacific Review, 2 (June 1921), 157-160.
Perry, Katherine. "Were the Seventies Sinless?" Publishers Weekly. 98 (16 Oct. 1920), 1195-6.
Mansfield, Katherine, "Family Portraits," Athenaeum [England], 4728 (10 Dec. 1920), 810-11.
Phelps, William Lyon. As Mrs. Wharton Sees Us. New York Times Book Review and Magazine, 17 Oct. 1920: p. 1&11.
Townshend, R.D., "Novels Not for a Day," Outlook, 126 (8 Dec. 1920), 653.
Watson, Frederick, "The Assurance of Art," Bookman [England], 59 (Jan. 1921), 170,172.
Whiting, Lilian, "Novels on the Season's List," Springfield [Massachussetts] Republican, 5 Dec. 1920, magazine section, p.9-A.
Van Doren, Carl, "An Elder America," Nation, 111 (3 Nov. 1920), 510-511.

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Subsequent Reviews delve more into critiquing Wharton's style of writing, but still highly praise her work. Joseph Warren Beach wrote in 1932, "The book is remarkable for unity and simplicity of action?--everything is skillfully woven in and pertinent to the main action." Even today The Age of Innocence is considered Wharton's best book, and R. W. B. Lewis wrote, "It is certainly one of the very best of her many novels (it is one of the few really first-class works of fiction to win the Pulitzer Prize, as it did in 1921)."
Beach, Joseph Warren. 1932 Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. vol 3

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

Edith Wharton wrote The Age of Innocence in 1920, and it instantly received popular support but did not hit the bestseller list until 1921. It reached number four thatn year, but in 1922 it disappeared from the l
ist. The Age of Innocence was her first book since she had started helping out with the war effort in Paris. The war had an impact on her?it left her with a greater appreciation for history. Up until this point all of her books had been set in the pres
ent. The changes that the war brought, and her changing view of America (i.e. her disgust with its decision to remain isolated during the war) caused her to want to write about the past. She decided to focus on her childhood and the things she was famil
iar with. "Edith Wharton went in search, imaginatively, of the America that was gone" (Lewis) She set the book during the time of the 1870's when Old New York began to ebb into the fast paced New York we know today. The focus of The Age of Innocence is the elitist, blue bloods of Old New York, and how their society was like a tribe trying to protect itself from outsiders. "They have made a code for what is to be done, and what is not to be done, and whatever differs
is un-American" (Canby) A good description of the situation of the time is found in the Times Literary Supplement (author not mentioned), "Nowhere, not among the most formal refinements of the ancien régime, has there been seen a society more carefully
and consciously organized than that of New York a generation or so ago, when the tide of new money, bearing new people and new standards and new manners, was only just beginning to encroach upon the old, and when the family in possession?it was hardly mor
e than a family, compactly knit together in one circle?was making its final and unsuccessful attempt to withstand it." The main character, Newland Archer, is planning to marry his "perfect match," May Welland, when her intriguing cousin blows into town. Countess Olenska mocks these people's stuffy ways, and when she rejects their formalities, Newland starts to doubt the
importance of the "old ways." He and Countess Olenska fall in love, and Newland must decide what to do. By 1921 she had won the Pulitzer Prize for her efforts. However, at the time of this award, Sinclair Lewis' book, Main Street, was number one on the best seller list. Later, Wharton found out that Lewis' book was originally voted to win the Pulitzer Pri
ze, but the decision was overturned by Columbia University for the book's controversiality. When she found this out, she wrote to him about her "disgust," and invited him to St. Brice (one of her homes). Critics praised Wharton's writing for her attention to details, and her ability to vividly depict scenes. One critic, William Lyon Phelps, wrote in 1920, "I do not remember when I have read a work of fiction that gives the reader so vivid an idea of the
furnishing and illuminating of rooms in fashionable houses as one will find in The Age of Innocence." This critic also compared her writing with the typical writing in 1920; "The common method today of writing a novel is to begin with the birth of the
hero, shove in all experiences that the author can remember of his own childhood, most of which are of no interest to any one but himself, take him to school, throw in more experiences, introduce him to the heroine, more experiences, quit when the book se
ems long enough, and write the whole biography in colloquial jargon? Here is a novel whose basis is a story. It begins on a night at the opera. The characters are introduced naturally?every action and every conversation advance the plot. The style is a
thing of beauty from first page to last. One dwells with pleasure on the ?exquisite moments' of passion and tragedy, and on the ?silver correspondences' that rise from the style like the moon on a cloudless night." Wharton's description of family was co
mpared with Jane Austin's when Lovett wrote in 1925, "Through the memories of her girlhood we enter a group of families, almost as limited and compact as one of Jane Austin's neighborhoods,?" She has also been compared with Dorothy Canfield, Zona Gale, a
nd Anne Sedgwick when Phelps wrote "In this present year of emancipation (1920) it is pleasant to record that in the front rank of American living novelists we find four women." The Age of Innocence was acclaimed her best work thus far. Another critic,
Josheph Warren Beach, wrote in 1932, "The book is remarkable for unity and simplicity of action," and "If Edith Wharton shows her expertness more in one thing than another, it is in her dialogue." From 1910 until her death she lived out her life in France. Because she lived in France she did not have an American public persona. However, she involved herself in the war efforts in France. Despite her aristocratic upbringing, Wharton plunged into th
e war effort, helping out wherever possible. During the war she ran a workroom for unemployed skilled women workers in her quarter. She fed French and Belgian refugees in her restaurants below cost price. She took entire charge of 600 Belgian children
who had to leave their orphanage at the time of the German advance. In 1915 in honor of her good deeds the French government gave her the cross of the Legion of Honor. The Age of Innocence focuses on the degeneration of the high class, old New York society, and the ushering in of a new generation. Edith Wharton wrote The Age of Innocence during the time period when Old New York was giving way to a more crowded, dirtier
, faster society. Immigrants abounded and the city swelled with the influx of people. In 1920 in the New York Times Book Review and Magazine, feature articles discussed the changing New York. In the years before she wrote The Age of Innocence and for a
few years after, the loss of the old ways and society was a popular subject. One reason for Age's popularity can be accounted for the time period in which it was written. Other events in this time period include emancipation, the women's movement, proh
ibition, and World War I. In 1928 The Age of Innocence hit Broadway and then toured for four months, earning $23,500. Three movies were made, 1924, 1934, and 1993. The 1993 version garnered popularity, because Martin Scorsese directed it while Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder, an
d Daniel Day-Lewis starred in it. Collier books printed an edition with a scene from the movie on the cover, and a movie review on the back. Running across the top of the cover are the words, "Now a major motion picture." The blurb on the back features
a clip from the San Francisco Examiner and reads, Winner of the 1921 Pulitzer Prize, The Age of Innocence is Edith Wharton's portrait of desire and betrayal in Old New York. As Newland Archer prepares to marry the docile May Welland, his world forever c
hanged by the return of the mysterious Countess Olenska. "Wharton's characters?become very real. You know their hearts, souls and yearnings, and the price they pay for those yearnings"(San Francisco Examiner). Because the focus of this particular editi
on is focused on the movie instead of the book, it is obvious that the movie impacted the recent popularity of the book. Wharton's The Age of Innocence may have been popular to different people for different reasons. Her depiction of Old New York is so accurate and true to detail, that any historian would find pleasure in reading about it. While there is not a lot of acti
on (i.e. war or murder or fighting), the love story is told in such a way that the reader can not help but be drawn into it. Newland and Countess Olenska share such a passion that the Countess is able to merely touch Newland's knee with her hand fan and
electrify. Either the romantic or the historic qualities could have attracted readers. It's unusual for a movie to be made about a book that was written seventy-three years earlier. This fact testifies to the lasting qualities of the book.

You are not logged in. (Sign in)