Skip to main content

In 1941, Knopf published Theodore Roethke's first collection of poetry, Open House, in a hand-numbered edition of 1000 copies. The book was lavishly praised and launched Roethke's brilliant career, which led to a Pulitzer Prize (The Waking, 1954) and two National Book Awards (Words for the Wind, 1959, and The Far Field, 1965).

The Theodore Roethke Museum in Saginaw, Michigan, has decided to mark the 75th anniversary of Open House's publication with an "online census" to attempt to track down every surviving hand-numbered copy of Open House, and collate the stories of the various volumes and their collectors.

Open House, Limited EditionOPEN HOUSE - A Volume of Poetry (Limited Edition)

New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Fine in Near Fine dust jacket. 1941. First Edition; First Printing. Hardcover. A very nice copy of this rare Roethke title in a dustjacket with some soiling on the front cover and a small chip at the head of the spine. This is copy # 605 out of the limited edition of only 1,000 books. (Offered by William F. Hale Books)

The museum vice-president, Mike Kolleth, told Fine Books & Collections the goal of the project is "to ignite conversation about Roethke’s poetry." ABAA-member Jett Whitehead, whose speciality is  modern poetry, assisted the museum in launching the project. When asked for comments about the project, Whitehead said:

"For several years I’ve been rewarded with opportunities to work with various organizations regarding book related projects and exhibits. Some of the most fun and rewarding projects have involved exhibitions at the Theodore Roethke Home Museum (operated by Friends of Theodore Roethke) in Saginaw, Michigan. As most of The New Antiquarian's readers may know, Roethke is regarded as one of the leading modern poets of the post war 20th century authors. However, some readers may not be aware that Roethke’s family home is now a museum and center for promoting modern poetry in the Great Lakes Bay Region of Michigan. 

Recently the vice president of the Board of Directors of the Roethke Museum, asked me to assist him with a project centering on the 75th Anniversary of the publication of Roethke’s first book, Open House. Published by Knopf in 1941, in an edition limited to only 1000 numbered copies, he wanted to know how many surviving copies we could locate, and if each copy had a special story. Once I heard his idea, I signed on to be his lieutenant in the antiquarian book trade, and agreed to spread the word among my colleagues that we wanted a census of all known copies available for sale. 

This is not the first project I’ve worked on with the vice president at the Theodore Roethke Home Museum. Together he and I have presented programs at the Museum, and at Saginaw Valley State University, where we show copies of first editions of Roethke’s books and related material. Our path is to make Roethke’s work come alive through showing signed and inscribed copies of his books, and highlighting the importance of special association copies that have survived and surfaced over the past few years. The presentations have always proven popular with attendees, as well as bibliographically educational for every one involved. 

It is with this spirit that the Open House Census Project was born, and we are excited to collate the results in the coming months." 

Open House, Reese

Open House

New York: Knopf, 1941.. Cloth, stamped in gilt and blind. Fine in dust jacket with minimal use at edges. First edition of the author's first book. One of 1000 numbered copies, of which this is #834.  (Offered by William Reese Company)

Owners of first-editions of Roethke's Open House can contact the Museum at to participate in the census.  For more information, visit the Friends of Theodore Roethke Facebook page...

ABAA-members have several copies of Open House currently available for sale. Click here for more information...


Don't miss an article from The New Antiquarian blog.

Subscribe to the ABAA email newsletter!

* indicates required
Email Format