James Fenimore Cooper is best known for The Last of the Mohicans (1826), the second and most popular of his Leatherstocking Tales. A first edition of this American literary classic is on view here. The Last of the Mohicans is set in 1757 during the French and Indian War (1755-1763) as the French and the British vied for control of the American and Canadian colonies. The novel’s central character, Nathaniel “Natty” Bumppo, was Cooper’s archetype of the eighteenth-century frontiersman who personified the rugged individualism of the American pioneer. The character of Natty (also referred to in the book as Hawkeye) drew upon folk traditions of historical figures such as Daniel Boone.
The Lake George region, including Glens Falls, provided the dramatic setting for Cooper’s bestselling novel. Cooper masterfully blended history and romance to recount an epic tale of sisters Alice and Cora Monro as they attempted to join their father, the British commander at Fort William Henry on Lake George. The sisters are accompanied on their travels by Uncas (the last of the Mohicans), the scout Hawkeye (Natty Bumppo), and Major Duncan Heyward. Their progress was thwarted by Magua, a leader of the group of Hurons who were allied with the French against the British. The novel ends in a tragic scene of brutality, heroism, and revenge.
This first edition was acquired by Louis Hyde in 1933 from a Boston bookseller. He owned two additional versions including a British first edition published in 1826, and another that formed part of an 1850 edition of Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales.