Hardy had been considering the publication of his first volume of verse for several years, before Wessex Poems was published by Harper & Bros in December 1898. A third of the poems dated from his first period of poetic production, the 1860s, a few were from the intervening two decades of novel-writing, and the rest were from the last decade, during which he had returned to writing poetry. There is evidence of anxiety surrounding their production: the fair copy he prepared for the printer (a manuscript now in the Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery) was much revised, and more changes were made to the proofs. The volume included Hardy’s own illustrations to 31 of the poems.