WHITMAN, WALT Leaves of Grass.
Brooklyn, New York: [Printed for the author], 1855. First edition in the first issue binding, the rare English issue with five broadsides tipped to the front pastedown and free endpaper, including the letter from Emerson: "I greet you at the beginning of a great career."
Original green cloth, the covers with a triple gilt rule, gilt lettered at center with gilt foliage, blindstamped leaf decoration, the spine stamped and lettered in gilt, all edges gilt, marbled endpapers, housed in an old pull-off morocco case by Birdsall. 11 x 7 1/2 inches (20.8 x 19 cm); engraved frontispiece by Samuel Hollyer with tissueguard (first state on heavy paper), the title with the affixed label "London:/Wm. Horsell, 492, Oxford", [i]-xii, -95 pp., second state of copyright (2 lines) as usual, first state of p. iv ("adn" for "and" in 2nd column line 4), without flyleaves as usual for the English issue. The inserts at front are: Emerson's letter "Copy for the convenience of private reading only ... 21 July 1855"; "An English and American Poet" from The American Phrenological Journal; "Walt Whitman and His Poems" from The United States Review; "Walt Whitman, a Brooklyn Boy" from The Brooklyn Daily Times; and "Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass" from Putnam's Monthly for September. A very fine copy with only minute rubbing to the corners and two minor bumps to the fore-edge. The cloth near the head of the upper joint is just starting to separate along a one-inch portion but is still intact, the tipped-in reviews somewhat misfolded and creased, the frontispiece has pulled the title away from the first gathering as noted in many copies by BAL, some show-through of adhesive from the reviews to the verso of the front free endpaper, a soft vertical crease to the title goes through the G in Grass, minor spotting to the verso of the frontispiece only not affecting the image, slight offset from the "L" in Leaves to frontis, the title page and text virtually free of the inevitable foxing that affects most copies. With a pencilled inscription by Duncan Cranford to the verso the front free endpaper, the armorial bookplate of Herbert S. Leon to the front pastedown and that of Henry Reeve to the rear.
Henry Reeve (1813-1895), editor of the Edinburgh Review, armorial bookplate at rear;
George M. Williamson, noted Whitman correspondent and collector, sold in his sale Anderson Galleries, 30-31 January 1908, lot 1107, this information provided in the following two auction catalogue entries;
Sold Anderson Galleries, 29 & 30 April 1909, lot 421, "The Williamson copy, with printed slip affixed to title";
Sir Herbert Leon, armorial bookplate at front, sold in his sale Sotheby's 21 July 1937, lot 773. The buyer is recorded as Maggs according to Rare Book Hub;
Parke Bernet, 3 March 1938, lot 230 ("An exceedingly fine copy. The G.M. Williamson copy with the armorial bookplates of Herbert S. Leon and Henry Reeve.");
This likely the copy listed in Scribner's catalogue 116, item 374;
Duncan Cranford, King's Park, New York, note to verso of endpaper, likely acquired at Scribner's;
By descent in the family
An exceedingly fine copy of the first edition of Leaves of Grass, "America's second Declaration of Independence," including the separately printed copy of Emerson's letter to Whitman ("I greet you at the beginning of a great career") and the four promotional articles written by Whitman himself. The present example is one of all small group of copies bound in the first issue binding and prepared by Whitman for the English market and, as it contains the first state of p. iv, is likely one of the earliest copies from the first print run. The title page bears the affixed printed label of William Horsell, the English agent for the New York based publishers Fowler and Wells, early supporters of Whitman who sold copies of the first edition of Leaves of Grass at their Phrenological Depot in New York.
The present copy has a distinguished provenance. The earliest bookplate, discreetly placed on the rear pastedown, is that of Henry Reeve (1813-1895), editor of the Edinburgh Review. The volume was later acquired by the noted Whitman correspondent and collector George Williamson and the copy was sold in his sale in January 1908. Later the book was acquired by another important collector, Sir Herbert Leon, whose bookplate is found below Whitman's inserts. Finally, the book was acquired via Scribner's in 1938 by collector Duncan Cranford. The volume graced his shelves among other 19th and early 20th literature until his death in 1985. Cranford has pencilled and signed a short note to the verso of the front free endpaper and the book has descended in his family.
We trace few copies of the English issue at auction. The copy belonging to the reclusive heiress Hugette Clark, likely originally owned by her father William A. Clark, was sold at Christie's New York, 18 June 2014, lot 24. That copy, as the current example, contained the five printed broadsides mentioned but interestingly p. iv in that copy was in the corrected state (see below). A copy of the English issue containing 4 of the 5 broadsides only (lacking the Emerson letter) was sold at Sotheby's New York, 14 June 2016, lot 291.
According to the latest additions to Professor Ed Folsom's census of first edition copies of Leaves of Grass, the English issue is known in 7 other copies and correspondingly also notes 7 copies containing the separately printed Emerson letter. The first state of p. iv is reported in only 17 copies (up from the 15 referenced in the following quotation). Folsom describes Whitman's rushed proofreading as the sheets came off the press and notes: "There was one typographical error in the preface-an "adn" for "and" that Whitman at some point corrected, but what hasn't been known is whether or not copies containing this typo are common or rare. Our preliminary census results indicate there are in fact very few copies with the typo (only fifteen)-Whitman made that correction very early in the print run." Thus it is quite likely that the present copy was among the first printed and earliest bound.
It is well known how active Whitman was in the printing of the first edition and Folsom notes that: "Leaves of Grass began, of course, as a self-publication. No publisher was interested in producing what seemed an odd and inelegant group of twelve untitled poems. So Whitman did it himself: he designed the cover, chose the binding, and set some of the type." Kaplan expands on this: "Whitman was spending nearly every day there [at the printing office of James and Thomas Rome in Brooklyn] that spring [of 1855], writing, revising, reading proof, even working at the type case, just as he had done twenty years earlier as an apprentice printer. Altogether he set in type about ten of the ninety-five pages of a book that he also designed, produced, published, promoted... The 795 copies the Romes ran off on their hand press and delivered to the binder were all there were or could be of the first edition. No plates were made; the book was printed from type, and the type distributed." Meyerson notes that of the full print run of 795 copies, 337 were bound in the first binding in June and July 1855.
Monumental in importance, Leaves of Grass was the only work of literature included in the landmark exhibition Printing and the Mind of Man: "The Poet and the Prophet of Democracy ... the whole of Leaves of Grass is imbued with the spirit of brotherhood and a pride in the democracy of the young American nation. In a sense, it is America's second Declaration of Independence: that of 1776 was political, that of 1855 intellectual."
A distinguished copy of the most important 19th century American contribution to world literature.
See: Justin Kaplan, Walt Whitman: A Life, Toronto: 1982, p. 198; Folsom, Ed. The Census of the 1855 Leaves of Grass: A Preliminary Report. Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 24 (Fall 2006), 71-84.
BAL 21395; Myerson A.2.1.a2; PMM 340; and for the inserts see Meyerson F-26; F-88; F-91; I-12)
C The Library of Duncan Cranford
Additional Notes & Condition Report
No condition report? Click here to request one.