Sale 21BP03 | Lot 178

WHITMAN, WALT Leaves of Grass.

Rare Books, Autographs & Maps

Lot Details

Lot 178
WHITMAN, WALT Leaves of Grass.
Brooklyn, New York: [Printed for the author], 1855. First edition in the first issue binding. 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 morocco folding case. 11 x 7 1/2 inches (20.8 x 19 cm); engraved frontispiece by Samuel Hollyer with tissue guard (first state on heavy paper within a lightly embossed frame), [i]-xii, [13]-95 pp., second state of copyright (2 lines) as usual, second state of p. iv ("and" corrected); without flyleaves. A fine copy overall with a few small areas of possible inpainting to the upper cover, one covering a gouge in the leaf form ornament at lower right and another filling a small gouge at mid-spine, otherwise unrestored, the gilding and cloth lightly rubbed, one minor bump to the rear board, the frontispiece lightly spotted, small thumbprints in purple ink to the margin of about six leaves (printer's ink?), other stray marginal stains and a few to endpaper versos, the text generally clean.

Provenance: Chaucer Head Book Shop, New York, "an unusually fine copy."

A pleasing first edition in the first binding of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, "America's second Declaration of Independence." Whitman himself was highly active in the printing of the first edition and Ed Folsom's Census of the 1855 Leaves of Grass 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."

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), p. 71-84; BAL 21395; Myerson A.2.1.a2; PMM 340.


C Property from an Ohio Collection

Estimate: $70,000 - $100,000

Additional Notes & Condition Report

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Estimate: $70,000 - $100,000

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Rare Books, Autographs & Maps

Thu, Dec 09, 2021 at 10am EST