The Property of a Gentleman
WHITMAN, WALT | Leaves of Grass. Brooklyn: [For the author by Andrew and James Rome,] 1855
Estimate: 150,000 - 200,000 USD
The Property of a Gentleman
Leaves of Grass. Brooklyn: [For the author by Andrew and James Rome,] 1855
Small folio (11 1/8 x 7 3/4 in.; 282 x 197 mm). Engraved frontispiece portrait of Whitman by Samuel Hollyer after a photograph, printed on thick paper and retaining original tissue-guard; some very light browning and light offsetting, occasional minor marginal staining, very sort tear to inner margin of penultimate leaf (3). Publisher's dark green coarse-ribbed cloth, covers with gilt triple-rule frame enclosing blind-stamped floral ornaments, the front cover additionally gilt-titled in ornamental "rustic" font, spine with gilt title and floral ornaments, all edges gilt; lightest rubbing at extremities, some careful repair to spine with a bit of fraying at head and foot, recased with new marbled endpapers in the style of the original. Half green morocco slipcase, chemise.
A fine copy of the first edition of Leaves of Grass; first issue, before the insertion of eight pages of press notices (largely the work of Whitman's own pen) and before the deletion of much of the gilt from the covers and page edges, evidently in an effort to lower production costs; second state of the copyright page (as in all but two recorded copies) and of p. iv, col. 2, l. 4 (adn corrected to and). Of the 795 copies comprising the first edition and printed on the small handpress of the Romes in Brooklyn, only 337 were bound in this, the most ornate of the original cloth bindings.
Leaves of Grass "is America's second Declaration of Independence: that of 1776 was political, this of 1855 intellectual" (Printing and the Mind of Man). One of the most attractive, if fragile, books in American literature, Whitman's self-published poetical manifesto was also at least partially type-set by the author.
"The publication of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass in July 1855 was a landmark event in literary history. Ralph Waldo Emerson judged the book 'The most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom America has yet contributed,' saying that it had 'the best merits, namely, of fortifying and encouraging.' … One need not discount his later poetry in order to recognize the specialness of the first edition. This was the original Whitman; this was Whitman at his freshest and, arguably, his most experimental. Nothing like the volume had ever appeared before. Everything about it—the unusual [binding] and title page, the exuberant preface, the twelve free-flowing, untitled poems embracing every ream of experience—was new" (Reynolds).
BAL 21395; Feinberg 269; Grolier, American 67; Meyerson A2.1.a1; Printing and the Mind Man 340; cf. "Afterword," in Leaves of Grass: 150th Anniversary Edition, ed. David S. Reynolds (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Condition as described in catalogue entry.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.