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View full screen - View 1 of Lot 252. WHITMAN, WALT | Leaves of Grass. Brooklyn: [For the author by Andrew and James Rome], 1855.

WHITMAN, WALT | Leaves of Grass. Brooklyn: [For the author by Andrew and James Rome], 1855

Lot Closed

June 21, 08:12 PM GMT


120,000 - 180,000 USD

Lot Details



Leaves of Grass. Brooklyn: [For the author by Andrew and James Rome], 1855

Small folio (11 1/8 x 7 3/4 in.; 281 x 197 mm). Frontispiece portrait of the author by Hollyer after a photograph printed on thick paper, original tissue guard; frontispiece very lightly foxed with minor creasing to tissue, first signature loosening, paper over rear hinge split. Publisher's dark green coarse-ribbed cloth, spine with gilt title and floral ornaments, corners of center of covers with blind-stamped floral ornaments, upper cover titled in ornamental, "rustic" gilt font all within triple-ruled frame, marbled endpapers, edges gilt; cloth of lower joint cleanly split, tiny hole to spine cloth at head with some very light fraying at head and tail but gilt spine ornaments only slightly faded, upper cover gilt a little rubbed, one short tear to cloth at foot of spine closed. Folding case.

First edition, first issue of one of the most attractive but fragile books in American literature. This self-published effort by Whitman was partially type-set by the author. A run of 795 copies comprising the first edition were printed on the small handpress of the Romes on Cranberry Street in Brooklyn, with only 337 bound in this, the most ornate of the original cloth bindings. The subsequent cloth edition emphasized the blind stamping rather than gilt, an obvious exercise in reducing costs for a volume that was subject to an extremely limited distribution, with only a handful of copies dispersed at any one time. The book was placed on sale at Fowler & Wells on Broadway in New York, and Swaynes on Fulton in Brooklyn, priced at two dollars. Sales were slow and it was later reduced to one dollar, but sales failed to improve and Whitman ended up giving away most copies personally. 

"... Newspaperman, hack writer, philosopher, patriot, remarkable and very individual poet ... 'loafer' (his own word) and enigma, he challenges curiosity as one of the few towering American literary figures" (Bennett).

"... 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" (Printing and the Mind of Man).


Grolier, American 67; BAL 21395; Feinberg 269; Myerson A2.1.a1; PMM 340; Shay p. 15