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Whitman, Walt | "I see and hear the whole"

The Passion of American Collectors: Property of Barbara and Ira Lipman

Whitman, Walt | "I see and hear the whole"

Whitman, Walt | "I see and hear the whole"

The Passion of American Collectors: Property of Barbara and Ira Lipman

Whitman, Walt

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

Small folio (282 x 197 mm) Engraved frontispiece portrait of Whitman by Samuel Hollyer after a photograph, printed on thick paper and an unusually nice example; often found quite foxed, text quite clean and free from all but the most minor toning and spotting. 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; cloth very bright with some intermittent faint rubbing to gilt, usual fraying and rubbing at spine ends expertly restored, an attractive copy.

First edition, 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 with the first version of line 2 page 49.

Of the 795 copies comprising the first edition and printed on the small handpress of the Romes in Brooklyn, only 337 were bound thus, 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.

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