Aesthetic Papers

Boston: THE EDITOR, 1849.

The first publication of Thoreau's tremendously influential essay on Civil Disobedience.

(Item #1043) Aesthetic Papers. Elizabeth Peabody, Nathaniel Hawthorne with contributions by: Henry D. Thoreau, Ralph W. Emerson.

Aesthetic Papers

Boston: THE EDITOR, 1849. First edition. First and only printing of this landmark periodical. Rebound in modern blue quarter morocco over cloth boards. With the bookplate of Maine author J. Roy W. Barrette on the front pastedown. There are two gouges affecting the final leaves of the book; a smaller one in the blank lower margin (final 25 leaves) and a larger one at the upper inner margin that touches text (final 16 leaves). Many words partially obscured, only one lost completely. Several leaves with tape repairs over the gouges. The title-page and final leaf are darkened with a slight discoloration at the lower edge of the title page. And all of these faults permissible for a work that rarely surfaces in the trade and contains one of the most important essays written in the 19th century, Thoreau's seminal essay on Civil Disobedience (here titled "Resistance to Civil Government").

Disgusted with the institution of slavery and U.S. involvement in the Mexican American War, Thoreau refused to pay a poll tax and went to jail. In the essay he claims a jail is “the only house in a slave State in which a free man can abide with honor.” He argues that paying a tax to the federal government allows the government to continue instituting policies and laws that go against his what he knows is right. “The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right... Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.” Influencing and inspiring the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others, the importance of this work can hardly be overstated.

Also containing Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Main-Street" and Ralph Waldo Emerson's "War," both important works in their own right. Well represented in institutional collections (as appropriate), no copies appear in the ABPC auction record. Kevin Macdonnell describes this 1849 publication as "one of the black tulips of American Literature.” (Firsts Magazine, September 1999, page 49).
Very Good (Item #1043)