Brooklyn, NY: 1855. First edition. A Very Good copy, rare in the original cloth. This copy has been recased, reversing old repairs and closing some tears to the cloth near the spine that would otherwise have gotten worse. Small blank margin of the frontis portrait chipped and renewed. The title page is frayed at the edges and with some large tears, which have all now been professionally secured. Internal contents show some smudges and wear, but the book is complete and in its original binding. BAL state A binding, with extra gilt and all page edges gilt, state A of the frontis portrait, on thick card-stock, state B of the copyright notice, printing the notice in two lines, and state B of page iv with “and” spelled correctly. Also, with the first state of leaf 49 reading "And the night is for you and me and all" (Gary Schmidgall: "1855: A Stop-Press Revision"). Housed in a custom slipcase with chemise.
Perhaps the most important collection of poetry in American Literature. Although Leaves of Grass was first greeted with derision and even shock – Boston’s district attorney attempted to have some of the poems suppressed as obscene and Whitman was fired from his job – it eventually claimed its rightful place in the American canon. Whitman wrote the collection after he was inspired by Emerson and the Transcendentalist movement, and the poems in Leaves of Grass are noted for their sensualist focus on nature and the human form. They include some of Whitman’s most famous works, including Song of Myself and I Sing of the Body Electric. Despite the collection’s fame and success, Whitman re-wrote and edited the collection many times, with the final edition containing over 400 poems. Whitman himself helped pay for the printing of the first edition, the run of which contained only 800 copies, most of which were unbound.
“Always the champion of the common man, Whitman is both 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, this of 1855 intellectual” (Printing and the Mind of Man).
Unsurprisingly, the book has had numerous admirers. Harold Bloom has called the book the “secular scripture of the United States,” and Ezra Pound referred to Whitman as “America’s Poet.” “The whole body of these Poems—spiritually considered—is alive with power, throbbing and beating behind and between the lines. There is more here than mere oddity, and barbaric indifference to elegant forms of speech; there is a living soul—no matter whether its owner drove an omnibus once, or stands on State street and chaffers greedily every day for gold—and that soul insists on giving itself to its fellows, even if it has to rend the most sacred rules of speech to achieve its larger liberty… It is the texture of the stuff that tells, because it is that which is going to endure” (Contemporary Review). Very Good (Item #1533)