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the final authorized version of Leaves of Grass: “the deathbed edition”

WHITMAN, WALT. Leaves of Grass

Philadelphia: David McKay, 1891-2

Original yellow cloth, gilt-stamped with the famous image of a hand holding a butterfly.   Fine.

FIRST EDITION of the final version of Whitman’s life’s work. The book came to fruition in his final days by his own design and with his final endorsement.  Whitman declares on the copyright page, “As there are now several editions of L. of G., different texts and dates, I wish to say that I prefer and recommend this present one, complete.”

“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” (PMM).

“If one attempts to list the artistic achievements of our nation against the background of Western tradition, our accomplishments in music, painting, sculpture, architecture tend to be somewhat dwarfed . . . The exception is in literature.  No western poet, in the past century and a half, not even Browning or Leopardi or Baudelaire, overshadows Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson” (Harold Bloom, The Western Canon).

This edition is known as the “Deathbed edition” (Myerson A 2.7.l2), so called “because Whitman’s impending death forced him to ‘create’ copies of his final ‘edition’ of Leaves of Grass from the 1888 sheets with cancel title and contents leaves and with the annexes added” (Myerson).  The annexes comprise “Sands at Seventy” and “Good-Bye My Fancy,” plus a final revision of his essay “A Backward Glance O’er Travel’d Roads.” In a letter of September 4, 1891, Whitman reports “Intend to finish out (bind) L of G with ‘Good Bye’ & Last of all ‘Backward Glance’ & shall then let it go as completed.”

Myerson A 2.7.l2, binding C (Myerson assigns no priority among the four styles, two in wrappers and two in cloth).

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