the 1855 Leaves of Grass in the first binding & Whitman's own copy of his 1860 portrait
WHITMAN, WALT. Leaves of Grass [with] Whitman’s own copy of his 1860 portrait
Brooklyn, New York, 1855
Small folio. Engraved portrait of Whitman (state A, printed on heavy paper). Original gilt decorated green cloth, all edges gilt (binding A), expertly recased preserving original spine. Copyright notice printed in two lines as usual, “cities and” correctly printed on p. iv. Very minor wear, several leaves neatly repaired at gutter. Morocco case. A very handsome copy.
First edition, first issue, one of only 337 copies of the first issue, distinguished by its elaborately gilt-stamped cloth binding prepared in June/July 1855. Whitman reported that only 800 copies were printed; this copy is from the first group to be bound. The copies bound later did not have the extensive gilt stamping. Whitman paid for the book, supervised its production, and even set a number of pages in type.
“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. … The book that matters most is the original 1855 Leaves of Grass” (Harold Bloom, The Western Canon).
“The 1855 edition [of Leaves of Grass] is brilliantly sui generis and … it is the American equivalent of the 1609 sonnets of Shakespeare – the single most important volume in its nation’s poetic patrimony” (Schmidgall).
“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” (Printing and the Mind of Man).
Provenance: a rare example with an 1855 ownership signature, this copy is signed and dated October 1855 by Edmund G. Baker on the verso of the frontispiece.
Printing and the Mind of Man 340. Grolier 100 American Books 67.
Whitman’s own signed copy of the famous 1860 portrait
WHITMAN, WALT. Signed portrait of Whitman standing, one hand holding his hat, the other in his pocket. 1860, printed in 1889. Photomechanical print on heavy stock, 8 1⁄2 x 6 1⁄4 in. Near fine.
Whitman’s friend, biographer, and literary executor Horace Traubel pulled this very portrait out the poet’s trash. Traubel has written “See Notes Mar 3, ’91” in the upper right corner. The March 3, 1891 entry in Traubel’s With Walt Whitman in Camden states “I rescued also from his waste papers a portrait he had marked ‘1860’—usually given about 1850 as date.”
Whitman sat for the portrait in 1860. He later called it “a devilish, tantalizing mystery” that he could not date with certainty. Declaring that he would “hate to give it up!” the poet appreciated “its calm don’t-care-a-damnativeness — its go-to-hell-and-find-outativeness: it has that air strong, yet is not impertinent: defiant: yet it is genial.”
Provenance: Walt Whitman, rescued from his waste papers by Horace Traubel, as he relates in With Walt Whitman in Camden, March 3, 1891.
two items: $160,000