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the first collected edition of Whitman’s writings

WHITMAN, WALT. The Complete Writings

New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1902

10 volumes. Ten frontispieces and five plates, each in three states. Publisher’s certificate of limitation stating that this is set number 2 of 10 printed on Japan vellum. Notarized certificate signed by Jeanette Gilder concerning the accompanying Whitman letter.

Magnificent original green morocco gilt with red, white and black floral morocco onlays, t.e.g., others uncut; velvet doublures and linings. Very minimal wear. A stunning set.

First edition of “the first comprehensive collection of Whitman’s work.” This is the rare deluxe issue printed on Japan vellum, number 2 of only 10 such sets, in the magnificent original morocco binding.

Bound in is a fine autograph letter signed by Whitman (2pp, Camden, 30 January 1876) to Jeanette Gilder, then literary critic of the New York Herald. After discussing personal matters, the poet writes out for Gilder a letter he has written to the Herald’s editor seeking to promote his new book, Two Rivulets. Writing that letter in full, Whitman states:

“Editor Herald. Would like to have say a four or five column article for the paper embodying the poems, &c. of my new book “Two Rivulets,” to publish say eight or ten days before their issue by me? —making a resume of the book in advance giving the principal pieces, (hitherto unpublished—& to be first printed in said article.) If so, I will make out such an article & send you, for your determination. The price would be $200. I have thought that as you like to have things in advance—& also to give variety to the paper—such a proposition might be acceptable. If not, no harm done. WW.”

“Whitman left his literary legacy in the hands of the three men who had been among his closest companions and fiercest champions during the last twenty or so years of his life: Horace Traubel, Richard Maurice Bucke, and Thomas Harned. In their zeal to ensure what they saw as Whitman’s rightful place in American literature, immediately following Whitman’s death they began to publish from among the letters, manuscript notes, prose fragments, and other writings Whitman had left behind. Their efforts culminated ten years after Whitman had died in the first comprehensive collection of Whitman’s work: the ten-volume Complete Writings of Walt Whitman, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in 1902, illustrated with manuscript facsimiles and numerous photographs and paintings of the poet.” The executors also supplied an authorized biography of Whitman for the first volume, and Oscar Lovell Triggs contributed a bibliography and other critical apparatus for the last volume. See Graham in Walt Whitman Encyclopedia.

This magnificent edition of Whitman’s works is noteworthy for its importance, limitation, paper, binding, and accompanying letter. A more desirable Whitman set cannot be found.

Provenance: Christie’s, December 14, 2000, lot 205.

Myerson, Walt Whitman: A DescriptiveBibliography B4.