“I told you I had y'r essay ab't L of G English'd, (& it has done me more comfort than you can know)—& it shall be printed here one of these days (It and our Col. Ingersoll's speech lately are my grand panaceas)... I am collecting a little final annex (2d annex) to be added to L of G. When printed I will send you the sheets...” -Whitman, in ALS to Gabriel Sarrazin
A REMARKABLE VOLUME OF THE FIRST EDTION OF THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION OF WHITMAN’S WORK, SIGNED BY WHITMAN ON THE TITLE PAGE.
A PRESENTATION COPY SIGNED AND INSCRIBED BY WHITMAN TO GABRIEL SARRAZIN AND WITH A LONG REVEALING AUTOGRAPH LETTER DISCUSSING HIS HEALTH AND LEAVES OF GRASS.
On this Edition:
“Whitman never lost his passion for joining disparate parts into a whole: it was the basis of his politics, his philosophy, and his bookmaking. He wrote to one acquaintance in 1886 that ‘I think of... bringing out a complete budget of all my writing in one book.’... Horace Traubel was again involved in getting this big book out, and he and Whitman had endless discussions about all aspects of its production.”
Whitman was worried about his failing health and terrified that he would die before his “big book” was published. “At one point the poet told Traubel, ‘I am in a hurry—in a hurry: I want to see the book in plates: then I can die satisfied. We will attend to the presswork and binding when we come to it. The main thing is the plates—the plates. Horace, I am on the verge of a final collapse: I look on the future—even tomorrow, next day—with a feeling of the greatest uncertainty. I am anything but secure: let us make the book secure.’ ... Whitman was immersed in every aspect of his bookmaking” and was very pleased with the result, for upon receiving the first copies he declared to Traubel, “it's better—far, far better—than the best I looked for.” (All quotations from Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman).
Whitman’s “big book”– what he thought of as the final monument to his career – was published in only 600 copies “for the author’s own use”, with each copy signed on the title page. This copy is the first issue – without the limitation number added by hand by Horace Traubel. (All copies that were distributed before Feb. 14, 1889 were unnumbered.) In Myerson’s binding A, rebacked at an early date.
On this copy – the French literary critic Gabriel Sarrazin’s copy :
In addition to signing the title page, Whitman has inscribed this copy: “Gabriel Sarrazin France from the author Walt Whitman America Jan: 28 1889”.
“Born in Laval, France, Gabriel Sarrazin first encountered Whitman's work while in England researching a book on the English romantic poets, La Renaissance de la Poésie Anglaise, 1778–1889. Sarrazin, deeply impressed, inserted a chapter called ‘Walt Whitman,’ which was published separately in La Nouvelle Revue on 1 May 1888. In January 1889, Sarrazin sent Whitman a copy of the well-received article.
“Horace Traubel reports that Whitman asked two friends, William Sloane Kennedy and Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke, each to translate the Sarrazin article. Whitman then had two versions to compare, and he was well pleased with Sarrazin's work, pronouncing it to be among the ‘strongest pieces of work which Leaves of Grass has drawn out’ (Traubel 109). Whitman wrote to Sarrazin, and the two continued to correspond until almost the very end of Whitman's life.” Carmine Sarracino, “Gabriel Sarrazin”, in Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia.
On the letter:
The attached autograph letter to Sarrazin is a poignant record of Whitman’s state in 1890, near the end of his life, echoing the concerns he had in getting Complete Poems & Prose to print. (Whitman died a year and a half later). After discussing his failing health (“laid up in my old chair & room, waning slightly but surely”) but noting (true to Whitman’s lifelong love of nature) that he is “propelled in wheel chair out door & to the river side nearly every day”, he then praises Sarrazin’s recent article on Whitman’s Leaves of Grass as one of the “grand panaceas” that “has done me more comfort than you can know”.
Dated September 5, 1890, from Camden, New Jersey the letter reads in full:
Your letter from Noumea [South Pacific] came this forenoon & has quite surprised me—no doubt it will all be better for you—any mark'd move by a man, (we call it in English 'a change of base') will be something of a gain. Still, here, laid up in my old chair & room, waning slightly but surely, pretty fair in physical conditions (had some oysters, ryebread & coffee for breakfast) maintain good spirits—am propelled in wheel chair out door & to the river side nearly every day—& in other respects 'hold the fort' sort o as we might call it—& as I believe I have told you in letters before—y'r letter to H. L. Traubel comes here & that to Morris is doubtless rec'd...
We will see if this gets through as well to you—& I must be sure to send you a paper now and then, & see if they reach you all right—I told you I had y'r essay ab't L of G English'd, (& it has done me more comfort than you can know)—& it shall be printed here one of these days (It and our Col. Ingersoll's speech lately are my grand panaceas)—I have also a copy of the London Universal Review that prints it in French. I am collecting a little final annex (2d annex) to be added to L of G. When printed I will send you the sheets—Also an appendix to November Boughs—What can I send you hence? Write to me and tell—I am sitting here alone in comfort & the fifth sunny perfect day outside as I glance from the window.
–Best wishes & love & thanks Walt Whitman
With original mailing envelope (printed “Walt Whitman / Camden / New Jersey / U.S. America”) addressed in black ink in Whitman’s hand, with five-cent stamp and postmark from September 5, 1890.
Complete with title page portrait (Linton engraving after G.C. Potter photograph) and engraved portrait of Whitman as a young man (used as frontispiece in the 1855 Leaves of Grass) bound in at page 28, before Leaves of Grass. Whitman inscription to Sarrazin on front flyleaf; letter and envelope affixed to verso.
Complete Poems & Prose of Walt Whitman, 1855...1888. Authenticated and Personal Book (handled by W.W.) Portraits from Life... Autograph. Philadelphia: Ferguson Bros. & Co., 1888-89. Large octavo, publisher’s three-quarter morocco over marbled boards rebacked at an early date with stamping matching printing on original paper label (Myerson's Binding A); custom box. Front hinge and first few leaves reinforced or re-attached at gutter. A little scuffing to binding; occasional light foxing toward beginning and end of volume. Letter (with folds) in outstanding condition with ink strong and crisp.
A MAGNIFICENT, UNIQUE VOLUME SERVING AS A MONUMENT TO WHITMAN’S LIFE’S WORK AND FINAL DAYS.
Price: $20,000 .