Leaves of Grass. WALT WHITMAN.
Leaves of Grass
Leaves of Grass
Leaves of Grass
Leaves of Grass
Leaves of Grass
Leaves of Grass

Leaves of Grass

“My comparative observations here derive, of course, from a strong conviction, or prejudice, in favor of the 1860 Leaves of Grass. I offer them with a certain diffidence. But, without diffidence, I suggest that the 1860 Leaves of Grass, in and of itself, is a great book–so I am persuaded, Whitman’s greatest.” -Roy Harvey Pearce, “Whitman: The Poet in 1860”

“The critic Roy Harvey Pearce believed the third edition [1860] to be the culmination of what Whitman began in 1855 and only tinkered with after 1860; for Pearce, the third edition was Whitman’s ‘greatest’.” - Jason Stacy, Introduction, Leaves of Grass, 1860, 2011


WHITMAN’S “NEW BIBLE”: THE MONUMENTAL 1860 EDITION OF LEAVES OF GRASS.

“The 1860 edition, Whitman’s third, is particularly compelling because it grows out of a highly charged set of political, social, and biographical circumstances. Published as the Union dissolved by a poet intimately concerned with the idea of a United States as ‘essentially the greatest poem,’ arranged to be cited chapter and verse in the midst of a culture that embraced both biblical literalism and religious experimentation, fulfilling the poet’s notions of a ‘New Bible,’… this edition gave Whitman the opportunity to actualize his idea of himself as the nation’s ‘referee’ and ‘arbiter.’ Appearing at a time when scripture proved readily available to Americans in inexpensive, portable versions, Whitman intended his third edition to function like the Bible. This Leaves of Grass was to inaugurate a new American religion, which cleared away the staid detritus of empty ritual. With a thickness and rough-hewn cover that emulated a simply bound King James Version of the early nineteenth century, the third edition’s framework of clusters and verses afforded an experience akin to Bible reading; within this familiar framework, the poet offered a radical revision of American politics and religion as the last best hope to prevent war. Understood in this fashion, the third edition becomes a profoundly rich product of a period when the United States faced its greatest peril. In 1860, Walt Whitman offered up Leaves of Grass for national salvation.” (Jason Stacy, Introduction, Leaves of Grass, 1860, 2011).

The 1860 edition – Whitman’s “New Bible” – is a significantly expanded edition: “Whitman had been prolific in his composition of new poems after the 1856 edition, and by the time he issued his third edition in 1860, there were 146 new poems.” This is also “the first edition of Leaves published by a true publisher [Thayer and Eldridge]… [It] is a big book – 456 pages – and it has the feel of a monumental work, something Whitman was by this point trying consciously to produce.” (Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman).

Complete with frontispiece engraving of Whitman by S.A. Schoff (in first state, with brown background and “Schoff” at bottom right).

Boston: Thayer and Eldridge, 1860-61 [1860]. Octavo, original pebbled cloth with blind-stamped boards and gilt-decorated spine; custom cloth box with leather label. Light wear to binding extremities, nearly invisible stabilization to front hinge (although hinges still tender, as usual), small lean to text block, text clean. RARE IN SUCH GOOD CONDITION.

Price: $4,500 .

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