New York: 1855. 4to. xii, 95, , pp. With frontispiece portrait. FIRST EDITION, First issue. Half morocco on marbled boards with original front cover bound inside (at the back). Item #13707
First edition, first issue binding (BAL’s and Myerson’s Binding A), first state of the frontispiece portrait (on heavy paper), second state of the copyright page as usual, second state of p. iv. According to the description in Christie’s (New York) catalogue of their sale of the same edition on December 4, 2009 (lot 196 of Sale 2153, which brought $218,500.00), “Whitman was spending nearly every day there [at the printing office of James and Thomas Rome in Brooklyn] that spring [of 1855], writing, revising, reading proof, even working at the type case, just as he had done twenty years earlier as an apprentice printer. Altogether he set in type about ten of the ninety-five pages of a book that he also designed, produced, published, promoted . . . The 795 copies the Romes ran off on their hand press and delivered to the binder were all there were or could be of the first edition. No plates were made; the book was printed from type, and the type distributed” (Justin Kaplan, Walt Whitman: a Life, Toronto: Bantam Books, 1982, p. 198). Myerson notes that 795 copies were bound: 337 in Binding A in June and July 1855; 262 in Binding B in December 1855 and January 1856; and 196 copies in two other binding styles.
Whitman “ushered in a new era in American letters, describing specifically American experiences in a distinctly American idiom.” “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. In a sense, it is America’s second Declaration of Independence: that of 1776 was political, this of 1855 intellectual” (PMM).
BAL, 21395; Grolier, American 67; Myerson A2.I.a1; Printing and the Mind of Man 340.