This signed book sold at auction for $3,400 in February, 2019

Presentation Copy of Walt Whitman’s Classic Poetry Collection

We sold this unique and incredibly rare 1872 presentation copy of “Leaves of Grass” which has been hand signed by poet Walt Whitman.

Walt Whitman has written, in ink: “From Walt Whitman, Camden N. Jersey”, a nice tie-in with the fact that the poet relocated from Washington, DC to Camden, New Jersey in early 1873 due to the negative health effects of a stroke.

Additional writing in pencil appears on the pastedown which reads: “1872 1st Issue Presentation Copy”.

Signed Walt Whitman books do not frequently come up at rare book auctions. This copy is a unique and a very important find.

What is a presentation copy of a book? A presentation copy of a book is one that is given to someone by the author or publisher.

Steel Engraved Portrait of Walt Whitman

The frontis of this copy has been tipped in and features the famous portrait of a young Whitman. This youthful steel engraving was used for earlier editions of “Leaves of Grass” including the first edition of 1855. On the reverse of the engraving, the initials “W.W. 1854” have been hand written in pencil.

This copy is different to any other Washington copy in that the engraving is from the first edition rather than the full page, full-length portrait of an older Whitman which is seen in every other 1872 Washington edition. This leads us to believe that this could be a proof edition of the first issue.

Walt Whitman’s Productive End Years

In 1873, Whitman suffered a demoralizing paralytic stroke and moved from Washington, DC to the home of his brother, George Washington Whitman, in Camden, New Jersey. His mother, also ill, died that May, leaving Whitman considerably more depressed during this time.

While in residence at his brother’s home, Whitman was extremely productive, publishing three versions of “Leaves of Grass” among other works. He was also last fully physically active in this house, receiving both Oscar Wilde and Thomas Eakins.

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