“THE IMAGINATION IS NOT A TALENT OF SOME MEN, BUT IS THE HEALTH OF EVERY MAN”: EMERSON’S ILLUSTRATED COMPLETE WORKS, WITH FINE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT LEAF
EMERSON, Ralph Waldo. Complete Works. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1903-04. Twelve volumes. Octavo, contemporary three-quarter green morocco, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, raised bands, marbled endpapers and boards, top edges gilt, uncut and unopened. $12,500.
“Autograph Centenary” edition, number 37 of 600 copies, illustrated with 56 photogravures, with original manuscript leaf in Emerson’s hand discussing poetry and imagination mounted in Volume I, handsomely bound.
Emerson's writings "challenge the very process by which we read and think, and his ideas are considered to be at the very heart of questions about the development of American literature and identity" (ANB). This edition includes all of Emerson's poems, lectures, biographical sketches and letters, as well as his famous essays, several of which here see print for the first time. Their "ethical inspiration and stimulation, their occasional startling phrase, their individualistic idealism, which stirred renascent Yankee New England to its depths, speaks with the same simple power and force in the midst of modern complexities" (Grolier, American 100 47).
The manuscript leaf, measuring 8 by 10 inches and written on both sides, is a paragraph from Emerson's 1856 essay "English Traits," and reads: "Defoe said in his wrath, that, the Englishman was the mud of all races. I incline to the belief, that, as water, lime & sand make mortar, so certain temperaments marry well, & by well-managed contrarieties, develop as drastic a character as the English. On the whole, it is not so much a history of one or of certain tribes of Saxons or Frisians coming from one place & genetically identical, as it is an anthology of temperaments out of them all. Certain temperaments suit—the sky & soil of England, say, eight or ten or twenty varieties, as, out of a hundred pear-trees, eight or ten suit the soil of a particular orchard, & thrive, whilst all the unadapted temperaments die out." This is nearly identical to the published version, which reads "Saxons, Jutes, or Frisians" rather than simply "Saxons or Frisians." Illustrated with 56 engravings and photogravures.
Short split along fold of manuscript leaf. Interiors fine, minor expert restoration to two spines. A very handsome set in fine condition.