May-Day and Other Pieces

Ralph Waldo EMERSON

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Item#: 127069 price:$11,500.00

May-Day and Other Pieces
May-Day and Other Pieces

PRESENTATION COPY IN THE SCARCE WHITE GIFT BINDING OF MAY-DAY, INSCRIBED BY EMERSON IN MAY OF THE YEAR OF PUBLICATION TO A FELLOW PHILOSOPHER AND AUTHOR

EMERSON, Ralph Waldo. May-Day and Other Pieces. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867. Octavo, original publisher's gilt-decorated white cloth gift binding, top edge gilt. $11,500.

First edition, one of only 100 copies in publisher's white cloth binding, "apparently a special presentation binding for Emerson's friends"—presentation copy inscribed by Emerson on the front flyleaf to British freethinker, author and social reformer Charles Bray: "To Charles Bray, Esq. from R.W. Emerson, May 1867."

"Emerson had always thought verse to be the most perfect mode of utterance, and he had always referred to himself as a poet. Now he offered evidence whereby he might be judged. The judgement has taken some time to become mature, but it is no longer to be doubted that in a few of his pieces he reached a mark which only Whitman, Poe, and Emily Dickinson reached in America during the 19th century… It is an intellectual poetry that he writes… It is the work of a passionate intellect saturated in Wordsworth, Shakespeare, and the lyric masters of the 17th century" (DAB III, 138). According to BAL, Harvard received their copy from the publishers on April 27, 1867, and locates three copies with inscriptions dated May 1, 1867. Of the 2000 copies printed, only 100 were bound in the present white cloth, "apparently a special presentation binding for Emerson's friends" (Myerson). Myerson A28.1.a.

Recipient Charles Bray (1811-84) was the son of a wealthy ribbon manufacturer. As a young man, "Bray underwent a period of intense religious doubt, and emerged as a sceptic of all denominational religion. He also came to embrace philosophical necessitarianism, believing that all things necessarily act in accordance with the laws of their own nature. In 1841 he published his account of this process in The Philosophy of Necessity, or, The Law of Consequences as Applicable to Mental, Moral and Social Science… Bray was an early supporter of national undenominational education and, following his father's example of founding schools on the Wilderspin system, helped found a mechanics' institution in Coventry in 1835 with the money gained by his taking over the family business following his father's death that year" (ODNB). The Brays' home "Rosehill," in Coventry, was a haven for people who held and debated radical views, such as Robert Owen, Herbert Spencer, Harriet Martineau—and Emerson. With contemporary owner's penciled notations opposite inscribed leaf.

Slight soiling to boards, toning to spine, near-fine. Most scarce and desirable inscribed by Emerson in the month of May to a fellow philosopher.

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