Survey of 'Eagleswood'

Henry David THOREAU

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Item#: 127076 price:$26,000.00

Survey of 'Eagleswood'
Survey of 'Eagleswood'
Survey of 'Eagleswood'
Survey of 'Eagleswood'
Survey of 'Eagleswood'

"HIS PROFESSION WAS THAT OF A SURVEYOR, AND IT IS EASY TO IMAGINE HOW, WITH HIS POETIC TEMPERAMENT, WHILE LAYING OUT ROADS AND MEASURING WOODLOTS, HE CAME TO BE WHAT HE WAS": EXCEPTIONALLY LARGE AUTOGRAPH LAND SURVEY BY THOREAU, SIGNED BY HIM

THOREAU, Henry David. Autograph signed Survey of "Eagleswood," the estate of Marcus Spring, near Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Concord, Mass., (1856). Survey measures 22 by 30 inches, ink on linen-backed paper, with annotations in the hand of Marcus and Rebecca Spring. $26,000.

Rare, exceptionally large example of one of Thoreau's surveys, in his hand and signed by him, done for the estate of Marchus and Rebecca Spring, who were prominent philanthropists and active Quaker abolitionists. Beautifully framed.

For several years, Thoreau had worked on and off as a surveyor to supplement his meager income. As one of his contemporaries noted, "His profession was that of a surveyor; and it is easy to imagine how, with his poetic temperament, while laying out roads and measuring woodlots, he came to be what he was" (Frank Preston Stearns, quoted in Thoreau as Seen by His Contemporaries, 79). In 1852 the wealthy Quaker abolitionist Marcus Spring "purchased a two-hundred acre tract on the shores of Raritan Bay, a mile west of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and incorporating as the Raritan Bay Union and erecting a tremendous brownstone and brick phalanstery, 254 feet long, three stories high, with dormitories, apartments, and schoolrooms, he attempted to establish a co-operative community. When the community did not prosper, he decided in 1856 to rename it Eagleswood and to convert the property over into small estates for New York City commuters, hoping to attract them with pleasant country living, a good school, lyceum lectures, and other cultural activities, and good commuter service via steamboat to the city. Bronson Alcott was visiting at Eagleswood at the moment and suggested Thoreau as the ideal surveyor for the project" (Harding, The Days of Henry Thoreau, 370). When Thoreau arrived, he found a community with an "unconventional bent and slightly radical sympathies… just the audience for him" (371). Although somewhat alarmed at their presumptions on his time—they expected him to attend the community dance, prompting him to note in horror that "they take it for granted you want society!"—they were also eager to hear him read from his work, which considerably pleased Thoreau. Spring and his wife Rebecca had met Thoreau before, when in 1850 Emerson had sent Thoreau as a representative of the Fuller family to the site of the ship wreck at Fire Island where Margaret Fuller and her husband died. Emerson asked the Springs to assist Thoreau, if needed (Harding, 278). Rebecca Spring herself came from a family of radicals; as the daughter of the abolitionist Arnold Buffam, she was one of John Brown's last visitors in prison before he was executed.

The survey was professionally restored and laid down on new linen; there were several tears from the folds, a few burn marks from a fire (which consumed part of the Spring archive); overall in very good condition, beautifully framed.

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