“THIS WAS MY FIRST INTELLECTUAL CONTACT WITH THE THEORY OF NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE” (MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., STRIDE TOWARD FREEDOM): FIRST BOOK APPEARANCE OF THOREAU’S WORK ON CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, ONE OF ONLY 1500 COPIES
THOREAU, Henry David. A Yankee in Canada, With Anti-Slavery and Reform Papers. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1866. Octavo, original gilt-stamped brown cloth expertly rebacked with original spine laid down. Housed in a custom clamshell box.
First edition, first printing, containing the first book appearance of Thoreau's widely influential essay "Civil Disobedience." One of only 1500 copies printed, in original cloth.
In the summer of 1846, tax collector Samuel Staples arrested Thoreau for his refusal to pay the poll tax, interrupting Thoreau's tranquil residence at Walden Pond for a day (until Thoreau's aunt surreptitiously paid the amount due, freeing her nephew). Thoreau had not paid the tax for several years, as a form of protest against slavery and the government's recent declaration of war against Mexico, which Thoreau considered to be a land-grabbing scheme of Southern slaveholders. The townspeople were so curious about Thoreau's refusal and imprisonment that he felt compelled to explain his actions in a public lecture in January 1848. The text of this lecture first appeared in the journal Aesthetic Papers as "Resistance to Civil Government" in 1849; it is here collected for the first time in book form under its famous title "Civil Disobedience." Thoreau's idea of passive but firm resistance to government has had a profound influence on countless revolutionaries and reformers, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. among them. Many of the other essays and speeches in Yankee in Canada express Thoreau's increasingly strong support for the abolitionist cause, including "Slavery in Massachusetts," "A Plea for Captain John Brown," and "The Last Days of John Brown." This posthumously published anthology was edited by Transcendentalist poet William Ellery Channing and Thoreau's younger sister Sophia, who mistakenly included the piece "Prayers" (pp. 117-22), written by Ralph Waldo Emerson, with the verses beginning "Great God, I ask thee for no meaner pelf" (p. 120) being Thoreau's only contribution to the piece (Allen, 23). The first printing consisted of only 1500 copies. BAL binding A, no priority established. BAL 20117. Borst A7.1.a. Allen, 22-23. Downs, Books That Changed America 8. Bookplate.
Text with faint offsetting to pp. 266-67, otherwise fine; front inner paper hinge just starting but solid; restored cloth with minor toning to spine. A very handsome copy.