“WE HAVE KEPT EACH OTHER BUSY TALKING ABOUT MANY PEOPLE WE LOVE… ABOUT WALT & ABOUT YOU”: VERY RARE AND SIGNIFICANTLY ENLARGED SECOND EDITION OF LEAVES OF GRASS, “AMERICA’S SECOND DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE,” WITH WONDERFUL PROVENANCE, THE COPY OF PENNSYLVANIA LITTERATEUR WILLIAM F. GABLE, FEATURING A TIPPED-IN LEAF WITH AUTOGRAPH PRESENTATION INSCRIPTIONS BY A BIOGRAPHER, GUSTAVE WICKSELL, AND TWO OF WHITMAN'S CLOSEST FRIENDS, ELLEN O'CONNOR CALDER AND HORACE TRAUBEL (WHITMAN'S LITERARY EXECUTOR)
WHITMAN, Walt. Leaves of Grass. New York: [published by the author], 1856. 12mo, original dark green cloth. Housed in a custom chemise and half morocco slipcase. $19,500.
Rare and enlarged second edition, one of only 1000 copies printed, with frontispiece portrait of Whitman and advertisement leaf following text, featuring 20 additional poems not appearing in the 1855 first edition, including “A Woman Waits for Me” and “Who Learns My Lesson Complete?” The copy of Pennsylvania merchant and book collector William F. Gable, with a tipped-in leaf containing a series of beautiful autograph notes to him written by some of Whitman's closest friends and admirers: Dr. Gustave P. Wicksell, Ellen M. Calder, and Horace Traubel (Whitman's literary executor).
"Whitman is both the poet and the prophet of democracy… In a sense, [Leaves of Grass] is America's second Declaration of Independence" (PMM 340). This second edition, with 20 more poems than the first edition in 1855, reveals Whitman's concern to reach as large an audience as possible; he introduced changes in the book's internal and external format intended to evoke the then-popular volumes of poetry by Whittier and Longfellow, including the latter's spectacularly successful Song of Hiawatha. The most controversial change would prove to be his inclusion of praise from Ralph Waldo Emerson on the book's spine. Acknowledging receipt of his complimentary copy of the first edition of Leaves of Grass, Emerson had hailed Whitman's achievement: "I greet you at the beginning of a great career." When Whitman brought out this second edition the next year, Emerson's unguarded testimonial appeared on the spine (as designed by Whitman himself) in gilt letters. Emerson was agitated about the use of his private words as advertising copy: "Friends who visited Emerson when the blazoned second edition arrived in the mail claimed that until that moment they had never seen him truly angry" (Kaplan, 211). This second edition "was published by Fowler and Wells, and while they refused to print their name on the title-page, all copies have a leaf of Fowler and Wells' advertisements… the book is quite a rarity and is seldom found in good condition" (Wells and Goldsmith, 5-6). The second edition represents the fact that Whitman "had arrived at that necessary combination of originality and convention by which the most vigorous of talents always perpetuates itself… This is the poetry of day and the poetry of unending flow… He was never again to attain so final a peak of creative and visionary intoxication" (Bloom, Whitman, 112-14). Among the poems appearing for the first time in this edition are "Poem of Salutation" ("O take my hand, Walt Whitman!"), "Poem of Procreation" ("A woman waits for me—she contains all, nothing is lacking") and "Lesson Poem." Also included in this edition are the whole text of Emerson's letter to Whitman, Whitman's reply and reviews of the first edition. With advertisement (Myerson A.2.2., note 1). Myerson A.2.2. BAL 21396. Reynolds, 352-63. This presentation copy includes a tipped-in leaf with several autograph notes to William F. Gable. Gable was the owner of a 500-employee department store and an accomplished book collector from Altoona, Pennsylvania. "One of Mr. Gable's most pleasurable relaxations from the cares of business was his library and collection of old and rare books, autographs and manuscripts… Represented in his collection were manuscripts and epistolary correspondence of the notables of many countries and periods, and it included original autograph letters of nearly all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, letters of Benjamin Franklin, and a complete set of letters of all the Presidents of the United States… Mr. Gable was the owner of the largest collection extant of the letters and manuscripts of Bayard Taylor, also large collections of John Greenleaf Whittier, Henry W. Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, [and] Walt Whitman…" (Donehoo, Pennsylvania: A History III:104-06). The leaf, inscribed by some of the late poet's closest friends and admirers to Gable, reads: [Dr. Gustave P. Wicksell:] "A beautiful day in March. Day of joys. Horace Traubel and Mrs. O'Connor there. It is a great joy to pass to you a copy of the 1856 Leaves of Grass with love. Gustave P. Wicksell to Wm. F. Gable. Mar 14 1908." [Ellen M. O'Connor Calder:] "I am most happy to have known and loved Walt. E.M. Calder." [Horace Traubel:] "We have been too —— most of the day. We have kept each other busy talking about many people we love—about the dead & the living—about Walt & about you. [Long section scribbled out.] Wicksell sends you this book. But we add our —- and to his You will accept with love what is given with love—Horace Traubel. Boston Mar 14 '08." Dr. Wicksell, the first to inscribe the leaf, was a Boston dentist who sidelined in Whitman appreciation, both through membership and lecturing in Walt Whitman Fellowship, International. Wicksell was also the author of "Self-Primacy in Whitman," cited in the bibliography for Whitman's Complete Writings. Ellen O'Connor Calder first met Whitman on December 28, 1862, when her first husband, William Douglas O'Connor, invited Whitman to live with them following the Battle of Fredericksburg. Whitman's brother, George, had been wounded in the battle and the O'Connors' home provided Whitman with an ideal base from which Whitman could make frequent trips to visit both his brother and the scores of wounded soldiers in both Union and Confederate hospitals. Ellen was already familiar with Whitman at that time, having introduced her husband to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass. The cohabitation, however, turned one-sided admiration into a lifelong friendship. Whitman stayed at the O'Connors' home for over five months. Indeed, he remained in Washington, D.C. for ten years, during which time he was perhaps the O'Connors' most frequent visitor. Thereafter, Whitman maintained a particularly close friendship with Ellen. Unlike her more moderate husband, Ellen was a firebrand, known for her fervent support of both women's rights and abolition. These progressive views put her in good stead with Whitman. (Ultimately, in better stead than with her husband, who left her after she sided with Whitman in an argument over social issues.) It was Ellen who came to care for Whitman in 1873 after he had his first stroke and paid him daily visits. After Ellen returned home, she requested regular updates on Whitman's health from both the poet himself, as well as from the Traubels, close friends of the poet with whom she had formed a friendship. Whitman died just days after Ellen's second marriage to Albert Calder in 1892. Calder is often remembered for her moving "Personal Recollections of Walt Whitman," published in The Atlantic in 1907. Horace Traubel, who updated Ellen O'Connor Calder on Whitman's health, was later named Whitman's literary executor, due not only to his warm friendship with Whitman, but also to his extensive experience as a critic, poet, and editor. Many credit Traubel with being the person most responsible for securing Whitman's literary legacy through both his work in that area and as Whitman's biographer. Very occasional pencil underlining.
Early repairs to inner paper hinges, only a few small stains to interior, a bit of light wear and soiling to binding. A wonderful association copy with superb provenance.