Leaves Of Grass

by Whitman, Walt

Leaves of Grass (1855) is a poetry collection by the American poet Walt Whitman. Among the poems in the collection are "Song of Myself," "I Sing the Body Electric," "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking," and in later editions, Whitman's elegy to the assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd. " Whitman spent his entire life writing Leaves of Grass, revising it in several editions until his death. The first edition published in 1855 contained 12 poems on 95 pages. The final edition published contained almost 400 poems. 

First Edition Identification

On May 15, 1855, Whitman registered the title Leaves of Grass with the clerk of the United States District Court, Southern District of New Jersey, and received its copyright. The first edition was published on July 4, 1855, in Brooklyn, at the printing shop of two Scottish immigrants, James and Andrew Rome, whom Whitman had known since the 1840s. Whitman paid for and did much of the typesetting for the first edition himself. The book did not include the author's name, and instead offered an engraving by Samuel Hollyer depicting Whitman in work clothes and a jaunty hat, arms at his side. Early advertisements for the first edition appealed to "lovers of literary curiosities" as an oddity. Sales on the book were few, but Whitman was not discouraged.

The first edition was very small, collecting only twelve unnamed poems in 95 pages. Whitman once said he intended the book to be small enough to be carried in a pocket. "That would tend to induce people to take me along with them and read me in the open air: I am nearly always successful with the reader in the open air", he explained.  About 800 were printed, though only 200 were bound in its trademark green cloth cover.  The only American library known to have purchased a copy of the first edition was in Philadelphia.  The poems of the first edition, which were given titles in later issues, were "Song of Myself", "A Song for Occupations", "To Think of Time", "The Sleepers", "I Sing the Body Electric", "Faces", "Song of the Answerer", "Europe: The 72d and 73d Years of These States", "A Boston Ballad", "There Was a Child Went Forth", "Who Learns My Lesson Complete?", and "Great Are the Myths".

Other Collectible or Notable Editions

There have been held to be either six or nine editions of Leaves of Grass, the count depending on how they are distinguished. Scholars who hold that an edition is an entirely new set of type will count the 1855, 1856, 1860, 1867, 1871–72, and 1881 printings. Others add in the 1876, 1888–89, and 1891–92 (the "deathbed edition") releases.

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On Jul 2, 2017, Anonymous said

Just found a copy of this rare book at a local thrift store. Good shape but binding needs help. Great masterful work of Whitman.

On May 15, 2016, a reader said

Registered for copyright on 11 September 1856, the second edition of Leaves of Grass resulted from the continued surge of creativity that produced the first edition. The title page does not bear the author's name, but the verso page copyright is assigned to Walt Whitman (cf. Walter Whitman in the first edition). The little volume is bound in olive-green cloth; its front cover is blindstamped with leaves and berries and goldstamped "Leaves of Grass"; its back cover (without goldstamping) is identical. The spine is goldstamped with the title, leaf designs, and "I Greet You at the / Beginning of A / Great Career / R.W. Emerson." Unlike the slim outsized format of the first edition, this thick, squat volume measures approximately 6 2/3 by 3 3/16 inches and looks "like a fat hymn book" (Allen, Introduction xvi). The poems are set in well-leaded ten-point type, so that Whitman's characteristically long lines tend to overflow, sometimes three or four times. The New York Tribune advertised the one-dollar volume as "handy for pocket, table, or shelf" (Stern 121), so that when Whitman (in "Whoever You are Holding Me Now in Hand") challenges the reader to "carry me" "beneath your clothing," in breast or hip pocket, he imagines this volume as the embodiment of himself. The volume's frontispiece is a photograph of Whitman in the "carpenter" pose. Its 32 numbered poems, including all 12 carried over from the first edition, are for the first time given titles. They are followed by "Leaves-Droppings," consisting of Emerson's encouraging but private 21 July 1855 letter of praise (previously reprinted in the 10 October 1855 New York Tribune and tipped into some late issues of the first edition); Whitman's "dear Friend and Master" reply, in effect, a prose essay; and "Opinions, 1855–56"—nine favorable and unfavorable reviews, including two anonymous self-reviews. Despite its artistic merit, the volume was Whitman's greatest publishing failure. Its factual but unacknowledged publishers were Fowler and Wells, distributors of books and periodicals on phrenology, health reforms, and occasionally, belles lettres, to whose weekly Life Illustrated Whitman was then a contributor. Although reluctant to print the work, the firm advertised on 16 August in the same periodical that it was the principal distributor for this "neat pocket volume" in a stereotyped edition of 1,000 copies: "The author is still his own publisher, and Messrs. Fowler and Wells will again be his agents for the sale of the work" (qtd. in Stern 119). Despite Whitman's boast to Emerson that "these thirty-two Poems I stereotype to print several thousand copies of" (Comprehensive 730), sales were even poorer than those for the first edition; copies are now quite rare. Readers were embarrassed by such overtly sexual poems as "Spontaneous Me" and "A Woman Waits for Me," by the author's self-promotion, and by his unauthorized appropriation of Emerson's letter. Thus The Christian Examiner attacked the "foul work" ("Impious" 62) for its "pantheism and libidinousness" and its "self-applause" (63). Relations soured between poet and publisher. In 1857, when Whitman had 100 poems ready for the press, he declared that "Fowler & Wells are bad persons for me.—They retard my book very much" (Correspondence 1:44). This edition is more programmatic than its predecessor. In a notebook jotting, Whitman defines the "Idea to pervade" the book as "Eligibility—I, you, any one . . . any being, no matter who" (Notebook 8). And in a characteristic mixture of semi-mystic populism and personal hauteur, he positions himself as the spokesman-poet of the American masses, telling Emerson that "A profound person can easily know more of the people than they know of themselves" (Comprehensive 733). His letter to Emerson—in effect an essay explaining his poetic intentions to the literary establishment in the critical 1856 election year—asserts that his poems are intended to unify the nation, "for the union of the parts of the body is not more necessary to this life than the union of These States is to their life" (Comprehensive 733). He proposes a new literature for America to inspire a free, democratic youth, aware of their singularity and their sexuality and destined to overcome personal and national corruption. Like the authors of Fowler and Wells's manuals of reform and personal advice—many of whose ideas are interwoven into Whitman's poems—the persona often appears as a fatherly or brotherly counselor in matters physical, personal, or spiritual. At times his prescriptive tone borders on the prosaic, even the banal, and dilutes the intensity of some of the new poems. But Whitman was attempting to enlarge the poet-reader relationship by projecting himself as "the general human personality" (Bucke 63). And Whitman's contemporaries often found this hortatory tone to be congenial. Of this edition, Thoreau (while troubled by the edition's sensuality and its mixture of poetic wonders with "a thousand of brick") declared: "I do not believe that all the sermons, so-called, that have been preached in this land put together are equal to it for preaching" (Thoreau 68). With the 1856 edition Whitman began his lifelong practice of adding new poems, reworking previously published poems, and reordering poems into different groupings. Thus the dozen poems of the first edition are here distributed in the following sequence: 1, 4, 32, 26, 7, 27, 19, 16, 22, 25, 29, and 6, beginning with "Song of Myself," here called "Poem of Walt Whitman, an American." He added, deleted, and combined lines. For example, he deleted the two-line curse against those who defile the human body at the end of the 1855 "I Sing the Body Electric" and added a 36-line quasi-anatomical catalogue. He also began the practice of removing over-used conjunctions and abandoned the idiosyncratic but rhetorically effective combination of dots, dashes, and conventional punctuation of the first edition in favor of a more standardized system. The 1856 edition is more than an update; it is, in effect, a new work. Despite some poetic lapses, it is probably the most effectively designed of the six editions, and it is poetically dazzling. Its most impressive cluster of new poems, numbered 8 through 13, includes the following. The massive "By Blue Ontario's Shore," largely cannibalized from the 1855 prose Preface, is a paean to the present and future greatness of Americans ("It is I who am great, or to be great—it is you, or any one" [section 15]) and to the superb Whitman persona, the "equable," profound interpreter of the world and its symbols. "This Compost" evokes the persona's emotional interplay between his fear of death and his faith in the perpetuation of life. The short poem "To You [whoever you are]" is the persona's comradely outreach to his downtrodden fellows. "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," with its stunning coloration and its musical and philosophical subtleties—the undisputed masterpiece of the second edition—pictures a deathless, empathic Whitman persona whose presence becomes palpable to generations of readers. "Song of the Open Road" presents the dynamic persona as a reader of the world's symbols proposing to lead the American masses out of their cramped existences into a continuum of transcendental selfhood. The group concludes with the sexually provocative "A Woman Waits for Me.''

buddenbrooks, May 12, 2011

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Leaves of Grass; Including a Fac-simile Autobiography Variorum Readings of the Poems and a Department of Gathered Leaves
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Leaves of Grass; Including a Fac-simile Autobiography Variorum Readings of the Poems and a Department of Gathered Leaves

by Whitman, Walt

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Used - Very Good
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New Edition
Published
1900
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Hardcover
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Philadelphia: David McKay, 1900. This edition SCARCE. Photographic frontispiece, 2-page facsimile, numerous illustrations. Publisher's original green decorated cloth gilt, top edge gilt. Very Good, end pages uniformly toned, lacking front blank end page, small rubs to cloth at tips, faint discoloration rear board, front hinge just starting. . Lovely turn of the century binding. . New Edition. Cloth. Very Good/No… Read more about this item
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Leaves of Grass
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Leaves of Grass

by Whitman, Walt

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Used - Fine
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First Edition
Published
1992
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Paperback
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9780679725145
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Staten Island, New York, USA
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Vintage Books / Library of America, 1992. Book. Fine. Soft cover. First Edition. 8vo - over 7¾ - 9¾" tall. Trade paperback. 731 pages. Includes Chronology, Notes, and two separate Indexes--Poetry Title Index and Index of First Lines. Introduction by John Hollander. Contents include both the 1855 and 1891-92 editions of Leaves of Grass along with… Read more about this item
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LEAVES OF GRASS
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LEAVES OF GRASS

by Whitman, Walt

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Used - Very Good
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Limited/Signed/Numbered
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1942
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Hardcover
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New York: Limited Editions Club. Very Good. 1942. Limited/Signed/Numbered. Hardcover. Two volumes bound in original decorative green covers. Each spine has a brown leather label with the title stamped in gilt. Hinges & text tight & intact. Leaves are bright & clean. In a two toned VG green slipcase. Illustrated with glossy black & white photographs by… Read more about this item
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LEAVES OF GRASS

LEAVES OF GRASS

by Whitman, Walt

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Used
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Third Edition
Published
1860
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Stephenson, Virginia, USA
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Boston: Thayer and Eldridge, 1860. Third Edition. An exceptional copy of Whitman's most enduring work. Myerson A2.3.c. Presumed third (first unauthorized) printing [1880]. Octavo (19.25cm); Myerson's Binding A, in deep purplish-red pebble-grain cloth, with titling and decorations stamped in gilt and in blind to spine and front covers; pale yellow endpapers; frontispiece portrait of Whitman is in Form 3… Read more about this item
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LEAVES OF GRASS

LEAVES OF GRASS

by Whitman Walt

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Published
1884
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Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA
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Philadelphia: David McKay, 1884. First Edition Thus. Engraved portrait of Whitman on card, as in the first edition, and with the tissue guard as issued. Tall 8vo, publisher’s original medium olive-brown S cloth, lettered and decorated in gilt on the spine and with the author’s autograph rendered in gilt on the upper cover. Binding A,… Read more about this item
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Leaves of Grass (Limited Numbered Edition)
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Leaves of Grass (Limited Numbered Edition)

by Walt Whitman

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Fair
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Limited Edition, Numbered
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Hardcover
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Hendersonville, North Carolina, USA
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Mount Vernon, NY: The Peter Pauper Press. Limited Edition, Numbered. Hardcover. Fine/Fair. Boyd Hanna. Limited Edition, #171 out of 1,100 copies printed. Half brick-red leather binding with decoratively patterned red paper boards. Top edge gilt. Fore and bottom edges uncut. Large gilt lettering on spine. Illustrated with wood-cut engravings, colored in shades of black and red. The wood-engravings… Read more about this item
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Leaves of Grass.

Leaves of Grass.

by Whitman, Walt

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Used
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1856
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Palm Beach, Florida, USA
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Brooklyn, New York: Fowler and Wells, 1856.
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Leaves of Grass
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Leaves of Grass

by Whitman, Walt

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Used - Original green cloth, boards with floral decorations in blind, gilt-lettered ornamental title within a triple-fillet border, spi
Edition
First edition, first issue
Published
1855
Binding
Engraved frontispiece portrait of Whitman by Samuel Hollyer after a photograph, printed on thick paper. xii, [13]-95 pp. 1 vols.
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New York, New York, USA
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Brooklyn, New York, 1855. First edition, first issue. Engraved frontispiece portrait of Whitman by Samuel Hollyer after a photograph, printed on thick paper. xii, [13]-95 pp. 1 vols. Small folio (11-1/8 x 7-3/4 in.; 284 x 197 mm). Original green cloth, boards with floral decorations in blind, gilt-lettered ornamental title within a triple-fillet border, spine gilt with title and… Read more about this item
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Leaves of Grass
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Leaves of Grass

by Whitman, Walt

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Used
Published
1900
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Hardcover
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CROTON-ON-HUDSON, New York, USA
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Philadelphia, PA: David McKay, 1900. hardcover. Condition is Very Good+, bound in 1/2 leather with marbled boards and end papers, with gilt titles and decorations at spine. Two bookplates inside front cover. Fading to color at spine. Owner gift inscription to second front end page in a graceful script. No markings to text. 8vo, 8 1/4"h x 5 3/4"w.… Read more about this item
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Leaves of Grass (Deathbed Edition)
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Leaves of Grass (Deathbed Edition)

by Whitman, Walt

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Used
Published
1892
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Hardcover
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Portland, Oregon, USA
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Philadelphia: David McKay Co, 1892. Hardcover. Deathbed Edition. BAL's Binding C with faux signature. (Early printing with no date on title page, second publisher address.) 438 pp. Green cloth with gilt spine lettering and top edge. Very Good+ with slightly bumped corners, cloth rubbed along bottom edge, small bookplate on paste down, 1899 gift inscription on second blank, a… Read more about this item
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Leaves of Grass (1850-1881)
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Leaves of Grass (1850-1881)

by Walt Whitman

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Used - Very Good-
Edition
Modern Student's Library
Published
1922
Binding
Embossed black/brown cloth
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Pleasant Valley, New York, USA
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A nice presentation that is fairly rare. Previous owner's inscription in ink on front endpaper.
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Leaves of Grass
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Leaves of Grass

by Whitman, Walt

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Used
Published
1931
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HERMOSA BEACH, California, USA
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New York: Aventine Press, 1931. Large octavo (9 3/4 inches tall), original brick cloth, gilt spine, brick top edge, uncut, original dust jacket. Gentle edge-wear, minor foxing to verso of original dust jacket. Near-fine. Aventine Press edition of Leaves of Grass, complete with the original illustrated dust jacket. The second volume of the Aventine Classics series, this edition was… Read more about this item
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Leaves of Grass.
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Leaves of Grass.

by WHITMAN, Walt.

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London, London, GBR
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£1,750.00

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New York, [Wm. E. Chapin & Co.], 1867. . Fourth edition, first printing; 8vo (19.5 x 13 cm); lacking contents page, but with the blank leaf noted in BAL issue 1, occasional annotations in pencil, corner tear to Songs Before Parting p.27 without loss of text; publisher's half black morocco, rebacked preserving much of the original spine, red cloth,… Read more about this item
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Leaves of Grass: A Selection of the Poems
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Leaves of Grass: A Selection of the Poems

by Whitman, Walt

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Used - Fine
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Very Good+
Edition
First Edition
Published
1968
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Hardcover
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Staten Island, New York, USA
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Mount Vernon, New York: Peter Pauper Press, 1968. Book. Fine. Hardcover. First Edition. 12mo - over 6¾ - 7¾" tall. Hardcover, decorative pictorial paper covered boards printed with art work by Mary Jane Gorton in orange green and brown, with image repeated on price-clipped dust-jacket. 62 pages. Illustrated with eight full page highly stylized, evocative plates mimicking cover… Read more about this item
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LEAVES OF GRASS
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LEAVES OF GRASS

by Whitman, Walt

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Richmond, Missouri, USA
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£284.69

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Philadelphia: David McKay, (1900). Octavo. An octavo, 438 pages, bound in original forest green cloth with gilt titles on spine. There is some rubbing and wear to the binding as well as a few places of discoloration but overall this remains a nice bright copy of the "Death Bed Edition". Contains First and Second Annex as well as " A… Read more about this item
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LEAVES OF GRASS

LEAVES OF GRASS

by Whitman, Walt

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Used - Very Good
Published
(1900)
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Richmond, Missouri, USA
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£109.81

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David McKay, Philadelphia, 1900. Octavo. Bound in original forest green cloth with decorative Art Nouveau cover and spine in gilt and black. (xi); 11-519; (Index;521-526). Top edge gilt. Signature of Wm. E. Burbank on the front free endpaper. William Burbank was a contemporary of Whitman and an accomplished artist, living most of his life in Manchester, New… Read more about this item
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£109.81
Leaves of Grass (Deathbed Edition)
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Leaves of Grass (Deathbed Edition)

by Whitman, Walt

Condition
Used
Edition
Deathbed Edition, Printing 2, printed from the plates of Leaves
Published
1891
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Monterey, California, USA
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22 South Ninth Street, Philadelphia: David McKay Co, 1891. Deathbed Edition, Printing 2, printed from the plates of Leaves of Grass, 1889, with annexes and additional material as in Printing 1; Binding C.. Including Sands At Seventy, 1888, 1st Annex; Good Bye My Fancy, 1891, 2nd Annex; A Backward Glance O'er Travel'd Roads, 1888; and Portrait from Life. Large… Read more about this item
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Leaves of Grass
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Leaves of Grass

by Walt Whitman

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Used - Very Good Indeed
Published
1903
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Cloth
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BATH, Somerset, GBR
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£195.00

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London; Boston: G. P. Putnam's Sons; Small, Maynard & Company, 1903. Cloth. Very Good Indeed. 8" by 5". Not Stated. A lovely reprint of Walt Whitman's important poetry collection on which he spent his life revising, 'Leaves of Grass'. 'Leaves of Grass' is a poetry collection by Walt Whitman, an American poet who spent most of his writing… Read more about this item
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£195.00
Leaves of Grass: Including Sands at Seventy, First Annex, Good-By My Fancy, Second Annex, A Backward Glance O'er Travel'd Roads, And Portrait From Life
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Leaves of Grass: Including Sands at Seventy, First Annex, Good-By My Fancy, Second Annex, A Backward Glance O'er Travel'd Roads, And Portrait From Life

by Whitman, Walt

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Used - Very Good
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No Jacket
Edition
First Edition
Published
1931
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Hardcover
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Staten Island, New York, USA
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£20.34

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New York: Aventine Press, 1931. Book. Very Good. Hardcover. First Edition. 8vo - over 7¾ - 9¾" tall. Hardcover, royal octavo bound in brown cloth and lettered in gold on spine. lacking dust-jacket. 580 pages. Contents [title index] at rear. First edition. The second volume of the Aventine Classics series, set in Estienne Type and printed… Read more about this item
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LEAVES OF GRASS

LEAVES OF GRASS

by WHITMAN, Walt (Edward WESTON)

Condition
Used - Minor wear and small scrapes to the spine. Still Near Fine in a Very Good slipcase with repaired splits
Published
1942
Binding
Hardcover
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Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, USA
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£1,525.12

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New York: Limited Editions Club, 1942. Hardcover. Minor wear and small scrapes to the spine. Still Near Fine in a Very Good slipcase with repaired splits. Edward Weston. Two slim, tall quarto (9" x 12") volumes bound in imitation vellum reproducing in dark grass-green ink a photograph by Edward Weston who has illustrated the volume with 49 photographs… Read more about this item
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£1,525.12