"A book which tumbled the world upside down for me, blew into space a thousand cobwebs" - R. L. Stevenson.
WHITMAN, Walt. Leaves of Grass. Including Sands at Seventy … 1st Annex, Good-Bye my Fancy … 2nd Annex, A Backward Glance o'er Travel'd Roads, and Portrait from Life. Philadelphia, David McKay, 1891-2.
8vo. Original green cloth, spine lettered in gilt with the poet's facsimile signature; upper edge gilt, others untrimmed; pp. [iv], 3-438, with facsimile of the author's signature duplicated on title, stipple-engraved portrait, retaining tissue guard, between p. 28-9; one bubble to cloth on upper board; with a few small splash marks and rubbing to spine ends; upper edge a trifle dust soiled; previous ownership inscription to front paste-down; with quotation from R. L. Stevenson written in ink to the second free endpaper; a few pencil annotations to the margins throughout; small closed tear to outside margin of p. 3-6 (not affecting text); a little toned throughout, with minor spotting to the paste-downs, but all in all a lovely example, with some of the final sections unopened.
Ninth, 'deathbed edition', with the facsimile signature to spine and title page. The portrait (which shows Whitman at age 35 by Samuel Hollyer after a lost daguerreotype by Gabriel Harrison) is not captioned. It was Whitman's final arrangement of his masterwork, produced from the sheets of McKay's 1888 edition with additional annexes tacked on at the end in a race against the poet's declining health.
First published in 1855, Whitman spent most of his professional life writing and rewriting Leaves of Grass, revising it multiple times until his death. As the end of 1891 approached, Whitman prepared a final edition, a compilation of over 400 poems. He died a short time later on March 26, 1892. This edition was his personally favoured one. He writes: "As there are now several editions of L. of G., different texts and dates, I wish to say that I prefer and recommend this present one, complete, for future printing, if there should be any; a copy and fac-simile, indeed, of the text of these 438 pages. The subsequent adjusting interval which is so important to form'd and launch'd work, books especially, has pass'd; and waiting till fully after that, I have given (pages 423-438) my concluding words. W.W."
"Leaves of Grass" remains one of the most important works of poetry written by an American. Born out of the Transcendentalist movement, the work is filled with an appreciation for the natural world and man's place within it. "Always the champion of the common man, Whitman is both the poet and prophet of democracy. The whole of Leaves of Grass is imbued with the spirit of brotherhood and a pride in the democracy of the young American nation. In a sense, it is America's second Declaration of Independence: that of 1776 was political, that of 1855 intellectual." (PMM).
The Stevenson quotation, taken from 'The Books Which Have Influenced Me' reads: "Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, a book of singular service, a book which tumbled the world upside down for me, blew into space a thousand cobwebs of genteel and ethical illusion, and, having thus shaken my tabernacle of lies, set me back again upon a strong foundation of all the original and manly virtues."