'Controversial' $150k Walt Whitman for sale

Walt Whitman is one of America's best loved poets.

His 19th century works were controversial, and often criticised as obscene for containing sexual references - particularly his collection Leaves of Grass.

Earlier this year, a first edition copy of that classic work came up for auction in Athens, Georgia.

Tony Arnold of Jackson Street Books was delighted to handle the rare volume, and then the icing on the cake: a postcard with a note scrawled and signed by Whitman himself.


Walt Whitman Leaves of Grass
The first edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass

Very few first editions of the book are still known to exist. This copy is now available for $150,000 on websites such as abebooks.com, which Arnold thinks is a more than fair price.


The seller, Tom Richey, has acquired thousands of rare books. Aside from Whitman, his collection includes first editions of Moby Dick and Tom Sawyer which have been in the family for several decades, inherited from his uncle.

Leaves of Grass was released as a quarto book in 1855. While the gilt-lettering of this copy is slightly rubbed, the original dark green cloth is in very good condition. The accompanying note is apparently dated June '91. Whitman died in 1892.

At Paul Fraser Collectibles, we also have a book which will prove evocative for many collectors: the bible that Robert Burns leafed through shortly before his death in 1796.


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