First edition Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman opens a new year for PBA auction

PBA Galleries has warmed up after its holiday break to present another of its great sales of fine books later today. Most of the lots are of mediocre value by the auctioneer's standard, but there is one stand-out lot amongst the 460.

This is a first edition example of a work which some considered obscene when it was first published in 1855: Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Opinions of the work have now settled and it is now considered a classic piece of American literature.

Indeed it is sometimes described as "America's second Declaration of Independence" and Whitman's works have sometimes been featured prominently in some of the great US book collections such as that of James S Copley.

Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman
A page from the restored copy of the American classic

This particular volume has undergone extensive professional conservation at the Baker Bindery in Anniston, Alabama. Endpapers have been replaced using period paper, pages were cleaned with the process removing earlier glue repairs, each page was mended where necessary, and some pages was re-sewn and re-cased.

The pages of this volume have apparently been trimmed, removing the gilt from the top and bottom edges as well as from the fore edge of all but a few leaves. Now an attractive copy, it is expected to achieve $20,000-30,000.

This seems reasonable, for example a first edition sold at Bloomsbury for $30,000 in 2010.

Pamphlet signed by Mark Twain
The pamphlet signed by Clemens/Twain

Many collectors desire nothing more than to be close to great American writers. We're proud to be offering a pamphlet signed by a certain Samuel Langhorne Clemens - better known to the world as Mark Twain.

PBA Galleries' sale in California and online closes at 11am PST.


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