Leaves of Grass

"The Most Perfect Book We Ever Printed"

[GRABHORN PRESS]. WHITMAN, Walt. Leaves of Grass. Comprising all the poems written by Walt Whitman following the arrangement of the edition of 1891-'2. New York: Random House, 1930.

Limited to 400 numbered copies, printed by Edwin and Robert Grabhorn, San Francisco; this is copy number 392. Folio (14 1/2 x 9 7/8 in; 368 x 248 mm). 423, [1, blank] pp. Thirty-seven woodcuts by Valenti Angelo. Printed in handset Goudy New Style on Unbleached Arnold paper.

Original quarter red niger over Philippine mahogany boards. Publisher's device carved on front cover. Title black blindstamped on spine. A fine copy. In the original publisher's cardboard slipcase.

"One of the Fifty Books of the Year. The largest undertaking of the Grabhorn Press to date. It took over a year to print, and was partially set up many times before the printers achieved a satisfactory style. As originally planned, the book was to have no illustrations; and spaces were left at the beginning of all divisions for large script initials to be printed in vermilion. After the first initial was printed, however, the idea was abandoned because the letters were not of satisfactory design and because the whole effect was too spectacular; and the spaces left for initials were filled in with rough woodcuts made form very soft basswood" (Grabhorn Bibliography).

"And the California weather, the damp air, keeps the paper in the correct condition for printing. For instance, if you take a piece of paper, a hard hand-made paper that s half-way damp, it requires about one-quarter the quantity of ink to be black than if it s dry. If it s dry, it s like printing on a piece of tin, the paper is so hard and the ink won t take on it. We printed Leaves of Grass, 400 copies, 400 folio pages and every sheet of paper was dampened. And every sheet had to be kept at a uniform dampness, so I built a cupboard and lined it with an old blanket and kept the water in it. Every day I had to dampen a thousand sheets of paper to print the next day. There were 450 copies of the Leaves of Grass. Every day I dampened nine hundred sheets of paper and it would be right for printing by the next morning, not too wet. If the paper was too wet it would become too soft and the ink, being very stiff, would pull it into the rollersâ¦The life is taken out of the paper with the damp. I think that Leaves of Grass is the most perfect book we ever printed" (Ed & Ruth Grabhorn, Oral History Archive, University of California, Berkeley).

Grabhorn Bibliography 138. Huntington Library, Great Books in Great Editions, p. 65.

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