First Edition, First Printing, of Thoreau's First Book
THOREAU, Henry D[avid]. A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. Boston and Cambridge: James Munroe and Company, 1849.
First edition, first printing, first issue, of Thoreau's first book. Twelvemo (7 3/4 x 4 3/4 inches; 197 x 122 mm.). 413, [1, blank], [1, publisher's advertisements ("Will Soon Be Published, Walden, or Life in the Woods. By Henry D. Thoreau")], [1, blank] pp.
Original brown cloth (BAL binding variant A, Trade Binding) with five-rule border stamped in blind on covers. Spine lettered in gilt with rules and decorative leaf-design stamped in blind. Original buff endpapers. Some wear to spine extremities. Contemporary ink signatures on first preliminary blank. Armorial bookplate of Jacob Chester Chamberlain on front pastedown, with his acquisition slip tipped in between the rear endpapers: From "Chew Col." (filled in in pencil) Through "Dodd, Mead & Co." (filled in in pencil) and Date "Dec 27/00" (filled in in pencil) "J.CC." Sold at the Chamberlain sale of First Editions of Ten American Authors, The Anderson Auction Company, February 16 and 17, 1909. With a note by a later owner inserted discussing its purchase from Seven Gables Bookshop in New York in 1951. Some neat marginal pencil notes and underlining. The three lines of type dropped by the printer on p. 396 are provided in pencil, with Chamberlain's note concerning this textual point.
A spectacular copy, totally untouched. The gilt on the spine is bright and fresh. Chemised in a full dark green straight-grain morocco pull-off case by Bradstreet.
"A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers was made up largely—probably almost entirely—from Thoreau's Journal from the period of his earliest journalizing in 1837 to the time of the completion of the manuscript, which was probably 1847" (Allen, p. 4).
"1,000 sets of sheets printed at the author's expense. 550 were bound as needed. Published 26 May 1849…A Week did not sell well and on 28 October 1853 the 706 remaining copies (256 bound copies and 450 in sheets) were shipped back to Thoreau to spend the next nine years in his attic bedroom, with Thoreau occasionally selling copies or distributing them to friends. On 12 April 1862 Ticknor and Fields bought the remaining 145 bound copies and the 450 in sheets for 40¢ each. The 450 sets of sheets were bound with a new title page tipped in for a second issue" (Borst).
"On the page proofs Thoreau asked the printer to increase the space between two paragraphs at the bottom of page 396. The printer omitted entirely the following three lines: ‘winter before any thought will subside; we are sensible that behind the rustling leaves, and the stacks of grain, the the bare clusters of the grape, there is the field of a'. Thoreau sometimes wrote in the missing lines" (Borst).
"Thoreau writes: ‘I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself. Is is not well that the author should behold the fruits of his labor?…There was just one piece of good luck in the venture. The unbound were tied up by the printer four years ago in stout wrappers, and inscribed,—H.D. Thoreau's Concord River 50 cops. So Munroe had only to cross out 'River' and write 'Mass.' and deliver them to the expressman at once. I can see now what I write for, the result of my labors…I believe that this result is more inspiring and better for me than if a thousand had bought my wares'" (Allen, pp. 3-4).
Allen, p. 1. BAL 20104. Borst A1.1.a1.
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