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689   Henry David Thoreau  $1000 $1491 $1641 5 You must login to place a bid.

#689 - Henry David Thoreau

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Thoreau beholds Cape Cod’s Provincetown Harbor: “This was that city of canvas which we had seen hull down in the horizon”

Monumentally important and influential American author, philosopher, and naturalist (1817–1862) whose works take a place among the paramount texts of the Transcendentalist movement and of 19th-century literature as a whole. Exceptional handwritten manuscript draft page contained within the first volume of the 1906 ‘manuscript edition’ of his works, 7.5 x 9.5, no date but circa 1849. A page from Thoreau’s early draft of Cape Cod. In part: “So we went on to Race Point the extremity of the Cape—& finally to Provincetown at night—where the mackerel fleet had arrived before us and we counted 200 goodly looking schooners at anchor in the harbor—the same which we had now…yes black ships under bare poles. This was that city of canvas which we had seen hull down in the horizon. After spending a day in the desert behind Provincetown—which I have no time to describe we returned to Boston in the steamer. So we took leave of Cape Cod and its inhabitants. For the most part we saw only the back sides of the towns, but our story is true as far as it goes, and let not the inhabitants take offence because the whole is not told. We cannot say how their towns look in the face to one.” The sheet is professionally inlaid into a larger sheet, which was subsequently bound into the first volume of the twenty-volume set The Writings of Henry David Thoreau. Manuscript edition, limited issue, numbered 544/600. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1906. Hardcover, 6.25 x 9, 435 pages. Includes the remaining nineteen volumes of the set. Autographic condition: fine. Book condition: VG-/None.

Fifty years after Thoreau’s death in 1862, his manuscripts passed through a few hands until they were inherited by E. Harlow Russell. He then negotiated with publisher Houghton Mifflin to sell the literary rights of Thoreau’s unpublished journals, also selling at least six-hundred pages of his original manuscripts to the firm. These were then broken up and included, one page at a time, in the first book of each copy of this enormous twenty-volume limited ‘manuscript edition’ set. Thoreau most likely wrote this piece during the first of four trips he made to Cape Cod, which came between 1849 and 1857. Only four articles from that work appeared in print during Thoreau's lifetime—published in the summer and early fall of 1855 in Putnam's Monthly Magazine. The balance appeared in print posthumously in 1865, edited by his sister Sophia. Thoreau continually uses the pronoun “we,” referring to friend and walking companion, William Ellery Channing, who accompanied him on his visit to the Cape in October 1849. The pair travelded by rail to Sandwich, where they disembarked to hike northward along the beaches to Provincetown. They then returned to Boston on a steamer from Provincetown, as noted in Thoreau's manuscript passage. Only portions of this draft appear in the final work published in 1865. His initial impressions of the great mackerel fleet surviving in the most intact state, appearing on page 198 of this set’s fourth volume. Cape Cod is one of Thoreau’s lighter works, imbued with humor rather than the philosophical inclinations of his other essays. It is a masterful piece of vivid travel writing filled with Thoreau’s unfettered ebullience for nature. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA.

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