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Item 510 - Henry David Thoreau Catalog 593 (Oct 2020)

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Minimum Bid: $1,000.00
Sold Price: $18,781.25 (includes buyer's premium)


ALS signed “D. H. Thoreau,” one page both sides, 7.75 x 9.5, Cambridge, June 22, 1837. Letter to John, in full: “I can write you nothing definite with regard to a room. I spoke with Mr. Lavering upon the subject, and he tells me that he has already received a number of applications, but is so circumstanced as not to be able to return any positive answer at present. However, he says he will remember you, and inform me of the result. I have called upon Mr. Mason some half-dozen times but have not found him. I understand that the next class will be a large one—three will enter from Andover. Yours in haste, D. H. Thoreau. Ps. June 24th—I have at last seen Mr. Mason, and have the pleasure of informing you that Holworthy No 9, the room under him, will be reserved for you. He had a deal to say about quiet, regularity, and order, and inquired particularly with regard to the character of your charm—indeed he was apprehensive on this point, as to have no objections to your rooming alone if you choose.” Panel on reverse of second integral page is addressed in Thoreau’s hand to “Mr John Keyes, Concord Mass,” and bears a June 24, Cambridge, MA, postmark stamp. Fragile intersecting folds (one vertical fold passing through a single letter of the signature), many folds with partial separations, a light overall shade of toning and mild scattered soiling, a small area of dampstaining to the lower border (slightly affecting the paraph), show-through from writing to opposing sides, a small area of paper loss to second integral page from original wax seal, and some scattered foxing to second integral page, otherwise very good condition.

As Thoreau was completing his studies at Harvard in 1837, childhood friend and former Concord Academy classmate John Shepard Keyes was just about to begin his. Helping Keyes secure residence in the bustling college town, Thoreau penned this quick note and signed “D. H. Thoreau”; shortly after graduation he inexplicably reversed the order of his first and middle names, signing himself ‘Henry David’ or ‘H. D.’ from that point forward. Upon his return to Concord that summer, he began his lifelong friendship with Ralph Waldo Emerson who introduced him into the local literary scene and encouraged him to contribute essays to The Dial, where he began to make a name for himself. This letter to Keyes (who would also connect with Emerson years later, when his daughter married Emerson’s son Edward) highlights a crucial year in the renowned author’s life, and has never before been published. Anything signed by Thoreau is highly sought after and incredibly rare; but even more rare are the few pieces signed “D. H. Thoreau,” before unofficially changing his name. This is the only such example we have ever seen, an extraordinary literary treasure.

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