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Lot #400
Henry David Thoreau: Walden; or, Life in the Woods (First Edition)

Scarce first edition of Thoreau's enduring work on self-reliance: Walden; or, Life in the Woods

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Estimate: $8000+
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Scarce first edition of Thoreau's enduring work on self-reliance: Walden; or, Life in the Woods

Rare first edition book: Walden; or, Life in the Woods by Henry D. Thoreau. First edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1854. Hardcover bound in original publisher's brown cloth with blind-embossed boards and gilt-lettered spine, 5 x 7.25, 357 pages, plus 8 pages of publisher's advertisements in the rear (dated September 1854). Complete with lithographed map of Walden Pond facing page 307. Book condition: VG/None, with some chipping and fraying to head and tail of spine, infilled abrasion to lower left of front board, and slightly bumped corners. Accompanied by a custom-made clamshell case.

First printed by Ticknor and Fields in 1854 in an edition of just 2,000, Thoreau's Walden has become one of the enduring works of 19th-century American literature—a philosophical exploration of nature, manly self-reliance, and a life modeled on simplicity. In the second chapter, Thoreau famously proclaims the purpose of his experiment: 'I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.'

Reference: BAL 20106.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autograph and Artifacts
  • Dates: #674 - Ended September 13, 2023