A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.

First Edition of Henry David Thoreau's First Book A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers; one of only 1000 copies printed

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.

THOREAU, Henry David.


Item Number: 103210

Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1862.

First edition, first issue, of Thoreau’s first book, one of only 1000 copies printed and 595 copies returned to Thoreau and purchased by Ticknor and Fields for reissue. Octavo, original publishers cloth stamped in blind with gilt titles to the spine. With the Ticknor and Fields cancel title leaf and advertisement at rear. From the library of American book collector and commodore of the New Rochelle Yacht Club Frank Maier with his illustrated bookplate to the pastedown. In near fine condition with the gilt lettering to the spine bright. Housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box. An exceptional example.

One of the best-known failures in American publishing history, Thoreau printed his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, at his own expense after several failed attempts to find a publisher. Despite some good reviews, the first edition (consisting of one thousand copies) did not sell. Thoreau wrote, “For a year or two past, my publisher, falsely so called, has been writing from time to time to ask what disposition should be made of the copies of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers still on hand, and at last suggesting that he had use for the room they occupied in his cellar. So I had them all sent to me here, and they have arrived today by express, filling the man’s wagon-706 copies out of an edition of 1000 which I bought of Munroe four years ago and have ever since been paying for, and have not quite paid for yet. The wares are sent to me at last, and I have an opportunity to examine my purchase… Of the remaining two hundred and ninety and odd, seventy-five were given away, the rest sold. I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself” (Harding, 254). In 1862, 595 copies of the first edition were bought from Thoreau by Ticknor and Fields and rebound with a new title page bearing their imprint and an original ad for Walden, which at that point had been in print for eight years.

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