In what was arguably one of the greatest books, content wise, produced by the Limited Editions Club (LEC), the 1942 edition of Leaves of Grass often leaves the reader speechless. The combination of America’s greatest poet, one of America’s greatest photographers (Edward Weston), and twentieth century America’s pre-eminent publisher of fine press books results in a book for the ages.
Despite 1,500 copies having been made, this edition is extremely hard to find, especially in near fine or better condition. Yet the effort, wait and value is well worth an extended search. The book exudes Americana, which perfectly reflects the spirit of Whitman. In turn, Weston’s photographs perfectly visualize the soul and spirit of Whitman’s masterpiece. The photographs are truly mesmerizing, along with Whitman’s words pulls the reader deep into the beauty, character and history of this nation. The landscapes, the cities, the ordinary citizens in portrait…my, what a picture Weston paints! The quality of the print reproductions is as good as I have ever seen in an LEC, the type is fantastic, the design wonderfully thought out. The use of paper boards, instead of leather, would be my only criticism.
Walt Whitman (1819-1892) is one of America’s greatest writers, whose poetry and essays have left an indelible mark on America and its culture. Along with Herman Melville‘s Moby Dick and Mark Twain‘s Huckleberry Finn, Leaves of Grass forms the absolute center of the American literary canon. It is as central to the American character and to the definition of America itself as democracy, individualism, apple-pie and motherhood! It is an American epic poem, praising nature and the individuals role in it. “I” is an important word, being the narrator in Song of Myself, and reflecting individualism and independence at the core of the American idea. Whitman incorporates transcendentalism and realism in his writings, and was very influential in his use of free verse. He worked on Leaves of Grass from 1950 through his death, with many editions in between, each adding to and modifying the previous.
Edward Weston (1886-1958) was a (some would say “the”) great American photographer of the twentieth century, extremely influential across many different subjects (landscapes, still lifes, nudes, portraits, etc.). His “Leaves of Grass” trip lasted almost 10 months, covering 24 states and nearly 25,000 miles. I would encourage Books and Vines readers to visit the web site of the Weston family, here. The site highlights the work of Edward Weston, the work of his sons, famous photographers in their own right, Cole and Brett, along with the work of Cole’s son Kim and daughter Cara. This is one family that demonstrates talent can run from generation to generation!
About the Edition
- Photographs by Edward Weston, from a tour across America in 1941/1942 that he took for this edition
- Introduction by Mark Van Doren
- Designed by George Macy
- Made at the Aldus Printers in New York
- Plates made by Pioneer-Moss
- Paper made by Worthy
- Binding done at Russell-Rutter
- Full imitation vellum
- Two volumes, 404 pages
- Limited to 1500 copies, mine is #1159
- Signed by Edward Weston
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