In September the Watkinson Library (which holds Trinity’s rare books and archives) announced an initiative to raise funds to acquire one of the greatest rarities of American literature—a first edition (1855) of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. There were 795 copies of the book printed in Brooklyn, New York in 1855, and less than 200 survive. There are only seven copies in Connecticut libraries—six of those are at Yale (the seventh is at Wesleyan). A copy recently sold for over $200,000 at auction, but we have an opportunity to acquire one for less than a third of that price. At this writing we have achieved 20% of our goal.
To help raise an awareness of this effort, there will be an “open mic” marathon reading of Whitman’s famous poem “Song of Myself” at Vernon Social on Thursday November 14, from 4:00–6:00pm. Several faculty have promised to read (including Chris Hager, Clare Rossini and Dan Mrozowski), and we’re hoping that students will get up in front of the micropohone and get creative! In the coming weeks we will offer an “art print” for sale, inspired by the book and created and produced by local letterpress shop “Hartford Prints!” Run by three sisters, this shop is on Pratt Street in downtown Hartford. Professor Clare Rossini’s First Year Seminar on poetry will be setting a few lines from Leaves of Grass in metal type, and printing them at Hartford Prints!—copies of which will be sent to donors of $50 or more with our thanks. Finally, in conjunction with the English Department, we will sponsor a public lecture on February 20th entitled “I pass so poorly with paper and types”: Walt Whitman’s First 795 Tries at Leaves of Grass” by Dr. Ed Folsom, who is the Roy J. Carver Professor of English at The University of Iowa, and a world authority on Whitman.
All donors who give $50.00 or more before December 31, 2013 will receive a letterpress printed broadside “honor roll” with his/her name under the following levels:
Patron of Letters ($5,000+)
Please contact me with further questions
With thanks and best wishes for the holiday season,