Paris: from the press of François Bernouard, 71, Rue des Saints-Pères, 1919. Limited Edition. Stiff Wrappers. First Separate Edition of one of the three major poems of 1855 (with "I Sing the Body Electric" and "Song of Myself") merged in the first edition of Leaves of Grass, with plates designed and engraved on wood by Marcel Gaillard, limited to an edition of 250 numbered copies (this, no. 56) on Verge d'Arches paper. Royal 8vo (279 x 229mm): pp, with 16 plates. Faint speckling to covers, else a virtually pristine example (partially unopened). Myerson H63.1.a. Fine. Item #BB2313
In this, its final version, “The Sleepers” runs 184 lines, in free verse, divided into eight sections. Whitman's speaker has a vision of wandering through the night, viewing the sleeping bodies of various people around America. He sees both the wretched and the peaceful, entering, in turn, each sleeper's dreams: a girl waiting for her lover, a dead body interred, a swimmer torn by waves and rocks, President Washington at war, and Whitman's mother meeting a Native American woman. He dreams the dreams of various nationalities, of student and teacher, master and slave. Gaillard's (1886-1947) woodcuts are expressionist and powerful. "Here, the poet is the one wakeful presence in a sleeping world, 'bending with open eyes over the shut eyes of sleepers.' This is the essence of Whitman’s perspective. Others are at rest; he is restless. Others sleep together; he wanders alone. In sleep, others are all body and no consciousness; he is all consciousness, a floating eye recording the world from outside." (Matthew Aucoin, composer of “Crossing,” an opera based on Whitman’s Civil War diaries) N. B. With few exceptions (always identified), we only stock books in exceptional condition, carefully preserved in archival, removable mylar sleeves. All orders are packaged with care and posted promptly. Satisfaction guaranteed. (Fine Editions Ltd is a member of the Independent Online Booksellers Association, and we subscribe to its codes of ethics.).