Walt Whitman Inscribed “Memoranda”

Value (2009) | $10,000 Retail$12,000 Retail

My mother-in-law was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and she had a lot of interesting antiques and some interesting books. My husband and I were looking through her things, and we found it in the kind of bag you get when you buy a card. And she had just put it in there, I guess forgotten about it. And I know enough about books to know that, gee, if it's old it might be rare. And I knew enough about Walt Whitman to know that he self-published his own work. He had some problems with copyright law. He lived in Camden, which is where my mother-in-law's family had lived. And it's inscribed to her... I guess it's in 1875, so it would be many greats uncles.

It is Walt Whitman's memoranda of the war. And when you open it to the title page, you see that it is published in Camden, 1875-'76. And he was sort of a revolutionary poet in the way of the type of poetry he was writing, and couldn't get a lot of it published, but then did a lot of it himself. This is one of the books that is not as large in number as some of the others. But, of course, why we're really looking at the book is not the title page. It's this first page here. Right. And it's a very, very nice inscription-- "For the firemen at the house "corner of Fifth and Arch St, Camden, with best respects, WW," which, of course, is Walt Whitman. So, tell me about the firemen.

The firemen would have been her... I don't know my great-greats, but several-great-uncles. My husband and his brother, because they were men, never really took the DAR membership or any of the antiques seriously. And my husband's family lore was this Walt Whitman book. And we were always told, "Well, if you ever need any money, there's always the Walt Whitman book."

When you get into these books, one of the things you look for is the gold still bright, can you still read it, are the edges worn? There's a little tiny bit of wear. When you go through the book, a few of the pages are sort of stuck together, but's in very, very fine condition. The other thing about this book, though, is it's in a way a little bit unusual where he made this inscription because there was a remembrance edition of this. Now, in the remembrance edition, which was the first edition, here you would have a portrait of Walt Whitman, and you would also have a little slip saying it's that edition. So this actually is a slightly later edition of the book. But you have the great inscription. Now, what have you done on price? Have you looked it up?

Well, the family lore is that it could be worth anything from $100 to $10,000. And I did look online, and I saw another Walt Whitman memorandum of the war that was going for $8,000. But it was a first edition, and since you now tell me it's not a first edition, I know that that makes a big difference.

The fact that it's not a first edition is a little bit of a detraction. The fact, though, that it has a fabulous inscription just adds to it. Retail, it would be more a $10,000 to $12,000 book.


And that's even being a little bit on the conservative side.

If you don't mind, I'm going to cry. My mother-in-law's been dead for a while, and I just feel like I've justified her, and I want all the men in my family to listen to this. My mother-in-law was right. Well, she was right. I'm going to cry.

It's wonderful, and the inscription is what makes it. It's a great inscription. And thank you for bringing it.

Oh, thank you.

If this wasn't inscribed, it might be $800, $700, $500.

Appraisal Details

Brattle Book Shop
Boston, MA
Appraised value (2009)
$10,000 Retail$12,000 Retail
Atlantic City, NJ (June 06, 2009)
19th Century
Autograph, Book

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