Compass is an archive of Library news from 2005 - 2008. For the latest Library news check the Library Blogs.
Compass Newsletter Masthead
   Volume I, Issue 2
May 2005   

Falvey acquires first edition of Thoreau's "Walden"

What a difference 150 years make! Now a classic, Walden, or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau was published by Ticknor and Fields in 1854. At that time, the book received generally favorable reviews, but actual sales were slow. In fact, it took five years to sell the initial run of 2000 copies.

In March 1862 Thoreau wrote to Ticknor and Fields accepting their terms for a reprinting with one stipulation – they must omit from the title the words “Or, Life in the Woods.” The second printing consisted of only 280 copies. Since that time Walden has never been out of print. Published in many languages, there are currently 114 editions, including 17 audio recordings, of Walden listed in Books In Print.

Falvey Memorial Library’s Special Collections recently acquired a first edition of Walden. Scholars often use first editions to trace the history of changes within a text. According to Special Collections librarian Bente Polites, “First editions are extremely collectable and numerous book collectors place great value on these editions.”

Walden was published during the author's lifetime, and Thoreau undoubtedly influenced the presentation and design of the edition. The title page illustration of the cabin is actually a woodcut made by Thoreau's sister, Sophia Thoreau, who had firsthand knowledge of her brother's cabin.

Falvey’s recently acquired first edition of Walden was on display April 1, accompanying the talk “Walden at 150,” with special guests Jayne Gordon, executive director of the Thoreau Society and Ronald A. Bosco, past president of the Thoreau Society and an English professor at SUNY – Albany. Dr. Sterling Delano, professor, English department, Villanova University, moderated the talk.

Louise Green is associate director, Public Services; photograph by Laura Hutelmyer.