The Essential Henry D. Thoreau Collection

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Disputed [ edit ] What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within out into the world, miracles happen. Pathak, Alan Escovitz, and Suzan Kucukarslan, p.

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Misattributed [ edit ] Truths and roses have thorns about them. This is commonly misattributed because Thoreau wrote it in his journal June 14, , but it was not original. This was a popular aphorism in his day, appearing in several collections of proverbs during his lifetime. Its origin is unknown, but it had appeared in print before his birth. None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm. Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.

No known citation Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it. No known citation to Thoreau's works. First found, uncredited, in the s in the variant "Success usually comes to those who are too busy to look for it", p. Google Books Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.

Misquotation of a line from Walden cited above, with the addition of a spurious ending. For this and other misattributions, see: The Henry D. WALDEN is one of those books that draws readers back for repeated readings, and it never disappoints. At the end of his time at Walden Pond two years, two months, and two days, beginning on July 4, he "left the woods for as good a reason as [he] went there.

Perhaps it seemed to [him] that [he] had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It is a fair comparison, one that begs to be made, since these are the only books Thoreau saw published in his lifetime, the second growing directly out of the first. In fact, when he published A WEEK, he made a point of advertising WALDEN as "soon to be published" --although his second book soon took on a life of its own and demanded five years and seven complete revisions before Thoreau thought it was ready.

Thoreau's first book had been an exploration of the distant world, a book whose travel required physical labor, with moments of insight in the presence of a companion, an outward journey followed by a return home, an account of moving --constant motion-- past stationary people and events on the banks of the rivers, with the best moments spent on water, a record of the events of two weeks condensed to half that time --a week-- for literary effect.

In WALDEN, the world close at hand is explored minutely, and the travel requires a spiritual receptivity for the inward journey that leads to a return to society, an account of the considerable physical labors involved in just staying put, the best moments spent with feet firmly planted on terra firma, with moments of insight occurring in solitude, constantly watching a parade of neighbors and travelers moving past his fixed point beside a body of stationary water, a record of the events of two years condensed down to the four seasons of a single symbolic year for literary effect.

The books were similar in both structure and in method of composition, but with one important difference. While revising A WEEK, Thoreau inserted bits of writings by others as well as entire essays into the narrative, giving his text a derivative rhetorical tone, and disrupting the flow of the personal narrative. When seen in the context of the weird mixture of popular and great literature that found its way into print in the s, WALDEN can be seen in a different light.

And which two books from this diverse group get read most often today? The reason why certain books endure tells us as much about our own times as Thoreau's, and reveal the common human bonds that connect us with the past and with each other. One of the celebrated passages in WALDEN is Thoreau's parable on one of the fundamental themes of the book: loss, searching, hope, and renewal.

This brief passage has created more confusion that any other words in the book. Thoreau was asked what it meant and replied "I suppose we all have our losses" and nothing more. It has also excited more speculation about its meaning than any other part of the book. Thoreau's enigmatic words are, "I long ago lost a hound --and a turtle dove and a bay horse --and am still on their trail. Many's the traveller I have spoken concerning them --describing their tracks and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who had heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud, and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.

Biographers have speculated that the death of Thoreau's brother, Ellen Sewall's refusal of his marriage proposal, and other disappointments can be identified as the turtle dove, horse, or hound. Such speculation misses the point. Thoreau himself made clear the point when asked: we all have our losses.

Thoreau could not write a life-affirming book like WALDEN and pretend that life exists without losses, failures, or disappointments. Whatever the losses are, he says, they are shared with others and they are never beyond hope of recovery. WALDEN is a chronicle of dualities: the spiritual and physical, the contrasting seasons each seemingly the best time of year, in its turn , the dawn and the dark, the cultivated fields and farms set against the wildness of untamed nature, the economic burdens of living that he records with the accuracy of a CPA and the lightness of being he describes when nature confronts him and vice versa , society and isolation, the land and the pond, the nearby train whose tracks still pass close to the pond and the virtues of walking, plumbing and pondering the depths of pond and sky, life and death, decay and renewal.

In his journal of October, , Thoreau wrote about the Indian mind, observing that Indians seemed the "very opposite" of the white mind. They measured life by winters rather than summers, and measured time by the moon rather than the sun, leading Thoreau to conclude they had "taken hold of the dark side of nature, the white man, the bright side. Always returning to the middle for balance, Thoreau found at Walden Pond whatever it was he had lost, and then turned away to live several more lives. Even his bean-field was only "half-cultivated" between total order and the untamed wild, with the result that he harvested not only beans for his efforts, but a good deal more.

Waxwork yellowing.

Recommended Reading: On Thoreau, Science, and Culture

The message of this lecture --really a sermon-- was that getting a living was only a means to living a life --and more often than not was at odds with living a life. This became a central theme in the several lives he would lead. The first of the nearly two-hundred editions of WALDEN that have been printed was officially published on August 9, in an edition of 2, copies.

The publication price was one dollar. There was only one printing, and although the publication date was August 9th, just over copies had been sold by that date, including shipments of 25 copies each to six different Boston area booksellers, a shipment to the New York bookseller, O. Roorbach, who bought copies the largest single order placed and a single copy to the Unitarian minister W. Alger of Boston, who strolled into the Old Corner bookstore on August 1st and bought the first copy sold. Alger was an acquaintance of Bronson Alcott, and twice mentioned Thoreau's writings favorably in magazine articles that he wrote, once quoting from WALDEN, and he even attended Thoreau's funeral.

Still another reader told Emerson that he thought the book was a "capital satire and joke" and that the map of the pond was a grand caricature of a Coast Survey map. Of those 2, copies, were excluded from royalty payments, indicating that they were the copies sent out for review usually copies for an edition this size and copies given to the author usually copies.

To secure English copyright, the law required that at least twelve copies had to be shipped to England and sold. James T. Fields, the publisher, happened to be making a trip over to England, and took copies with him for that purpose, but he became ill during the voyage and was unable to complete the journey, so whatever copies went to England were shipped by ocean steamer, but the number sent is unknown.

It was certainly no more than one hundred, and probably fewer. By orders had slowed to a trickle and the book finally went out of print. Two-thirds of the copies sold were purchased by New Englanders, but the largest single order went to New York, and quite a few went to booksellers in the south New Orleans, Savannah, Richmond where Transcendentalists were not thought to have had many sympathetic readers.

The 100 best nonfiction books: No 64 – Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854)

Then they ordered one more. Then two more. Then another two, and another two, and yet another single copy. By the end of the year they had bought thirty copies, never buying more than three at a time. Can you blame them for their lack of confidence? That's the good news. The bad news is that all of those who did exactly that have been dead now for nearly one hundred years.


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The fact that this book was produced in a single printing of 2, copies simplifies the bibliography, a fact that would be admired by Thoreau himself "simplify, simplify! Although 2, copies of the map of Walden Pond were printed, it is clear that some copies of the book were issued without the map inserted at page The map occurs in two states, one with the imprint perfect; the other with the imprint very faint or partly obliterated.

Henry David Thoreau - Wikipedia

In September, , another copies of the map were reprinted, probably due to spoilage or a snafu that resulted in sets of sheets not getting their maps inserted at the time they were folded and collated. Which state is earliest is unknown.

When the second printing of copies was done in , maps were printed for those copies. The imprint in those maps is perfect, but since that was a new printing, it does not serve as decisive evidence on the first two printings of the map. Besides, the damage to the imprint could have taken place during the first printing of the map and been corrected at that time.

Or, the plate could have been damaged before printing, and corrected at some point during the first printing when it was discovered. In any case, it is an insert, printed separately from the sheets of the book. Like the map, these ads were an insert, printed entirely separate from the sheets of the book. To fully understand the significance, or rather, the insignificance of these inserted ads, one must turn to the costbooks of the publisher. They also kept separate stockbooks, binding records, shipping records, daybooks, and other bookkeeping ledgers. The primary purpose of the costbooks was to record the production costs of each printing and reprinting of every publication.

These records were not kept in order to make life easy for future bibliographers and historians. The individual entries in the costbooks were not made on a daily or even weekly basis. Each entry was compiled by a clerk who gathered up all the receipts pertaining to a particular printing of a title, sometimes weeks or even months after the printing took place. Before making the entry, the clerk calculated the sums, and then entered only the essential information in the ledger. Many printings were never entered in the costbooks, errors are common, some entries are extremely detailed while others are incomplete, and when it comes to records of their monthly inserted catalogues, it is clear that even less effort was made to record their printings.

Their catalogues were generally printed in runs of 2, to 5, copies, and were seldom, if ever, printed in a number matching the print run of any book being printed at the same time. Some entries for the printing of catalogues don't even identify the month of the catalogue being recorded, but from the record that does exist, it is clear that catalogues were generally printed two to four weeks ahead of time, sometimes even six to eight weeks ahead of time, so that a book published in August like WALDEN could easily contain catalogues dated September --or even October.

This Ever New Self: Thoreau and His Journal

A notation and cost for "alterations" is often found indicating that a catalogue was being reprinted or updated, but it should be noted that from month to month, the content and prices usually did not change very much. They typically printed four-page catalogues that would be inserted at the front of their books, or else eight or twelve page catalogues that included more of their older titles, for insertion at the rear of their books.

In at least one case they printed a remarkable sixty page catalogue. The costbooks provide good evidence of the relation of their catalogues printings to their book printings, but the costbooks do not record the printings for the various catalogues used in WALDEN. The paper for Longfellow's book was delivered on September 26, , and 5, copies were printed on October 2, and bound copies were ready by the first week of November. Copies of this first printing are found with one of two different inserted catalogues, dated October and November, The vast majority have the November catalogue, and a study of early ownership inscriptions in surviving copies reveals that November catalogues were present in the very earliest copies sold.

A few of these September, catalogues found their way into copies of WALDEN, which was then being bound up in small batches as sales trickled in.

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But the timing and cost of this printing corresponds to a large printing of the November catalogue, and the cost would indicate a printing of roughly 5, copies. That same month 20, copies of the November catalogue were reprinted; it contains slight alterations that distinguish it from the earlier printing of this catalogue. Some of those later printings are found with the first printing of the November, catalogue even though several new catalogues had been printed during From the evidence in the costbooks and the evidence of surviving copies, two things become clear: 1.

Speculation about inserted catalogues has included the notion that the earliest catalogues were always used up first, and a contrary notion that the publisher made sure his most current catalogues were used first in their newest publications. While it is entirely possible that either of these practices may have been attempted at one time or another, in reality, the insertion of catalogues was a more or less random activity.

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