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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The First Leaves of Grass

Janice of Cow Hampshire emailed me about an unusual research request she received. Researchers at the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review are compiling a census of extant copies of the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass. One of the copies was described as follows:

Bookplate from Newton Hall, Cambridge on front pasted-down endpaper; Inscriptions on front free endpaper: "Anson G.P. Segur Feb 13th 1856", "Bought by A.C. Smith".
Janice had little trouble assembling an impressive dossier on Anson G. P. Segur (there have been surprisingly few men of that name), but A. C. Smith remains a mystery.

The 1900 census for Brooklyn, N.Y., gives Anson's birth date as February 1839, so the book could have been a gift on his 17th birthday. But who was A.C. Smith? Was he the original purchaser (as the Whitman researchers assume), or did he purchase the book from Anson? If the latter, I wonder if he was Albridge Clinton Smith, in 1880 a lawyer in Dover, New Jersey—the same town where Anson was mayor, 1871-1873.

Feel free to find evidence to support or demolish my theory.

Janice

You did a brilliant job researching this, Chris.

Janice

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