Henry Wadsworth Longfellow rare books and memorabilia
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow rare books and memorabilia are collectible items relating to American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
Longfellow was an esteemed college professor, but also the most popular American poet of his time. He wrote melodic lyric poems often focusing on mythological stories, and often with an underlying theme of moral and cultural values. His best-known works are The Song of Hiawatha and Evangeline. His first poetry collections were Voices of the Night (1839) and Ballads and Other Poems (1841). He was also an important translator, the first American to translate Dante. His translation of this work became representative of American high culture, and many felt a need to own it, as a collectible, even in its own time.
Types of rare books and memorabilia
- The Courtship of Miles Standish and Other Poems (1858), first American edition, inscribed by Longfellow. Sold for $5,760 in June 2005.
- Evangeline (1903), limited edition illustrated and signed by John H. Tearle, in an attractive binding. Sold for $4,600 in December 1999.
- The Complete Writings (1904), limited edition deluxe set of 11 volumes together with 4 volumes of Keats, similarly bound, sold for $3,750 in April 2008.
- A finely bound set of first editions of Longfellow’s works, 1839-63, uniformly bound. Sold for $3,055 in April 2000.
- Poems on Slavery (1842) first edition, sold for $1,135.25 in October 2010.
- The Song of Hiawatha (1891), limited edition copy, sold for $956 in October 2010.
Documents, Manuscripts and Autographs
- Handwritten manuscript of two stanzas of his poem The Building of the Ship, sold for $8,625 in October 1996.
- Handwritten transcript of The Children’s Hour, bound with two engraved portraits and other Longfellow items, sold for $7,200 in December 2005.
- Handwritten manuscript of poem Thou, too, Sail on, O Ship of State! signed by Longfellow. Sold for $7,767.50 in October 2009.
- A collection of correspondence from Longfellow to a family friend, many signed letters etc, sold for $5,625 in June 2010.
- Handwritten transcript signed by Longfellow of his poem ‘A Psalm of Life’. Sold for $2,000 in June 2010.
Guide for collectors
Due to their timeless and wide appeal, Longfellow’s works are often chosen as subjects for particularly decorative and valuable binding projects, or works to produce showcasing an artist or illustrator. Therefore copies of his poems are often beautifully bound or illustrated, the binding or artist making them particularly valuable and collectible. They are also often produced as a deluxe edition set of works in attractive bindings, occasionally coupled with collected works of other poets, to furnish private libraries etc.
Collecting all the first editions of Longfellow is a nice project for a collector, and this is often undertaken in order to have the collection uniformly bound for presentation. First edition copies of his work are not often put up for auction, and therefore real finds.
Longfellow’s works have become part of the American consciousness, his characters and phrases archetypal and symbolic, almost to the point of not knowing whether the poetry was born out of truth, or whether certain truths we accept are based on Longfellow’s poetry. He is a classic American writer, and is revered as such, items relating to his life and literature, including signed and handwritten documents, held in high regard by collectors. There are an unusually high number of handwritten copies of his poems in circulation, which can be sold for very large amounts.