Henry David Thoreau collection

Collection Data

Description
Highlights of the collection include an important portion of the "Ktaadn" section of The Maine Woods; "Nature and Bird Notes, " a journal kept by Henry, John and Sophia Thoreau with leaves, grass and wild flowers laid in; and Thoreau's famous letter to his brother addressed to Sachem Hopeful of Hopewell and signed Tahatawan. The Berg also has a daguerrotype of Thoreau ("my friends think [it] is pretty good though better looking than I"), a pencil made by him (his father's company manufactured them), and an original pencil map of Walden Pond.
Names
Thoreau, Henry David, 1817-1862 (Creator)
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882 (Author)
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882 (Addressee)
Thoreau, Henry David, 1817-1862 (Author)
Thoreau, Henry David, 1817-1862 (Addressee)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1837 - 1917
Library locations
Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature
Shelf locator: Berg Coll MSS Thoreau
Topics
Thoreau, Henry David, 1817-1862
Transcendentalism (New England)
Nature study
Genres
Diaries
Correspondence
Manuscripts
Notes
Content: Approximately thirty-five manuscripts and manuscript fragments, journals and a common place book as well as thirty-two letters to numerous recepients and incoming material from over fifty correspondents.
Biographical/historical: Brief Biography H. D. Thoreau (1817-1862) was born in Concord, Massachusetts where he lived most of his life. There he came to know and be associated with the New England Trancendentalists, a group that included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller, Jones Very, Elizabeth Peabody and Orestes Brownson. Describing himself for a questionnaire he filled out on the tenth anniversary of his graduation from Harvard, Thoreau wrote, "I am a Schoolmaster-a private Tutor, a Surveyor-a Gardener, a Farmer-a Painter, I mean a House Painter, a Carpenter, a Mason, a Day-Laborer, a Pencil-Maker, a Glasspaper Maker, a Writer, and sometimes a Poetaster." In 1845 he moved to Walden Pond where he remained for a little over two years. The simplicity with which he lived allowed him to work only six weeks each year and devote the rest of his time to writing and living. It was during this time that he wrote A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849) and the draft of Walden; Or, Life in the Woods (1854). Some of his writing from this time is in the Berg Collection. A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers was not published until 1849 when he guaranteed to reimburse the publisher for any loss. Of the one thousand copies printed, only two hundred were sold. When the remainder were returned to Thoreau, he wrote in his journal, "I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself." Walden, when it was eventually published in 1854, was more warmly received (although it did not go into a second printing until after his death). In 1846, to demonstrate his opposition to slavery and the U. S. government's legal recognition of it, Thoreau refused to pay his poll tax. His goal was to stay in prison until attention was called to his protest. To his dismay, the tax was paid anonymously and he was released after one night. The experience resulted in the influential book now titled Civil Disobedience. Henry David Thoreau's writing and life have been claimed as inspiration for a remarkably diverse group of people that includes artists, writers and politicians from many countries and eras. Among them are John Cage, Robert Frost, Ghandi, John F. Kennedy, Jack Kerouac, Sinclair Lewis, Henry Miller, Marcel Proust, Man Ray, Diego Rivera, Robert Louis Stevenson, Gene Tunney, N. C. Wyeth and Frank Lloyd Wright. Chronology 1817 Born 12 July in Concord, Massachusetts, to John and Cynthia (Dunbar) Thoreau. 1828-33 Attended Concord Academy 1833-37 Attended Harvard College 1837 Taught briefly at Concord Center School (public). 1838-41 Conducted a private school in Concord with his elder brother John. 1839 Went on boating excursion on Concord and Merrimack rivers with his brother John. 1840 Poems and essays published in Dial. 1841-43 Lived with Ralph Waldo Emerson and his family in Concord. 1842 Brother John died suddenly of lockjaw. "Natural History of Massachusetts" published. 1843 "A Walk to Wachusett" and "A Winter Walk" published. Tutored William Emerson's children on Staten Island, New York 1844 Accidentally set fire to woods in Concord with Edward Hoar. 1845-47 Lived in small house on shore of Walden Pond. 1846 Traveled to Maine woods; spent one night in jail for refusing to pay poll tax. 1847-48 Lived in Emerson household while Ralph Waldo Emerson lectured in England. 1848 Began career as professional lecturer; "Ktaadn and the Maine Woods" published. 1849 A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and "Resistance to Civil Government" published. Traveled to Cape Cod; Sister Helen died, apparently of tuberculosis. 1850 Traveled to Cape Cod and Quebec. 1853 Traveled to Maine woods; portions of "A Yankee in Canada" published. 1854 Walden; or, Life in the Woods and "Slavery in Massachusetts" published. 1855 Portions of "Cape Cod" published; traveled to Cape Cod. 1856 Surveyed Eagleswood Community near Perth Amboy, New Jersey. May-June: Wrote passages in journal explicitly about succession of forest trees. November: Discussed spontaneous generation of plants with Horace Greeley. 1857 Traveled to Cape Cod and Maine woods; "Chesuncook" published. 1858 Traveled to White Mountains in New Hampshire. 1859 Father, John, died; "A Plea for Capt. John Brown" published. 1860 1 January: Discussed Darwin's On the Origin of the Species (published in London, 24 November 1859) with friends. February: Read and copied extracts from On the Origin of Species. 20 September: Sent "The Succession of Forest Trees" published in New-York Weekly Tribune. October-November: Visited local woodlots almost daily; drafted many passages in journal later used in The Dispersion of Seeds; began expanding "The Succession of Forest Trees" into The Dispersion of Seeds. December: Worked on Wild Fruits manuscript. 3 December: While researching tree growth, contracted a severe cold, which rapidly worsened into bronchitis and kept him housebound. 11 December: Delivered last lecture, "Autumnal Tints," in Waterbury, Connecticut 30 December: Responded to Horace Greeley's letter of 13 December about spontaneous generation of plants. 1861 January-February: Continued work on Wild Fruits manuscript. 2 February: Letter of 30 December 1860 to Greeley denying possibility of spontaneous generation published in New-York Weekly Tribune. March-early May: Worked on The Dispersion of Seeds. 12 May-14 July: Traveled to Minnesota with Horace Mann, Jr., in effort to regain health.12 May-14 July: Traveled to Minnesota with Horace Mann, Jr., in effort to regain health. 1862 Prepared earlier lecture-essays for publication in anticipation of death. Died 6 May in Concord, Massachusetts *From Faith in a Seed: The Dispersion of Seeds and Other Late Natural History Writings (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1993).
Content: The Berg Collection's manuscript holdings by Henry David Thoreau are varied. They include approximately thirty-five manuscripts and manuscript fragments, journals and a common place book. In addition, there are thirty-two letters to numerous recipients as well as in-coming pieces from over fifty correspondents. Highlights of the collection include an important portion of the "Ktaadn" section of The Maine Woods; "Nature and Bird Notes," a journal kept by Henry, John and Sophia Thoreau with leaves, grass and wild flowers laid in; and Thoreau's famous letter to his brother addressed to Sachem Hopeful of Hopewell and signed Tahatawan. The Berg also has a daguerreotype of Thoreau ("my friends think [it] is pretty good though better looking than I"), a pencil made by him (his father's company manufactured them), and an original pencil map of Walden Pond.
Content: Other Resources The Faith in a Seed manuscript, part of the Berg Collection's holdings, has been published in its entirety as Faith in a Seed: The Dispersion of Seeds and Other Late Natural History Writings, edited by Bradley P. Dean (Washington, D.C. & Covelo, CA: Island Press/Shearwater Books, 1993). More recently, Mr. Dean edited Wild Fruits(New York & London: W. W. Norton, 2000), the publication of Thoreau's rediscovered last manuscript which is in the Berg Collection cataloged under "Notes on Fruits." In addition, The Windhover Press of The University of Iowa and The New York Public Library published Huckleberries(1970), a limited edition publication that draws from Dispersion of Seed and Wild Fruits, two manuscripts at the Berg. One of the editors, Alexander C. Kern, explains in the preface, "Though Thoreau had made no fair copy, he worked out the sequence of his projected text from version to version with carets, numbers, interlineations, marginal notes, and cancel line. Thus despite leaps in the pagination (not Thoreau's own) of the manuscript, there is usually direct evidence for Thoreau's intended sequence…Thus we have an essay entirely in Thoreau's words and almost exactly in the sequence he had planned." In addition to the Berg Collection, several other repositories hold major collections of Henry David Thoreau's manuscripts. One of them is the Manuscript & Archives Division of The New York Public Library. A list of their holdings follows, with location information given in brackets. Manuscripts Letters Other repositories that hold major collections of Thoreau include the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York City; Houghton Library at Harvard University; the Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA; the C. Waller Barrett Library at the University of Virginia; the Abernethy Library at Middlebury College; and the Concord Free Public Library. For more information, see The Literary Manuscripts of Henry David Thoreau by William L. Howarth (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1974). Works Cited
Funding: Digitization was made possible by a lead gift from The Polonsky Foundation.
Ownership: This is a "synthetic" collection, created from a number of sources since Thoreau's manuscripts were first dispersed after his sister Sophia's death in 1876. Most of the manuscripts and letters arrived in the Berg Collection in 1941 when the W. T. H. Howe and Owen D. Young collections were acquired. Most of Howe's collection appears to have been bought from the Wakeman (1924) and Bixby (1931) estates, as well as from Houghton Mifflin (1927). A significant acquisition was also made by the Berg when Warren H. Colson's collection was sold in the 1958.
Physical Description
Extent: 2.6 linear ft. (ca. 80 items)
Type of Resource
Text
Identifiers
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b15520476
MSS Unit ID: 19098
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 671d26d0-f962-0139-90b7-0242ac110002
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