Tag Archives: Walden

‘Tis the Season: Gifts to the Rubenstein Library, Day Five

To celebrate the holiday season this week, we’re highlighting a few of the many wonderful books that the Rubenstein Library has received as gifts over the past year.  We are truly grateful for the generosity of our donors.  A hearty “Happy holidays” and thanks and to all of those who have contributed to making 2013 a wonderful year for the Rubenstein Library!

A beautiful copy of one of the pinnacles of American literature, the 1854 first edition of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden; or, Life in the Woods, has been donated to the Rubenstein Library by Professor Leland Phelps.


Thoreau’s genre-bending record of his experiment in simple living in the forest by Walden Pond has been an WaldenSpineCoverimportant influence and inspiration for literary scholars, naturalists, environmentalist, philosophers, economists, and many others for over 150 years.  While it was immediately recognized as an important work by many of Thoreau’s transcendentalist contemporaries, such as his friend (and owner of the land on which Thoreau  Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 2000 copies printed for the first edition took almost five years to sell.

The copy donated by Professor Phelps to Duke was formerly owned by Professor Frederick Whiley Hilles and is in excellent condition, with its original binding and remarkably bright pages.  Thanks to this gift, students and scholars at Duke will have the opportunity to experience this iconic text in its original form, nearly as it would have been encountered in 1854, fresh from the press.

Walden is one of the highlights of a large donation by Professor Phelps this year, which also includes other editions of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature such as a remarkable collection of William Faulkner’s works (including many first editions), and many important books in art and architecture.  We are honored by his support of the Rubenstein Library and thankful for his remarkable donation!