Boston: Small, Maynard, & Company, 1898. Octavo, measuring 7.75 x 5 inches: , viii, , 201, . Original red buckram, printed paper spine label, all edges untrimmed. Frontispiece portrait of Walt Whitman opposite title, portrait of Louisa Whitman and facsimile of a July 1863 letter inserted in text. Replacement spine label tipped in at rear. Signed by editor on limitation page. Penciled bookseller notes to preliminaries, tiny chip to edge of paper spine label.
First edition, first issue, of Walt Whitman’s wartime correspondence, one of sixty copies with tissue-guarded illustrations printed on Japan paper and a facsimile letter, signed by the editor. The Wound Dresser opens with Whitman’s poem of the same name, followed by his Civil War journalism for the New York Times and Brooklyn Eagle, and the private letters he sent home to his mother from the military hospitals of Washington, D.C., where he nursed countless Union soldiers. The letters are a monument to the bravery of those young men, many of whom died with only Whitman to record their end. Outside the wards, Whitman reports a sighting of Abraham Lincoln: “I had a good view of the President last evening. He looks more careworn even than usual, his face with deep cut lines, seams, and his complexion gray through very dark skin – a curious looking man, very sad. I said to a lady who was looking with me, ‘Who can see that man without losing all wish to be sharp upon him personally?’” The final letters, written in 1864, show Whitman’s own health declining under the strain of the work: “one of these days, if I live, I shall have awful thoughts and dreams – but it is such a great thing to be able to do some real good.” The first issue of sixty large-paper copies precedes the more common trade issue; this copy out of sequence. Myerson A15.1.a. A near-fine copy, signed by editor Richard Maurice Bucke.