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Thoreau, Henry David (1817-1862)

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Books & Manuscripts - 2483
Date / Time :
November 15, 2009 11:00AM


Thoreau, Henry David (1817-1862), Autograph manuscript from A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, two pages, undated, printed in part at page 333 of the first edition, paragraph one, line fifteen, written in ink, with numerous pencil redactions and edits, sheet size 9 7/8 x 7 3/4 in., (fold lines, with small fold separation, two small chips to upper edge, minor handling wear and light browning).

Text in full (redacted areas in brackets): "of anticipation of the last result, but a greater refinement already than is ever attained by man. There is papyrus by the riverside, and rushes for light, and the goose only flies over head, ages before the studious are born or letters invented, and that literature which, the former suggest, and ever from the first have rudely served, it may be man does not yet use them to express.

There is a sort of humanity in nature which is not identical with man's, which yet serves him [and serenely smiles on him], but would much more serve & bless the natural man with its sympathy. Material things are to some extent man's kindred, and subject to the same laws with him. He and they follow one fate. Ever a taper is his relative, and burns not eternally, but only a certain number of his hours. He sleeps, and ever he wakes a taper is extinguished. Those tapers the fixed stars, which are not both lit and burnt out in the life of a man but it may be in the life of the race, which will be found extinguished when woken from his waking sleep, are his more distant relatives. Yet the farthest and largest star is but a lamp to light the way for man. [Space is but so many of his hairsbreadth wide; the white crescent on his nail is the unit of measure even for starry distances; his middle finger measures how many digits into space; he extends a few times his thumb and finger, and the continent is spanned; he stretches out his arms, and the sea is fathomed. ] His hairsbreadth or his nail or his finger or his span or by his outstretched arms are the units of measure...for starry distance. [These things] So much is finite or measured by him & belongs wholly to the same sphere or natural dynasty with himself. He witnesses [their] its birth and [their] its decay. But what man's life does not thus embrace, he sees from one side, stationary and eternal, and it thrills him to behold.

I love to recognize my affinity to Nature in all things."
Estimate $4,000-6,000


Concord river, Merrimack river, Nail