First EditionEmerson, Ralph Waldo. “Boston Hymn.” First Edition. Contained in an original issue of The Atlantic Monthly; A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art and Politics. February 1863. Boston, Ticknor and Fields. Issue No. 64. Continuously paginated 146- 272 plus ads. One of the country's oldest and most respected literary magazines. This one containing one of the first printings of Emerson’s famous poem “Boston Hymn,” written to commemorate Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and read that same day.
On the eve of the Civil War, Emerson was one of America’s most known and respected figures. He was approached in December 1862 to write a poem for Lincoln’s much anticipated announcement of Emancipation. On January 1, 1863, after Lincoln read his Emancipation Proclamation, Emerson read his “Boston Hymn” for the first time in the Boston Music Hall. His poem ties the proclamation to the broader campaign for the abolition of slavery and the Puritan notion of sacred destiny for America. "Boston Hymn" compares the Emancipation Proclamation with the Declaration of Independence, and hails the Proclamation as the more successful liberating document. In one stanza, it rejects the idea of slave owner reparations, calling instead for reparations to be paid to freed slaves for their labor:
Pay ransom to the owner,
And fill the bag to the brim.
Who is the owner? The slave is the owner,
And ever was. Pay him.
Emerson insisted that his name not be printed in the Boston Music Hall program for that day, and his presence was a surprise to many of the 3,000 guests. Boston Hymn was published January 24, 1863 in Dwight’s Journal of Music, and here in the Atlantic Monthly just after. Very good condition with all pages present. Original tan covers with vignette of the American flag. Name of early owner “Hon. John Boyd” pencilled to cover. Original ads and original pink ad slip with newspaper article affixed. A rare and historically important piece in the Emersonian canon.