The New Walden

A new hardcover edition of Thoreau’s masterpiece, annotated for modern readers. Beautifully designed & illustrated. Printed to last for generations.

Update – June 18, 2022: We are thrilled to announce that thanks to a generous private investment, The New WALDEN is fully funded! We now have guaranteed funds to produce a limited edition of 1,000 books.

Our preorder campaign will continue until August 5, at which point this page will convert to a typical Shopify store until the full inventory sells out.

If we exceed 1,000 preorders before the campaign ends, this exclusive edition will be fixed at that final quantity.

Friends, to be clear: unless the sky falls on our heads, this book will be produced! It’s happening, even if we reach less than 1,000 preorders on August 5. This is no longer an all-or-nothing fundraising campaign. The New Walden will move into production in September. Barring a deterioration in the supply chain for materials, your book will ship in November – with time to spare before the holidays.

Closing the Gaps

When I first read Walden, my personal battles with burnout and a certain “quiet desperation” were still very fresh.

Thoreau’s ideas about consumerism, busyness, and humankind’s place in the natural world struck me as uncannily relevant to the problems we face today. I shared my enthusiasm for the book with anyone willing to listen. But I kept having to couch my recommendations: “This is a wonderful book, but the 19th-century language can be hard to digest. It’s full of beauty and wisdom, but the first chapter is a tough hill to climb. But stick with it, and you’ll be glad you did!” The bevy of buts bothered me. I didn't want to keep telling people they should read Walden – BUT ...

While Walden has always been a challenging book, the evolution of language over the past two centuries has made it harder for modern readers to get into the text.

What’s more, there seemed to be a design gap among the many editions of Walden. After first reading the book on a tablet, I went hunting for an archival edition to keep near my other favorite books. Given Walden’s status as a classic, I was sure someone somewhere had made an edition that looked and felt like a genuine reflection of the story. An heirloom that could last for hundreds of years. To my surprise, I couldn’t find one still in print.

I’m creating a newly annotated and illustrated hardcover edition of Walden that I hope will address both problems.

Photoengraving of Henry David Thoreau by Eugene A. Perry, 1924, after an 1861 ambrotype by Edward Sidney Dunshee

Background

It’s 1845. A young man named Henry David Thoreau builds a small cabin on the shore of Walden Pond near his hometown of Concord, Massachusetts. He wants to create a quiet place where he can write, live simply in the thick of nature, and, in his own words, “suck all the marrow out of life.”

Thoreau lived on the Pond for two years and two months. Walden is the account of his experiment and reflections during that time. First published in 1854, Walden is a heady mix of memoir, philosophy, satire, and nature writing. In Walden, Thoreau observed that many people were spending their lives chasing after possessions and comforts that would never satisfy. He discovered that when we reject greed, simplify our lives and pursue living in the present, a quiet revolution takes place inside the spirit and ripples outward into everything we do and everyone we meet.

“A century and a half after its publication, WALDEN has become such a totem of the back-to-nature, preservationist, anti-business, civil-disobedience mindset, and Thoreau so vivid a protester, so perfect a crank and hermit saint, that the book risks being as revered and unread as the Bible.” – John Updike

The best books are timeless. Only the ongoing transformation of language leaves them behind. By creating accessible notes that illuminate archaic words and references that may be obscure to many readers, we can preserve the original text and shed new light on it simultaneously.

I’ve found the perfect co-editor in Corinne H. Smith. She’s a seasoned writer, a published author and poet and a longtime member of the Thoreau Society. She’s written two books on Thoreau: Henry David Thoreau for Kids and Westward I Go Free: Tracing Thoreau’s Last Journey. I’m deeply grateful for her thorough research and insights.

What Makes this Edition New?

If you really want a book to last, you need a solid slipcase. Ours will be clothbound, with a rocky image printed directly onto the cloth.

The front cover: clothbound, foil-stamped, simple and sturdy.

Annotated editions of Walden already exist, some of which include abundant commentary. That’s great for academic study, but a delightful reading experience for both newcomers and longtime fans is our primary goal.

Our annotations are relatively sparse. We don’t want to create a study companion as much as an unobtrusive guide for newcomers and longtime fans alike. The goal is to leave you alone with the text as much as possible while offering enough insight so you can keep that smartphone in your pocket.

Much of Walden remains accessible by today’s standards. We’ve simply elucidated the archaic words and idioms in Walden, as well as the cultural, historical and literary references that Thoreau used to embellish and connect his thoughts. And when untranslated Latin and Greek appear in the text, we’ve included the English translation in the margins.

As Corinne says in our foreword, “Why did Thoreau reach across the Atlantic Ocean and back in time to make his points? Well, he could call up these references because he was an avid reader. And in his day, he had only a few truly American sources to draw relevant quotes from. He didn’t have what we have today: a Thoreau to quote from.”

We’ve also created a brand-new section of prose poems selected from some of Thoreau’s most arresting sentences in Walden (more on that below!).

Some annotated books use footnotes or endnotes, which can be tedious and fussy, forcing you to hunt for references. Superscripts and subscripts clutter the page like typographic mosquitoes and create distractions. Instead, our notes are set off in the margins like little prayer flags, right next to the lines they elucidate.

Additionally, we’ve updated the structure of Walden, but not in a way that changes Thoreau’s words or rearranges them in any way. Thoreau loosely arranged the book to follow the progression of seasons, so we simply created four sections of similar length along discernible lines of thematic drift and gave each section or “book” its own title. And that long first chapter? We’ve turned “Economy” into the first book and broke it down into six chapters, yielding twenty-three chapters of similar length. The new structure creates a more sustainable pace and a better rhythm.

Opening spread of Book One

Our table of contents, showing the new structure

Timeless Design

A well-designed book is a tangible reflection of the story and its author’s values. Thoreau was an early advocate for conservation, and sustainability is critical to this project. From cover cloth to paper and ink, all of this edition’s materials will be high-quality, archival, durable and responsibly made.

Not all book printers are made equal. I’m working with Memminger MedienCentrum in Germany. They produce some of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen for discerning publishers like The Folio Society and Writ Press.

Imagery

I’ve created four full-color illustrations, one for each book. I gathered images from open-source archives and combined them with my own drawings to create scenes that blur the line between the material and the imaginative. This library-punk approach makes sense for Walden: Thoreau was a bookish scavenger himself.

Economy.

Thoreau wrote in “Economy” about the “vital heat” or life force within us and what it actually takes to maintain life and limb. I couldn’t find a suitably old-fangled picture of Walden Pond, so I made my own from disparate parts. Thoreau maintained his own vital heat through several trades; in addition to writing, he was a surveyor – hence the topographic drawing in the sky. The handwriting here is Thoreau’s.

Living.

In the original 1854 edition, the only image is an ink drawing of the cabin by Thoreau’s sister Sophia. A revamp of the original drawing seemed sensible for the second book, but elevated – a “castle in the air” – as if a giant had scooped up Thoreau’s little plot in the woods and set it afloat in the sky.

Neighbors.

In book three, Thoreau described the people, creatures and scenery that kept him company. “In warm evenings I frequently … [played] the flute, and saw the perch, which I seem to have charmed, hovering around me, and the moon travelling over the ribbed bottom…”

Dawn.

Walden ends with a burst of light: “The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.” At the beginning of our last section, an older Thoreau – based on Edward Sidney Dunshee’s 1861 ambrotype taken some 14 years after he moved away from the Pond – floats atop the same sky-island from “Living.” Sunrise glows within him.

What began as a handful of illustrations has grown into a total of sixteen.

I’m working with a colleague and dear friend, Benji Haselhurst, on a series of twelve single-color illustrations that will be scattered throughout the book. We took inspiration for these minimal and evocative images from Thoreau’s own sketches in his journals.

I made the slipcase and endpaper images by digitally painting and interweaving public-domain photos taken by NASA’s HiRISE camera. That’s not a picture of New England granite, nor is it even on planet Earth – it’s Mars! This approach was inspired by something Thoreau wrote about his cabin in Walden’s second chapter (chapter 7 in our edition):

“Where I lived was as far off as many a region viewed nightly by astronomers. We are wont to imagine rare and delectable places in some remote and more celestial corner of the system, behind the constellation of Cassiopeia’s Chair, far from noise and disturbance. I discovered that my house actually had its site in such a withdrawn, but forever new and unprofaned, part of the universe.”

Typography

Typography is at the heart of this book’s design. After extensive research and testing, I decided against using fonts based on those from Thoreau’s day. Most of them felt either too stiff or too ornate for this project. I wanted something that was not only effortless to read but also crisp, energetic and timeless in its design.

Thoreau had French Huguenot ancestry on his father’s side. I wanted a typeface that felt efficient and relatively anonymous, with just a little Gallic flair. Lyon Display and Lyon Text, from Commercial Type, fit the bill. Type designer Kai Bernau created the Lyon Collection as a contemporary rendition of serif typefaces created by the 16th-century French designer and printer Robert Granjon. Furthermore, Lyon’s optical variations allowed me to use a single font family – ideal for a book about simplicity.

Prose Poems

Thoreau was a poet, but his best poetry was hidden in his prose. This edition features a curated selection of Walden’s most lyrical passages, presented as prose poems and arranged by theme – 23 themes, all told, ranging from appreciation and awakening to living in nature, local wilderness, simplicity, solitude and more. By setting these selections in prose form rather than lineated verse, we can maintain the original format while highlighting each passage’s aesthetic.

Refund, Return & Exchange Policy

You’ll be billed immediately upon checkout, whether you buy a book before or after the preorder closes. Thanks to the investment we’ve received, this book will be produced whether we reach our preorder goal or not.

If you preorder a book and request a refund at any point before the preorder ends on August 5, 2022, we will refund your payment in full. After the preorder closes, we will not allow returns or issue refunds for change of mind.

Our return policy lasts 30 days. If 30 days have gone by since your purchase, unfortunately we can’t offer you an exchange.

We will only replace books if they are proven to be damaged. If you need to make an exchange, please inform us first by sending an email and attach a downloadable photo of the damaged product to hey@steelbrothers.co. We’ll send you instructions about where to return your book, and we’ll cover any shipping charges incurred.

If you haven’t received an agreed refund, first double-check your bank account. Then contact your credit card company, as it may take some time before your refund is officially posted. Next, contact your bank. There’s often some processing time before a refund is posted. If you’ve done all of this and you still haven’t received your refund, please contact us at: hey@steelbrothers.co.

Table of Contents

ECONOMY
Quiet Desperation
Vital Heat
Building
Farming
Furnishing
Goodness

LIVING
Where I Lived, and What I Lived For
Reading
Sounds
Solitude
Visitors
The Bean-Field

NEIGHBORS
The Village
The Ponds
Baker Farm
Higher Laws
Brute Neighbors

DAWN
House-Warming
Former Inhabitants and Winter Visitors
Winter Animals
The Pond in Winter
Spring
Conclusion

Prose Poems
About the Author
Acknowledgments
Colophon

Book Specifications

  • Printed in Germany by Memminger MedienCentrum
  • Approximately 6.7" × 9" (169 × 231 mm)
  • 352 pages
  • Hardcover, bound in pure organic cotton from Bamberger Kaliko
  • Sewn binding with rounded spine for nearly-flat opening
  • Full-color printed slipcase, bound in pure rayon from Bamberger Kaliko
  • Two-color foil-stamping on the front, back and spine
  • Black head and tail bands
  • Black ribbon bookmark woven of pure cotton by La Stéphanoise
  • Printed in five colors on Munken Lynx, an FSC®-certified, premium uncoated paper
  • Full-color endpapers
  • 4 full-color illustrations by Matt Steel and 12 one-color illustrations by Benji Haselhurst
  • First-ever selection of prose poems, drawn from Thoreau’s most lyrical passages
  • Signed and numbered if the stretch goal of 2,000 preorders is met or exceeded by August 5, 2022

174 backers ($19,080.00)

36 days until pre-order campaign ends

Currently, we are:

17% to funded
The New Walden will go to press at 1,000 preorders. Books will be signed and numbered if we reach 2,000 by August 5, 2022. Powered by craigstarter.

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A Note on VAT & Customs:
We offer the best rate available to us for tracked, worldwide shipping from the US. However, most European & Canadian buyers will have an additional import customs VAT / processing fee payment upon arrival of the book. Please keep this in mind. It averages about 15–30 Euros depending on the country. Thank you in advance for your understanding.

Update – June 18, 2022: We are thrilled to announce that thanks to a generous private investment, The New WALDEN is fully funded! We now have guaranteed funds to produce a limited edition of 1,000 books.

Our preorder campaign will continue until August 5, at which point this page will convert to a typical Shopify store until the full inventory sells out.

If we exceed 1,000 preorders before the campaign ends, this exclusive edition will be fixed at that final quantity.

Friends, to be clear: unless the sky falls on our heads, this book will be produced! It’s happening, even if we reach less than 1,000 preorders on August 5. This is no longer an all-or-nothing fundraising campaign. The New Walden will move into production in September. Barring a deterioration in the supply chain for materials, your book will ship in November – with time to spare before the holidays.

Closing the Gaps

When I first read Walden, my personal battles with burnout and a certain “quiet desperation” were still very fresh.

Thoreau’s ideas about consumerism, busyness, and humankind’s place in the natural world struck me as uncannily relevant to the problems we face today. I shared my enthusiasm for the book with anyone willing to listen. But I kept having to couch my recommendations: “This is a wonderful book, but the 19th-century language can be hard to digest. It’s full of beauty and wisdom, but the first chapter is a tough hill to climb. But stick with it, and you’ll be glad you did!” The bevy of buts bothered me. I didn't want to keep telling people they should read Walden – BUT ...

While Walden has always been a challenging book, the evolution of language over the past two centuries has made it harder for modern readers to get into the text.

What’s more, there seemed to be a design gap among the many editions of Walden. After first reading the book on a tablet, I went hunting for an archival edition to keep near my other favorite books. Given Walden’s status as a classic, I was sure someone somewhere had made an edition that looked and felt like a genuine reflection of the story. An heirloom that could last for hundreds of years. To my surprise, I couldn’t find one still in print.

I’m creating a newly annotated and illustrated hardcover edition of Walden that I hope will address both problems.

Photoengraving of Henry David Thoreau by Eugene A. Perry, 1924, after an 1861 ambrotype by Edward Sidney Dunshee

Background

It’s 1845. A young man named Henry David Thoreau builds a small cabin on the shore of Walden Pond near his hometown of Concord, Massachusetts. He wants to create a quiet place where he can write, live simply in the thick of nature, and, in his own words, “suck all the marrow out of life.”

Thoreau lived on the Pond for two years and two months. Walden is the account of his experiment and reflections during that time. First published in 1854, Walden is a heady mix of memoir, philosophy, satire, and nature writing. In Walden, Thoreau observed that many people were spending their lives chasing after possessions and comforts that would never satisfy. He discovered that when we reject greed, simplify our lives and pursue living in the present, a quiet revolution takes place inside the spirit and ripples outward into everything we do and everyone we meet.

“A century and a half after its publication, WALDEN has become such a totem of the back-to-nature, preservationist, anti-business, civil-disobedience mindset, and Thoreau so vivid a protester, so perfect a crank and hermit saint, that the book risks being as revered and unread as the Bible.” – John Updike

The best books are timeless. Only the ongoing transformation of language leaves them behind. By creating accessible notes that illuminate archaic words and references that may be obscure to many readers, we can preserve the original text and shed new light on it simultaneously.

I’ve found the perfect co-editor in Corinne H. Smith. She’s a seasoned writer, a published author and poet and a longtime member of the Thoreau Society. She’s written two books on Thoreau: Henry David Thoreau for Kids and Westward I Go Free: Tracing Thoreau’s Last Journey. I’m deeply grateful for her thorough research and insights.

What Makes this Edition New?

If you really want a book to last, you need a solid slipcase. Ours will be clothbound, with a rocky image printed directly onto the cloth.

The front cover: clothbound, foil-stamped, simple and sturdy.

Annotated editions of Walden already exist, some of which include abundant commentary. That’s great for academic study, but a delightful reading experience for both newcomers and longtime fans is our primary goal.

Our annotations are relatively sparse. We don’t want to create a study companion as much as an unobtrusive guide for newcomers and longtime fans alike. The goal is to leave you alone with the text as much as possible while offering enough insight so you can keep that smartphone in your pocket.

Much of Walden remains accessible by today’s standards. We’ve simply elucidated the archaic words and idioms in Walden, as well as the cultural, historical and literary references that Thoreau used to embellish and connect his thoughts. And when untranslated Latin and Greek appear in the text, we’ve included the English translation in the margins.

As Corinne says in our foreword, “Why did Thoreau reach across the Atlantic Ocean and back in time to make his points? Well, he could call up these references because he was an avid reader. And in his day, he had only a few truly American sources to draw relevant quotes from. He didn’t have what we have today: a Thoreau to quote from.”

We’ve also created a brand-new section of prose poems selected from some of Thoreau’s most arresting sentences in Walden (more on that below!).

Some annotated books use footnotes or endnotes, which can be tedious and fussy, forcing you to hunt for references. Superscripts and subscripts clutter the page like typographic mosquitoes and create distractions. Instead, our notes are set off in the margins like little prayer flags, right next to the lines they elucidate.

Additionally, we’ve updated the structure of Walden, but not in a way that changes Thoreau’s words or rearranges them in any way. Thoreau loosely arranged the book to follow the progression of seasons, so we simply created four sections of similar length along discernible lines of thematic drift and gave each section or “book” its own title. And that long first chapter? We’ve turned “Economy” into the first book and broke it down into six chapters, yielding twenty-three chapters of similar length. The new structure creates a more sustainable pace and a better rhythm.

Opening spread of Book One

Our table of contents, showing the new structure

Timeless Design

A well-designed book is a tangible reflection of the story and its author’s values. Thoreau was an early advocate for conservation, and sustainability is critical to this project. From cover cloth to paper and ink, all of this edition’s materials will be high-quality, archival, durable and responsibly made.

Not all book printers are made equal. I’m working with Memminger MedienCentrum in Germany. They produce some of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen for discerning publishers like The Folio Society and Writ Press.

Imagery

I’ve created four full-color illustrations, one for each book. I gathered images from open-source archives and combined them with my own drawings to create scenes that blur the line between the material and the imaginative. This library-punk approach makes sense for Walden: Thoreau was a bookish scavenger himself.

Economy.

Thoreau wrote in “Economy” about the “vital heat” or life force within us and what it actually takes to maintain life and limb. I couldn’t find a suitably old-fangled picture of Walden Pond, so I made my own from disparate parts. Thoreau maintained his own vital heat through several trades; in addition to writing, he was a surveyor – hence the topographic drawing in the sky. The handwriting here is Thoreau’s.

Living.

In the original 1854 edition, the only image is an ink drawing of the cabin by Thoreau’s sister Sophia. A revamp of the original drawing seemed sensible for the second book, but elevated – a “castle in the air” – as if a giant had scooped up Thoreau’s little plot in the woods and set it afloat in the sky.

Neighbors.

In book three, Thoreau described the people, creatures and scenery that kept him company. “In warm evenings I frequently … [played] the flute, and saw the perch, which I seem to have charmed, hovering around me, and the moon travelling over the ribbed bottom…”

Dawn.

Walden ends with a burst of light: “The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.” At the beginning of our last section, an older Thoreau – based on Edward Sidney Dunshee’s 1861 ambrotype taken some 14 years after he moved away from the Pond – floats atop the same sky-island from “Living.” Sunrise glows within him.

What began as a handful of illustrations has grown into a total of sixteen.

I’m working with a colleague and dear friend, Benji Haselhurst, on a series of twelve single-color illustrations that will be scattered throughout the book. We took inspiration for these minimal and evocative images from Thoreau’s own sketches in his journals.

I made the slipcase and endpaper images by digitally painting and interweaving public-domain photos taken by NASA’s HiRISE camera. That’s not a picture of New England granite, nor is it even on planet Earth – it’s Mars! This approach was inspired by something Thoreau wrote about his cabin in Walden’s second chapter (chapter 7 in our edition):

“Where I lived was as far off as many a region viewed nightly by astronomers. We are wont to imagine rare and delectable places in some remote and more celestial corner of the system, behind the constellation of Cassiopeia’s Chair, far from noise and disturbance. I discovered that my house actually had its site in such a withdrawn, but forever new and unprofaned, part of the universe.”

Typography

Typography is at the heart of this book’s design. After extensive research and testing, I decided against using fonts based on those from Thoreau’s day. Most of them felt either too stiff or too ornate for this project. I wanted something that was not only effortless to read but also crisp, energetic and timeless in its design.

Thoreau had French Huguenot ancestry on his father’s side. I wanted a typeface that felt efficient and relatively anonymous, with just a little Gallic flair. Lyon Display and Lyon Text, from Commercial Type, fit the bill. Type designer Kai Bernau created the Lyon Collection as a contemporary rendition of serif typefaces created by the 16th-century French designer and printer Robert Granjon. Furthermore, Lyon’s optical variations allowed me to use a single font family – ideal for a book about simplicity.

Prose Poems

Thoreau was a poet, but his best poetry was hidden in his prose. This edition features a curated selection of Walden’s most lyrical passages, presented as prose poems and arranged by theme – 23 themes, all told, ranging from appreciation and awakening to living in nature, local wilderness, simplicity, solitude and more. By setting these selections in prose form rather than lineated verse, we can maintain the original format while highlighting each passage’s aesthetic.

Refund, Return & Exchange Policy

You’ll be billed immediately upon checkout, whether you buy a book before or after the preorder closes. Thanks to the investment we’ve received, this book will be produced whether we reach our preorder goal or not.

If you preorder a book and request a refund at any point before the preorder ends on August 5, 2022, we will refund your payment in full. After the preorder closes, we will not allow returns or issue refunds for change of mind.

Our return policy lasts 30 days. If 30 days have gone by since your purchase, unfortunately we can’t offer you an exchange.

We will only replace books if they are proven to be damaged. If you need to make an exchange, please inform us first by sending an email and attach a downloadable photo of the damaged product to hey@steelbrothers.co. We’ll send you instructions about where to return your book, and we’ll cover any shipping charges incurred.

If you haven’t received an agreed refund, first double-check your bank account. Then contact your credit card company, as it may take some time before your refund is officially posted. Next, contact your bank. There’s often some processing time before a refund is posted. If you’ve done all of this and you still haven’t received your refund, please contact us at: hey@steelbrothers.co.

Table of Contents

ECONOMY
Quiet Desperation
Vital Heat
Building
Farming
Furnishing
Goodness

LIVING
Where I Lived, and What I Lived For
Reading
Sounds
Solitude
Visitors
The Bean-Field

NEIGHBORS
The Village
The Ponds
Baker Farm
Higher Laws
Brute Neighbors

DAWN
House-Warming
Former Inhabitants and Winter Visitors
Winter Animals
The Pond in Winter
Spring
Conclusion

Prose Poems
About the Author
Acknowledgments
Colophon

Book Specifications

  • Printed in Germany by Memminger MedienCentrum
  • Approximately 6.7" × 9" (169 × 231 mm)
  • 352 pages
  • Hardcover, bound in pure organic cotton from Bamberger Kaliko
  • Sewn binding with rounded spine for nearly-flat opening
  • Full-color printed slipcase, bound in pure rayon from Bamberger Kaliko
  • Two-color foil-stamping on the front, back and spine
  • Black head and tail bands
  • Black ribbon bookmark woven of pure cotton by La Stéphanoise
  • Printed in five colors on Munken Lynx, an FSC®-certified, premium uncoated paper
  • Full-color endpapers
  • 4 full-color illustrations by Matt Steel and 12 one-color illustrations by Benji Haselhurst
  • First-ever selection of prose poems, drawn from Thoreau’s most lyrical passages
  • Signed and numbered if the stretch goal of 2,000 preorders is met or exceeded by August 5, 2022