He may not be topping the best-seller list, but the great American poet and humanist Walt Whitman set a sales record Wednesday at Christie's.
A first edition of "Leaves of Grass," printed for the author, sold for $305,000. That was more than twice Christie's estimate of $100,000 to $150,000, and it marked a world auction record for Whitman.
The previous record for a Walt Whitman book was $230,500, also for a copy of "Leaves of Grass." That one was sold by Sotheby's in October 2011. It's not the most expensive book ever auctioned, of course. That honor is still held by the Bay Psalm Book that went at Sotheby's last fall for $14.2 million.
But Whitman's sudden price spike shows that even though the mass book market may be dying, a select few highly rare books are soaring in value on the back of the broader boom in collectibles for the wealthy.
"The market for fine and rare books has always been a relatively steady one, given the passionate nature of private collectors for rare items and first editions," said Tom Lecky, Christie's head of books and manuscripts in New York.