The first edition of Leaves of Grass contained only twelve untitled poems and a long preface in prose. Less than 900 copies were printed in July 1855, with the author assisting the printer in the type composition and presswork. The volume was first placed for sale at two dollars, but was later reduced to one dollar. Very few copies sold, Whitman giving almost the entire edition to critics and friends. Whitman claimed that after years of competing for "the usual rewards", he determined to become a poet. He first experimented with a variety of popular literary genres which appealed to the cultural tastes of the period. As early as 1850, he began writing what would become Leaves of Grass, a collection of poetry which he would continue editing and revising until his death. Whitman intended to write a distinctly American epic and used free verse with a cadence based on the Bible. At the end of June 1855, Whitman surprised his brothers with the already-printed first edition of Leaves of Grass. George "didn't think it worth reading."