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Walt Whitman papers, 1841-1940, bulk 1841-1891 28 Linear Feet

Collection includes correspondence separated into two subseries: "Letters To or About Walt Whitman," and "Letters From or By Walt Whitman." Most of Whitman's letters in the collection were written between 1880 and 1891. Letters include those written to and from friends, family members, editors, publishers, and soldiers Whitman met in and around Washington, D. C. during the Civil War. The Clippings Series includes both large groups of clippings collected and annotated by Whitman, and clippings Whitman took from complete or nearly complete articles. Also included are manuscripts and printed materials about or relating to Whitman, most of which date during Whitman's lifetime. There are portraits, etchings, engravings, and sketches both of Whitman and of his brother, George, and sister, Hannah. A Writings Series contains manuscript and printed versions of poetry and prose dating from Whitman's career in journalism up to the end of his life. It is divided into four subseries: Manuscript Poems (1855-1882 and undated); Manuscript Prose (1852-1891 and undated); Proofs (1874-1891 and undated); and Periodicals Containing Contributions by Whitman (1841-1891).

The Walt Whitman papers incorporates material spanning the dates 1841-1940, with the bulk of the material dating from 1841-1891. The virtual reorganization of the collection, based upon that devised by Ellen F. Frey in A Bibliography of Walt Whitman (Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1945), divides it into six series: Correspondence, Writings, Clippings, Material About or Relating to Whitman, Portraits, and Miscellany.

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Correspondence is separated into two subseries: "Letters To or About Walt Whitman," and "Letters From or By Walt Whitman." Most of Whitman's letters in the collection were written between 1880 and 1891. The Clippings Series lists both large groups of clippings collected and annotated by Whitman, and clippings Whitman took from complete or nearly complete articles. Whenever possible, these have been dated according to the periodical in which the articles originally appeared. Material About or Relating to Whitman is comprised of subseries that catalog manuscript versions of Richard Maurice Bucke's biography of Whitman, as well as other manuscript material written by Whitman or recorded by his friends. The Portraits Series includes formal photographic and painted portraits, etchings, engravings, and sketches, both of Whitman and of his brother, George, and sister, Hannah. The Miscellany consists of ephemera related to Whitman's life and career as a poet. Two scrapbooks, book wrappers for the first edition of Leaves of Grass, and documents relating to the Whitman fund are listed among this series' eclectic contents.

By far the largest series in the collection, the Writings Series contains manuscript and printed versions of poetry and prose dating from Whitman's career in journalism to the end of his life. It is divided into four subseries: Manuscript Poems (1855-1882 and undated); Manuscript Prose (1852-1891 and undated); Proofs (1874-1891 and undated); and Periodicals Containing Contributions by Whitman (1841-1891). The first subseries, "Manuscript Poems," is further subdivided into categories intended to define three separate levels of poetic composition: manuscript versions of poems that appear in at least one edition of Leaves of Grass, manuscript versions of poems not published in Leaves of Grass, and verse fragments and outlines. The researcher is advised to consult the NYU Collected Writings of Walt Whitman, particularly Harold W. Blodgett and Sculley Bradley, eds., Leaves of Grass: A Comprehensive Reader's Edition (New York: NYUP, 1965), pp. 585-706, for publication of previously uncollected material. Although older, Oscar Lovell Triggs, ed., Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, vol. 3 of 10 (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1902) and Clarence Gohdes and Rollo G. Silver, eds., Faint Clews and Indirections: Manuscripts of Walt Whitman and His Family (Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1949) are also helpful, the former particularly when used alongside Frey's Bibliography.

The Manuscript Prose Subseries in the Writings Series is further divided into seven categories. The first three are comprised of manuscript versions of stories, prefaces, and essays and lectures, respectively. Four less distinct subheadings follow. "Notes on Literature" represents an almost exact transliteration of Frey's category of the same name, however it should be noted that this category does not, at the time of writing, list all of Trent's holdings in Whitman's literary-critical manuscripts. Some literary criticism is contained in "Autobiographical Manuscripts" and "Whitman on His Own Writings," along with more purely impressionistic self-reflection. "Miscellany" should also be consulted, as it brings together in an unsystematic way Whitman's notes on travel, reading, and education as well as a scattering of notes on poetry and different forms of literary production.

The last two subseries of the Writings Series bring together various published versions of Whitman's writing. Annotated proofs of his poetry and prose are identified in the finding aid, and cross-references are included between the Proofs Subseries and the Periodicals Containing Contributions by Whitman Subseries in instances where the collection lists both a proof and a published version of a poem or article among its headings. The Periodicals Containing Contributions by Whitman Subseries provides a survey of his writing during his lifetime.

Many published works by and about Walt Whitman and housed in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library have been cataloged individually. These can be found by searching the Duke online catalog.