Walt Whitman and the Development of Leaves of Grass

Introduction | Island 1 | Island 2 | Island 3 | Island 4

Island 4: Endings

Specimen Days & Collect (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1882-83 [i.e., 1888])
Myerson A 11.1.b2

This volume of prose contains a brief autobiography, a revised version of Memoranda During the War, and a miscellany of nature notes, diary entries, and essays. The book was first printed by Rees Welsh in the fall of 1882, but it was taken over by McKay later that same year. McKay bound the book uniformly with a printing of the seventh edition ofLeaves and presented to books as a two-volume Complete Works. This is one of three known copies from the second issue, with the title page bearing "1882-'88."

Leaves of Grass (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1884 [i.e., 1888])
Myerson A 2.7.k3

David McKay issued printings of the seventh edition of Leaves of Grass in 1882, 1883, 1884, and 1888. This copy is from the third issue of the edition's eleventh printing, and it includes a twenty-two page annex, "Sands at Seventy," at the back of the book. Between 1882 and October of 1891, the firms of Rees Welsh and David McKay sold a total of 6414 copies of the seventh edition. Whitman's royalties for these sales totaled $2244.90, or just 34¢ per copy. Four hundred export copies brought him an addition $70.

Complete Poems and Prose of Walt Whitman, 1855-1888 (Philadelphia: Ferguson Bros., 1888)
Myerson A 2.7.m, binding A

This is yet another printing (the thirteenth) of the seventh edition of Leaves of Grass, this time with Whitman's prose works appended to the back of the book. This copy is designated as an "authenticated and personal book" which has been handled by Whitman, and it also contains portraits and an autograph. Six hundred copies of Complete Poems and Prosewere printed, and Whitman designed the spine label for this alternate binding variant.

Leaves of Grass with Sands at Seventy and A Backward Glance O'er Travel'd Roads(Philadelphia: Ferguson Bros., 1889)
Myerson A 2.7.n, binding A

The 1889 "birthday edition" of Leaves of Grass is actually the fourteenth printing of the seventh edition. It is the culmination of Whitman's long-time desire to publish a pocket-size edition of his work, and only three hundred copiers were printed. This copy bears on the first fly-leaf the inscription "E E Read from his friend the author" and is signed by Whitman on the title page.

This copy was a gift to the library from the collection of Clifford Odets.

Good-Bye My Fancy. 2d Annex to Leaves of Grass (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1891)
Myerson A 13, binding C

With Horace Traubel's assistance, Whitman was able to come out with this small issue of prose and poetry. After publiction, the plates were repaginated 407-422 and used as an annex to the 1891 Leaves of Grass.

Leaves of Grass; Including Sands at Seventy, Goodbye My Fancy, and A Backward Glance O'er Travel'd Roads (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1891-'2)
Myerson A 2.7.l2

The 1891-92 "Deathbed Edtion" of Leaves of Grass is in fact the second issue of the seventh edition's twelfth printing; the annexes are also reprintings. With his health failing, Whitman "created" this final "edition" of Leaves of Grass by using sheets from an 1888 printing. He bound them with cancel title and contents leaves and with the annexes appended at the back. Whitman wrote for this edition "An Executor's Diary Note, 1891" which states "that whatever may be added to the Leavesshall be supplementary, avowed as such, leaving the book complete as I left it." Whitman knew that he had little time left and that this would be his last edition. The book appeared for sale early in 1892, and Whitman died in his Camden, New Jersey home on March 26 of that year.


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