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Finding Aids for Manuscripts at Individual Repositories

Guide to the Walt Whitman Poetry Manuscripts in The Oscar Lion Collection of Walt Whitman, The New York Public Library

Original records created by the New York Public Library, Louis M. Stark et al. (1953); machine-readable finding aid created by David Dodson and Terry Catapano; revised and expanded by the Walt Whitman Archive and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries. Encoded Archival Description completed through the assistance of the Gladys Kreible Delmas Foundation, the University of Nebraska Research Council, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services.


Title: The Oscar Lion Collection of Walt Whitman

Collection Number: N/A


Creator:  Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892


Repository:  New York Public Library
Scope and Content: 
In May, 1953, Mr. Oscar Lion presented to The New York Public Library a portion, and deposited there the remainder, of his remarkable collection of books, letters and manuscripts by or about Walt Whitman. Brought together during some thirty-five years of enthusiastic collecting, Mr. Lion's Whitmaniana totals over five hundred pieces, some of which are of great rarity and significance for the study of Whitman's life and writing.

Biographical Information:
For additional biographical information, see "Walt Whitman," by Ed Folsom and Kenneth M. Price, and the chronology of Whitman's Life.

Subjects:
Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892;  Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892--Manuscripts;  Poets, American--19th century; 

Title: Container List
Title: Poems

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00078
Title:  "Night of south winds" | "The crowds naked in the bath"
Date: about 1855
Physical Description: 1 leaf, approximately 19.5 x 19 cm., handwritten
View Images:  1  |  2 
Bound by collector. Includes language that appeared in the first poem of the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, later "Song of Myself," section 21. On the verso, lines related to a different section of the same poem, eventually section 31.

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00079
Title:  "vain the mastodon" | "How mean a person is sometimes"
Date: about 1855
Physical Description: 1 leaf, 18.5 by 19.7 cm., irregularly, handwritten
View Images:  1  |  2 
On one side are draft lines for the first poem of the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, eventually titled "Song of Myself." These lines are from sections 31 and 32, as numbered in the 1891-92 edition. On the verso are two prose notes, the first about the frequent meanness of men of high social standing and the second about the wisdom of keeping "clean inside and out." The leaf was formerly cut between the verso-side notes, probably by Whitman, and has been rejoined.

Title: Leaves of Grass. Brooklyn, New York, 1855.
Physical Description: 4 p. 1., xii, (1) 14-95 p. , 30 cm., front. (port.)
Images: forthcoming
Second copy. In original pink paper covers. Whitman's own copy, with his ms. note: 2d & fullest version of original edition 1855-56. With 8 booklets of manuscript, 52 leaves in all, fastened in, and typed copies of six of them laid in. With autograph of Horace L. Traubel, 1892, and his ms. note about the finding of this copy. With holograph letter of Anne Montgomerie Traubel to Oscar Lion, dated May 12, 1928, describing the finding of this copy after Whitman's death.

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00080
Title: Notes "Passage to India"
Date: about 1871
Physical Description: 23 leaves, numbered 1-21, with pages designated "5 1/2" and "5 3/4.", 25.2 by 20 to 31.2 by 20.5 cm., handwritten with printed clippings
View Images:  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  |  9  |  10  |  11  |  12  |  13  |  14  |  15  |  16  |  17  |  18  |  19  |  20  |  21  |  22  |  23  |  24  |  25  |  26  |  27  |  28  |  29  |  30  |  31  |  32  |  33  |  34  |  35  |  36  |  37  |  38  |  39  |  40  |  41  |  42  |  43  |  44  |  45 
Revised draft of "Passage to India." The draft is accompanied by a typewritten memorandum by Emory Halloway, typewritten letters from Amy Lowell and Clifton Joseph Furness to Oscar Lion.

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00081
Title:  "Old Age Echoes" | "Camden"
Date: 1889-1891
Physical Description: 1 leaf, 20.1 by 19.5 cm, handwritten
View Images:  1  |  2 
Lightly revised draft of a poem titled "Sounds of Winter too." "Sounds of the Winter" was one of four poems belonging to the "Old Age Echoes" group first published in Lippincott's Magazine 47 (March 1891) and then reprinted in Good-bye My Fancy (1891). The writing on the verso (not in Whitman's hand) makes reference to Good-Bye My Fancy and to "Sounds of Winter," as well as to a "Putnam 1902 Edition." There is also a postmark dated 18 October 1889. In brown leather volume of Whitmaniana.

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00082
Title:  "The Biography"
Date: before 1867
Physical Description: 1 leaf, 18 by 11 cm, handwritten
View Images:  1  |  2 
Heavily revised draft of the poem "When I Read the Book" that extends onto the verso. The poem was first published in the 1867 edition of Leaves of Grass with the title, "When I Read the Book." In brown leather volume of Whitmaniana.

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00083
Title:  "Have I no word for thee" | "To the Year 1889"
Date: about 1889
Physical Description: 1 leaf, 12.5 by 19.5 cm, handwritten
View Images:  1  |  2 
About seven lines, with revisions, toward the poem "To the Year 1889." The writing on the verso (not in Whitman's hand) makes reference to the title of this poem, as well as to Good Bye My Fancy and a "Putnam 1902 Edition." "To the Year 1889" was published first on January 5, 1889, in the Critic. The poem was later retitled "To the Pending Year." In brown leather volume of Whitmaniana.

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00015
Title:  "The Blue Book"
Date: about 1860
Physical Description: 243 leaves, handwritten
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Of nearly as much significance as Whitman's copy of the 1855 Leaves is his copy of the Boston, 1860-61 edition, the famous "Blue Book." It is this volume, in blue paper wrappers, which was discovered in Whitman's desk by Secretary of the Interior James Harlan, leading to his dismissal from the Department on June 30, 1865. Documenting this event in Whitman's life in Washington, the Lion Collection also includes a group of seven letters and documents relating to his work in the Departments of the Interior and Treasury. Among these are Secretary Harlan's letter of dismissal, and a memorandum in Whitman's hand recording a conversation with W. T. Otto of the Interior Department about the finding of the "Blue Book" in Whitman's desk.The book itself, possibly the only known copy in contemporary wrappers, uncut, is heavily corrected and revised throughout in Whitman's hand, in preparation for later editions. It is another remarkable example of his lifelong habit of editing and rewriting his poems. The flyleaf is inscribed: Property of Horace L. Traubel. Received from Walt Whitman May 23d 1890 - W. saying: "You fellows value these curios more than I do. This will help you to see how the book grew, if that is anything. But I guess you would know how it grew if you never possessed the book. The book is a milepost . . . This gives a glimpse into the work shop . . ."


Restrictions: Access to the collection is restricted to qualified scholars and researchers through the Office of Special Collections, Room 316, Humanites and Social Sciences Library, New York Public Library. Requests for reproduction and/or permission to quote must be made in writing to the Curator and be accompanied by Estate permission.

Alternative Format: Digital images of some items are available in the "Manuscripts" section of the Archive.

Preferred Citation:  To identify this finding aid as a source, see the Archive's "Conditions of Use" page.


Repository Contact Information:
New York Public Library
Humanities and Social Sciences Library
Room 320
5th Avenue and 42nd Street
New York, NY 10018-2788


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Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.