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Walt Whitman at the Lilly

Leaves of Grass, 1856

Leaves 2nd edition

Walt Whitman. Leaves of Grass. Brooklyn, NY: [Fowler & Wells], 1856. PS 3201.L4 1856.

This is the spine of the second edition of Leaves of Grass, bound in green cloth, with gilt lettering.  The format (sextodecimo) is smaller than that of  the first edition and, with nearly 400 pages, much thicker.  The author's name, Walt Whitman, appears in copyright statement on the title page verso and on the spine. Whitman is still his own publisher, though the printing was done by Fowler & Wells.  On the backstrip in gilt is a sentence from Emerson's famous letter to Whitman, dated 21 July 1855, sent to the author in care of Fowler & Wells: "I greet you at the beginning of a great career.” Whitman’s name appears on the spine in gilt.   The edition also features an appendix (“Leaves-Droppings”), with reviews and the full text of Emerson’s letter, plus Whitman’s ten-page response.  Whitman had previously, and without Emerson’s authorization, released the letter to the New York Tribune, which printed it on October 10, 1855.  Whitman drafted several layouts for the spine of the volume, playing with options for dividing the lines of Emerson’s sentence.   Emerson was not pleased, and his future comments on Leaves of Grass (“an auctioneer’s inventory of a warehouse”) reflect his annoyance (Emerson to Carlyle, 6 May 1856).  Other changes from the 1855 edition are obvious:  the profuse ellipses used in the first edition have yielded to conventional punctuation, and all the poems have titles, which also appear in a reader-friendly table of contents.