Main content

Walt Whitman manuscript


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

American poet Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, in West Hills, Long Island, New York, and died of illness on March 26, 1892, in Camden, New Jersey. Whitman is best known for his collection of poetry,

Leaves of Grass, which was first published in 1855. Whitman continued to revise and rework his Leaves of Grass for the remainder of his life, ultimately producing nine different editions, each featuring further revisions, new poems, and some deletions of earlier poems. In 1881, Whitman settled on the final arrangement of Leaves of Grass and subsequently made no further revisions to the core text. All new poems written after 1881 were added to Leaves of Grass as annexes to the 1881 edition; the final authorial edition of his poems, the so-called "death-bed" edition, appeared in 1892, shortly before his demise.

"Walt Whitman." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. (accessed March 2011). Whitman, Walt. Notes and Fragments. Ed. Richard Maurice Bucke. London, Ontario, Canada: Printed for the Editor by A. Talbot & Co., 1899.

This collection consists of an undated, untitled holograph Walt Whitman poem, later published, posthumously, as "186" and "187" in

Notes and Fragments (1899).

The poem is inscribed in Whitman's hand on a remaindered piece of ruled Department of Justice stationery. It consists of two passages or fragments which were later published posthumously in the 1899

Notes and Fragments. The passages were published as "first drafts and rejected lines and passages, mostly very fragmentary, from 'Leaves of Grass,' largely antecedent to the 1855 edition" by the book's editor, Richard Maurice Bucke, who had received the manuscripts in his capacity as one of Whitman's literary executors. The passages are not titled in the manuscript; Bucke identified them as "186" and "187". "186" is inscribed on the recto of the leaf, with some additional corrections by Whitman (first line: "The same old mystery and problem"). "187" is inscribed on the verso of the leaf, with some additional corrections by Whitman (first line: "The true, new world, the world of science, mind and literature"). The corrected states of the manuscript are textually identical to the poems as published in Notes. It is unclear from the manuscript whether the two passages were intended by Whitman to be individual entities or parts of the same poem. The manuscript itself is not dated; the stationery on which it is written has the year "187[ ]" printed on it, with a blank space in which the last digit of the year would have been filled in by hand; therefore, the manuscript cannot have been composed any earlier than 1870.

Box V-1, F0892: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0099 manuscript boxes.

Source unknown.

Processed and encoded by Alexander Clark Johnston, March 2011. Further encoded by George Apodaca, October 2015.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2011 March 11
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

Untitled poem, autograph manuscript, circa 1870-1892.
Box V-1 Folder F0892
Physical Description

1 leaf, 2 p.

Print, Suggest