Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to David McKay, 26 November 1888

Date: November 26, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: med.00857

Source: The location of this manuscript is unknown. Ted Genoways derives his transcription from a facsimile of the letter that is printed in Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Volume 3, ed. Sculley Bradley (New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1914), facing page 182. The transcription presented here is derived from The Correspondence, ed. Ted Genoways (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 7:94–95. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Breanna Himschoot, Stephanie Blalock, and Alex Ashland


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Walt Whitmanlarge
Poems & Proselarge
plain | small | dash


Leaves of Grass
Specimen Days
and Collect
November Boughs
With Sands at Seventy
Annex to L of G

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Portraits from Life.&
Edition 1888: '9
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for a label for back of book the above (in blue pencil) is a facsimile of the size of the back of book, wh' you must get inside—

—If convenient set it up & bring me around a proof this afternoon

David McKay (1860–1918) took over Philadelphia-based publisher Rees Welsh's bookselling and publishing businesses in 1881–82. McKay and Rees Welsh published the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass after opposition from the Boston District Attorney prompted James R. Osgood & Company of Boston, the original publisher, to withdraw. McKay also went on to publish Specimen Days & Collect, November Boughs, Gems from Walt Whitman, Complete Prose Works, and the final Leaves of Grass, the so-called deathbed edition. For more information about McKay, see Joel Myerson, "McKay, David (1860–1918)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. Traubel writes: "Changed his cover design at McKay's [at] my suggestion. Instead of 'Walt Whitman's Complete Prose and Poems' above and specified contents below—author's edition, portraits, 1888–9—all that—he is satisfied to have 'Walt Whitman's Complete Works' at the top, 'Poetry and Prose' in centre, 'Author's Edition 1888–9' below" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, November 26, 1888). The date of this note can be further verified by Whitman's November 27, 1888, letter to his binder Frederick Oldach in which he writes: "I will send you the label to put on the backs—I am now having them printed—." Traubel noted: "W's design for the cover was given back to me by Oldach. I keep it among my records" (Monday, November 26, 1888). [back]


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