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Abraham Simpson & Company to Walt Whitman, 23 January 1867


Please fill up this blank as soon as possible as the publishers will issue only a few Copies in addition to those subscribed for.

The undersigned agree to take _____ Copies of the book entitled the "Slave Songs of the U.S.,"2 for which _____ agree to pay the sum of _____ dollars, on presentation of the book.

Price $1.50 per Copy.





A. SIMPSON & CO., PUBLISHERS, No. 60 Duane Street, N. Y. AGATHYNIAN PRSES.3  loc_jc.00032_large.jpg  loc_jc.00029_large.jpg Abraham Simpson  loc_tb.00361.jpg

Abraham Simpson, while working for J. M. Bradstreet & Son, had supervised the binding of Drum-Taps (see Whitman's May 2, 1865, letter to Peter Eckler). Simpson wrote on May 10, 1867, that he was going into business for himself and was interested in publishing Whitman's next book: "Hearing you are writing another book [I] would like to print and publish it for you and will give you better advantages than any other publishing house . . . One of my reasons for securing your friendship is my appreciation for you as a man, well knowing your life has been devoted to help along those most in need of your assistance." On May 31, 1867, Simpson informed Whitman that "we have established a Ptng & Publishing House." But, in his July 3, 1867, letter, he advised Whitman that after consultation "with several eminent literary men . . . though we are favorably impressed, . . . we deem it injudicious to commit ourselves to its publication at the present time."


  • 1. "E pur si muove" is an Italian phrase meaning "And yet it moves" or Although it does move." Often attributed to the Italian physicist and mathematician Galileo Galilei (1564”1642), the phrase means that, although Galilei was forced to recant his claims that the Earth moved around the Sun, the Earth continues to do so regardless of any contrary claims by the Church, for example. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman Esq | Washington | DC. It is postmarked: New-York | JAN | 23; CARRIER | JAN | 24 | 2 Del. [back]
  • 2. Published in 1867 by A. Simpson & Company of New York, Slave Songs of the United States was the earliest collection of African American music; the volume included 136 songs. The three editors—William Francis Allen (1830–1889), Charles Pickard Ware (1840–1921), and Lucy McKim Garrison (1842–1877)—were Northern abolitionists who collected the songs—many of which were spirituals—while they worked in the Sea Islands of South Carolina during the Civil War. [back]
  • 3. In 1866, Dr. William A. Hammond (1828–1900), F. S. Hoffman, and "Abe" Simpson joined with B. W. Bond (of the publishing firm Moorhead, Simpson & Bond) to form the Agathynian Club, which printed both original works and reprints with an interest in typographical innovation. The Club produced periodicals, as well as reprints of rare, curious, and old American, English, French, and Latin books (American Literary Gazette and Publishers Circular [Philadelphia: George W. Childs, Publisher, No. 600 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, July 1, 1867], 9:136). While preparing the Agathynian Club's second volume, a fire destroyed the Bradstreet book-bindery, all 150 copies of the Club's second volume, and by extension the Club itself, which folded in 1868 when Hammond elected to focus on his medical practice. For more information on the Club, see Adolf Growell, "The Agathynian Club (1866–1868)," American Book Clubs: Their Beginnings and History, and a Bibliography of their Publications (New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1897), 145–151. [back]
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