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Walt Whitman to Billstein and Son, [6 August 1888]

 loc_tb.00037.jpg 328 Mickle Street Camden NJ

What can you do with this photo?1—I send herewith the size it should come in—the page of November Boughs2—I think of it for frontispiece, if it should suit—the whole picture as in photo—made smaller of course—your own taste & judgment to arrange it, (Knowing the size it is to come in & what I want for &c—the inscription under printed "Walt Whitman in his 70th year")—

I leave mainly the carrying it out to your aformentioned taste & judgment—you can confer &c with my friend Horace Traubel,3 the bearer—just the same as you would with me personally4

Walt Whitman Written Aug 6th, '88—see "notes" that date—H.L.T.  loc_tb.00038.jpg

Henry Billstein was a printer in the Philadelphia firm of Billstein and Son. Billstein visited Whitman in February 1889; Whitman said of their meeting, "[W]e talked a little bit about printing—plate printing: he appeared to be an adept—know his business. I liked him" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, February 3, 1889). Billstein made the plates for the pocket-book 1889 Leaves of Grass. See the May 25, 1889, entry in Daybooks and Notebooks, ed. William White [New York: New York University Press, 1977], 2:493 and footnotes 2738 and 2761.


  • 1. The photograph referenced here was likely taken in 1888 by Frederick Gutekunst (1831–1917) and used as the frontispiece for November Boughs (1888) and the 1889 Leaves. Whitman labelled it "Walt Whitman in his 70th year." For more information, see Walt Whitman by Frederic Gutekunst?, ca. 1888. [back]
  • 2. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the late 1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. Whitman discussed the photograph with Horace Traubel on August 6, 1888. See Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, August 6, 1888. [back]
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