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Walt Whitman to David McKay, [6 April 1891?]


Here1 are the dates of the sending of the big book2 copies, amount for one copy Date missing—before Aug. 13 '90

  • one copy — Aug: 13 '90
  • " " Oct. 21 "
  • " " Dec. 1 "
  • " " Dec. 24 "
  • " " Dec. 25 "
  • " " Feb. 19 '91
  • " " Feb. 20 "

I don't know but one of the big books above was furn'd by me (as I offer'd) to go in with the 100 sets of sheets. If so you owe me for one only ($ 4)—If not you owe me for two

—W W

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. Whitman wrote this letter beneath a letter he had received from David McKay dated April 6, 1891. [back]
  • 2. Whitman often referred to Complete Poems & Prose (1888) as his "big book." The volume was published by the poet himself in an arrangement with publisher David McKay, who allowed Whitman to use the plates for both Leaves of Grass and Specimen Days—in December 1888. With the help of Horace Traubel, Whitman made the presswork and binding decisions, and Frederick Oldach bound the volume, which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary (University of Iowa: Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 2005). [back]
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