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Walt Whitman's poetry was probably read by more people in newspapers than in books during the poet's lifetime. We've begun to track down and list bibliographic information for as many reprints of his poems as we can find. At this site you can download our data, read an article we wrote about the early stages of our work, and look at some preliminary visualizations of the data we've gathered. A longer list of reprints and new visualizations will be available soon.



This visualization shows the many ways Whitman's poems were - or were not - attributed when they were reprinted. Learn more...


Reprint Locations

A pie chart showing the locations where Whitman's reprinted poems appeared. Learn more...


Map Views

These geographic representations of Whitman's poetry's appearances suggest the wide scope of his work's circulation in English. Learn more...


Appearances by Month

Which months were the most popular for reprinting Whitman's poems? This bar graph tracks reprint timing by month. Learn more...


For more discussion of our approach and a list of our source databases, see our WWQR essay.

  1. PROCEDURE - We began by harvesting existing records of Whitman’s poetry using resources from the Whitman Archive. First we imported all of the citations from Elizabeth Lorang and Susan Belasco’s edition of first periodical printings of Whitman’s poems, the earliest known of which was in 1838. Then we listed full and partial reprints found in the extensive collection of contemporary reviews of Whitman’s work. When searching these reviews, we understood a reprint to include any text that appeared as one or more stand-alone lines of Whitman’s poetry that were indented and offset in relation to the body of the review’s text. We were looking for ways readers might have encountered Whitman’s poems inadvertently, and presumably these offset lines of poetry would be likely to stand out on the page and capture a reader’s attention. After recording the data available on the Whitman Archive, our team selected individual Whitman poems for targeted database searches. We decided to prioritize less-canonical Whitman poems, such as “The Midnight Visitor” and “Ah, Not This Granite Dead and Cold,” in our initial database searches instead of documenting, for example, the widely reprinted “O Captain! My Captain!” Starting with more idiosyncratic poems, we reasoned, might reveal interesting and unexpected insights about circulation. The fully realized version of this project will include the known reprints of all of Whitman’s poetry published in his lifetime. 
  2. SOURCES - To locate these reprints, we scoured nineteenth-century newspaper and periodical databases for poems published before Whitman’s death on March 26, 1892. We have also consulted original documents in several cases, and received and verified contributions to the list from scholars working independently in a few others. To search for specific poems, the collaborators ran queries that focused on distinct phrases ranging in length from two words to an entire line from the beginning, middle, and end of the targeted poem, in an effort to locate both full and fragmented reprints of the poem. To ensure that we searched each poem in the maximum number of databases available to us, members of our team replicated the same queries in databases for which one of us had access that the primary researcher did not have. Most of the databases we searched, unsurprisingly, contained a high concentration of holdings from publication hubs such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia; indeed, we suspect that the Northeast region of the United States is the best-represented region in our databases. Even so, the geographic range of our institutions’ subscriptions, including regional publications from the American Midwest, provided access to periodicals in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, and Michigan, among others. Coverage of periodicals outside the United States varies as well. Whereas the Trove database searches Australian periodicals, many of our databases (such as American Periodicals, Chronicling America, and Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers) emphasize North American content. Our results are shaped by this access. Despite the expanded coverage we gain by working across institutions, other databases remain out of our grasp, while some of those we currently use are augmented periodically, requiring return visits. Furthermore, there are likely reprints that are not represented in the databases we’re searching or, in some cases, in any database at all. Potential omissions resulting from the scanning process add to the possibility that our searches have missed reprint candidates. As we do our best to access as many digitized periodicals as possible, we recognize that the scope of our coverage is incomplete and that the process of digital research remains to some extent imperfect, unfinished, and always changeable.
  3. THE SPREADSHEET - A commitment to rendering visually the stories these reprints tell has shaped our organization strategy for the spreadsheet that lists our finds. Each time we locate a reprint, we add it to our individual spreadsheets, which we collate regularly into a master spreadsheet. Our choice of data categories for this spreadsheet was guided by user-friendliness in later translating that information to present online in visualizations. We took advantage of the Walt Whitman Archive ID number (indicated in the “WorkID” column), a labeling system used by the Whitman Archive to disambiguate works that have multiple versions or titles. Using the Archive ID number is particularly helpful in the case of serial reprints because poem titles were often omitted or altered. Researchers unfamiliar with the Whitman Archive’s classification system can easily identify an entry using the “Standard Title” column. Other columns in the spreadsheet record the signature or byline that ran with the poem; the standard title the poem has in Whitman’s accepted canon; the title under which it was published; the name and type of the serial in which it appeared; the serial’s location and date of publication; whether the reprint was complete or a fragment; whether this instance was the poem’s first known publication; the volume, issue, and page on which the poem appears in the serial reprinting it; and, if possible, a URL for our source. 

Alejandro Omidsalar, Ashley Palmer, Stephanie Blalock, Matt Cohen, and Regan Chasek