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Whitman's Cultural Geography Scrapbook

Edited by Matt Cohen, Kevin McMullen, Caterina Bernardini, Ashlyn Stewart, and Caitlin Henry

In the years following the publication of the first and second editions of Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman began compiling a scrapbook. It's unclear what purpose he had in creating the massive document, comprised of portions of textbooks, magazines, newspaper clippings, and manuscript notes—more than 1,000 individual text surfaces in total—all relating, in some way, to world history and geography. Whitman in these years was both searching for ways to extend the vision he had laid out in the first two editions of Leaves, and also working and drafting in a variety of other genres. What we do know is that, in the late 1850s, as the nation appeared more and more in danger of fracturing, Whitman created a document that, between two hardbound covers, brought the whole world together, a laborious and sprawling act of union—and a document that contained the seeds of several works that found their way into print in the following years, including a number of poems in the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass.

Although scholars have been aware of this scrapbook, it has received scant attention, in part because it is housed in a relatively small collection of Whitman materials (the Bayley / Whitman Collection at Ohio Wesleyan University), and in part because of the daunting size of the artifact itself. With the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the assistance of Special Collections staff at Ohio Wesleyan University Libraries, the Walt Whitman Archive has digitized the scrapbook in its current state. Our transcription includes all material relevant to the scrapbook's theme and surfaces marked by Whitman; we have omitted transcriptions of unrelated printed verso material and printed text formatting such as italics and underlining, and have included in brackets descriptions of charts, tables, and figures for ease of searching.

Transcription and images of Whitman's geography scrapbook

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Scrapbook Page Viewer

Related manuscripts

Our research into the scrapbook's provenance revealed that, at one time, it contained a large number of handwritten manuscript leaves and fragments that we believe were removed in the 1930s and sold at auction as separate documents. Based on auction catalog records and the Whitman Archive's own database of known Whitman manuscripts, we have assembled a list of manuscripts that we think were likely part of the scrapbook. Transcriptions and page images of those manuscripts are linked below (listed alphabetically by title).

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