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Title: Instructions for 1855 Leaves of Grass Variorum

Author: Walt Whitman Archive

Publication information: Written for The Walt Whitman Archive. First published on the Archive in 2020.

Whitman Archive ID: anc.02136

Our overall goal in creating this online edition of the 1855 Leaves of Grass is to give easy and meaningful access to available information about differences of all sorts among the known surviving copies of the first edition and the related manuscript and notebook materials. Our edition comprises several interrelated and complementary resources, illustrated below.

1. The complete text of the 1855 Leaves of Grass

2. Transcriptions of manuscripts and notebooks that contributed to the first edition of Leaves

3. The text of an eight-page section of reviews that Whitman inserted into some copies

4. A bibliography of extant copies

5. A page image viewer

The core of our edition is the main text, which anchors the other resources to the relevant parts of the printed text of the 1855 Leaves of Grass. The top of the page has links to some of the other components of the edition, as well as to the home page of the Whitman Archive. The key, which gives brief navigational explanations, is visible by default and can be closed by clicking "hide key."

A "Top" button at the bottom right of the screen allows the user quickly to navigate back to the top of the page.

In the left margin of the main text are indications of related manuscripts and notebooks. Passing your cursor over the text of the 1855 Leaves of Grass highlights the passage, along with the corresponding marginal indicators, if any.

Clicking "Relations" opens a tabular list of related manuscript lines or segments directly below the highlighted text. The table rows contain links to our transcriptions of related manuscripts/notebooks, links to relevant locations within the manuscripts/notebooks, and the text of the line segments that we have identified as being related. Clicking one of the links opens the manuscript in a new window (or tab). The table of manuscript relations can be collapsed by clicking "[close]" in the upper right corner.

Accompanying each "Relations" marker in the left margin is a graphical representation of the number of related manuscript lines or segments.The top (red) bar shows the total number of related lines or segments; the bottom (blue) bar shows the number of manuscript documents that contain related lines or segments. Longer bars indicate larger numbers. In instances where the upper bar is longer, two or more of the related manuscript segments occur in the same manuscript document.

Blue boxes in the right margin give information about the part of Leaves of Grass currently displayed in the center of the screen. The twelve poems of the 1855 edition did not have unique titles; the first six were headed "Leaves of Grass" and the last six (as well as the preface) had no heading at all. The titles in the right margin reflect this reality: The first six poems show the title "Leaves of Grass" along with a number.

The last six poems are marked "Untitled" and numbered.

Because it has become customary to refer to the poems by the titles that Whitman gave to them in the last typesetting of Leaves of Grass (1881), in all cases those titles are also shown in parentheses. Below each title is a list of links to the manuscripts and notebooks that we have designated as related to that poem, along with an indication of our level of confidence in that designation. The manuscripts are organized by certainty designation and, within that, listed in alphabetical order by Whitman Archive ID. Manuscripts with higher certainty relations appear first. A description of our process for assigning Whitman Archive IDs is available here. One consequence of this ordering is that, within certainty levels, all of the related manuscripts from a given repository are grouped together. The preface is treated in a similar way, with a bracketed title and a list of related manuscripts.

Places of variation among the known extant printed copies of the 1855 edition are highlighted in the main text. A yellow background and dashed underline indicate places where copies vary due to missing characters or presumably intentional changes made to the block of type (or, in the case of the frontispiece, to the engraving) used to print the page.

Green highlighting and dotted underlining indicate places of material variation (i.e., differences in bindings and in the presence or absence of inserted pages).

Pink highlighting and double underlining indicate a noted difference in type spacing—places where the type shifted through the course of the printing run.

Note that these spacing variants represent just a sampling of many such occurrences among the copies.

Clicking any of the highlighted variant markers opens a table similar to the ones used to display information about related manuscripts. At the top of the table are links to the previous and next variants, a button to collapse the table, and a link to the side-by-side image viewer, which is described below. Directly below these links is information about the particular variant that occurs in the copy used for our base text, denoted by a dark shade of the highlight color. Information about other variants known to exist is denoted by a lighter shade.

Each section contains several links. The one to show the list of copies further expands the table to show a unique code for each copy. Clicking one of these codes opens the bibliographical information for it in a new tab/window.

Clicking the link "Open copies in bibliography" does the same thing, but for all copies known to share the particular variant being described. For some of the variants (especially those dealing with spacing), our information is incomplete, so the total number of copies represented is significantly smaller than 200 (the total number of known surviving copies).

The bibliography contains information about the occurrence of some specific variants in individual copies, as well as discursive notes supplied by the persons who responded to Ed Folsom's census questionnaire. By default, bibliographic records are ordered by abbreviation but can also be ordered by repository or by the state of bindings, frontispieces, or copyright pages. If you come to the bibliography from a link in the variant table on the main text page, you can choose to see the bibliographical information for all copies by clicking "View all 200 entries (remove filter)" just above the sorting options.

The same view is also directly available via the "Bibliography of Copies" link on the menu page. A search box to the top right of the bibliography enables basic keyword searching among bibliography entries.

Individual images of the pages of the copy used for the main text transcription are available via thumbnails throughout the text body. Representative pages showing different variants can be compared side-by-side in the image viewer that is linked from the variant tables in the main text.

Images in the viewer can be moved or resized either with customary mouse (or other pointer) actions or with the onscreen buttons in the lower right corner of each frame. The "home" icon resets the image to its default size and position.

Some of the variants are shown in both cropped and whole-page versions. For these variants, the default view shows an image cropped to the variant location; clicking the right-pointing arrow in the frame brings up the image of the entire page on which the variant occurs. You can click the left-facing arrow to return to the cropped image.

The slider icon in the upper left of the image pane provides access to simple image manipulation tools that let you adjust the brightness, contrast, color saturation level, etc.

You can make an individual image full-screen by clicking the full-screen icon in the upper right corner of the frame. Clicking the same icon in the black border above the frames enlarges all of the frames together.

The "changeLayout" option allows you to reconfigure the layout of the frames.

The small "i" in the upper right of each image provides information about the specific copy.

The comparison viewer is also available via a link on the menu page and from a link in the secondary bar at the top of the main text.

All of the pages of the copy used for our base text are viewable in the same viewer (and with similar functions) from the link "Leaves of Grass (1855) Page Viewer" on the menu page. This view of the text offers a good way to get a sense of the physical volume and the relationships among its component pages. The default view shows a virtual table of contents that you can use to jump quickly to the first page of any of the poems or the preface. These links can be hidden by clicking the list icon just to the left of the title "Leaves of Grass (1855)."

Because this viewer (unlike the comparison viewer) is embedded in the navigation framework common to most of the rest of the Whitman Archive, the fullscreen option is especially helpful. The mountain icon in the upper right allows you to choose from several different ways of viewing the images.

The first option is the default and presents page images separately. You can browse forward or backward through them using the right and left arrows. The second option presents the pages in pairs, mimicking the layout of the physical book.

The third option presents low-resolution images in a horizontally scrolling list. The last option shows thumbnail images of all of the pages.

About a quarter of the surviving copies of the 1855 Leaves of Grass contain an added section of reviews. The presence or absence of this section is treated as a "binding and insertion" variant and anchored, in the main text, after the last poem.

A link to the page devoted to the reviews and extracts is also accessible from the menu page and from the secondary bar at the top of the main text page. Links to comparison views (using the Juxta collation software) of periodical versions and insertion versions of the three reviews Whitman is known to have written are available in the blue box to the right of those reviews.

A comparison view is also available in the main text for the poem eventually titled "Europe, the 72d and 73d Years of These States," a version of which was first published as "Resurgemus" in 1850 in the New York Daily Tribune.

For more information about our editorial rationale and decisions about the design, layout, and function of the variorum, see our editorial policy statement and the introduction to the variorum.


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Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.