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[Whitman in his sitting-room]Feinberg-Whitman Collection

Papers and photographs of Walt Whitman, early editions of his writings, and secondary research material

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The Feinberg-Whitman Collection, purchased by the Library over the last decade with the assistance of anonymous benefactors, probably is the largest and most important group of materials relating to American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) ever assembled. In building this collection, Charles E. Feinberg noted in 1958 in the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America that he "tried to acquire all available letters, postcards, checks, bills and documents, primarily to reconstruct Whitman's daily life and creative activity." Personal papers form the core of the collection--more than one thousand of Whitman's letters (about twenty-eight hundred are known to exist), approximately two thousand letters received by him, and more than one thousand manuscripts, ranging from an annotated clipping to a commonplace book (March 1876-May 1889) of nearly four hundred pages. Also in the collection are photocopies of many Whitman manuscripts held by public repositories and of a large selection of those in private hands. Among the printed items are many volumes from Whitman's publications, including several copies of Leaves of Grass from 1855 to 1891, many of them inscribed or signed, and page and galley proofs of Specimen Days (1882-82); early critical and biographical treatments; and works of more recent scholarship. The collection also has numerous photographs and pictorial materials relating to Whitman's life and work and personal items such as the poet's walking stick, watch, and pen. Mr. Feinberg, a retired Detroit business executive, has been actively involved with the quarterly Walt Whitman Review and has preserved correspondence relating to each issue, manuscript material pertaining to several Whitman publications, and documentation of the Whitman exhibits drawn from the collection.

A portion of the 20,000-item collection is described in the catalog of the exhibition held at the Detroit Public Library. An unpublished finding aid is available in the Manuscript Division. The Library's extensive resources for the study of Walt Whitman include additional manuscript material in the Manuscript Division and a collection of early editions of Whitman's writings kept in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division.


Broderick, John C., "The Greatest Whitman Collector and the Great Whitman Collection," U.S. Library of Congress Quarterly Journal, v. 27, April 1970: 109-128.

Feinberg, Charles E., Walt Whitman: A Selection of the Manuscripts, Books and Association Items Gathered by Charles E. Feinberg: Catalog of an Exhibition Held at the Detroit Public Library, Detroit, Michigan, 1955 ([Detroit, 1955] 128 p. Z897 1.5F4).

White, William, "Charles E. Feinberg, Book Collector," The Private Library (Z990.P7), 2d ser., v. 1, summer 1968: 63-73.

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  October 14, 2010
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