The Library of Congress houses the largest archival collection of Walt Whitman materials in the world. As part of the Library's mission to make its resources available and useful to the American public, the Library has digitized a number of these materials, and has also created an array of online secondary sources that highlight Whitman's life and work. This guide compiles the many Whitman resources spread throughout the Library's Web site. In addition, it provides links to external Web sites on Walt Whitman, and a selected bibliography of significant Whitman publications.
This collection offers access to the four Walt Whitman notebooks and his cardboard butterfly that were among 10 notebooks which went missing from the Library of Congress after a 1942 wartime evacuation of treasures. The five items were returned on February 24, 1995, leaving six notebooks remain missing. The four notebooks in thsi collection feature personal philosophy, poetry trial lines, notes on Civil War scenes, and notations on needs, names, and addresses of wounded soldiers in Washington hospitals.
The Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman Papers consists of approximately 3,000 items (4,126 images) spanning the period 1842-1937, with most of the items dated from 1855, when Whitman first published the poem Leaves of Grass, to his death at age seventy-three in 1892. Harned, an attorney and one of Whitman’s three literary executors, donated his collection to the Library of Congress in 1918. It consists of correspondence, poetry and prose manuscripts, notes and notebooks, proofs and offprints, printed matter, and miscellaneous items.
This small collection of papers (about 150 items; 1,200 images) of poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) spans the years 1837-1957 with the bulk concentrated in the period 1840-1891. Included are examples of the poet’s original correspondence and literary manuscripts, photocopies and transcripts of similar Whitman material, and printed matter and miscellaneous items relating to Whitman. Known as the Walt Whitman Papers Miscellaneous Manuscript Collection (MMC), it contains only a small sampling of the types of items found in the larger Library of Congress collections of Whitman material, most notably those assembled by Thomas Biggs Harned and Charles E. Feinberg (digital edition forthcoming). It includes, however, some of Whitman's earliest known correspondence, written to Abraham P. Leech, and a printed copy of Whitman's poem O Captain! My Captain! containing the poet's handwritten corrections. A small selection of family letters, including correspondence of Whitman's mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, and his sister, Hannah Louisa Whitman Heyde describe domestic routines and express personal sentiments.
This exhibition, created as a special presentation for American Treasures of the Library of Congress, traces the different occupations and preparations that led Whitman to become the author of Leaves of Grass, as well as his subsequent evolution as a poet.
Finding Aids to the Print Collections
The Library of Congress houses several major physical collections of Whitman materials that can be found in its Manuscript Division and Rare Book and Special Collections Division. These include:
Provides access to a sampling of articles about Whitman from historic newspapers in the Libary's Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers digital collection. Use the Suggested Search Terms and Dates to find additional articles about Whitman in Chronicling America.
The Thomas Hampson Teacher Institute was designed to help educators use Library of Congress primary source materials to explore the legacy of American song and poetry in their classrooms. The online materials for the Teacher Institute feature two activities which incorporate items from the Library's digitized Whitman content:
A now-incactive digital magazine designed to introduce users to the many fascinating, educational, and useful resources available on the Library's Web site. The Wise Guide includes three articles which highlight Whitman resources:
On February 9, 1888, Walt Whitman penned a note to the publishers of The Riverside Literature Series No. 32 calling attention to mistakes in their recently printed version of his poem, "O Captain! My Captain!"
Includes the text of Whitman's poem "I Hear America Singing," as well as an introduction written by former Library of Congress poetry specialist David Kresh, and an audio recording of the poem by former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins.
The Song of America Tour was a celebration of creativity across America. The above Web site features an audio recording of renowned baritone Thomas Hampson singing Whitman's poem "Ethiopia Saluting the Colors," and also provides information about the poem's music arrangement.
A major online resource for Whitman Studies, the Walt Whitman Archive maintains facsimile and e-text versions of multiple editions of Leaves of Grass; a collection of criticism and reviews of Whitman's writings; an extended biographical essay on Whitman's life; an archive of Whitman images; and other resources of interest to teachers, students, scholars, and the general public.