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This catalog accompanied the exhibit, Walt Whitman: A Centenary Exhibition. When Walt Whitman published his first edition of Leaves of Grass, he believed he was embarking on a personal literary journey of national significance. Setting out to define the American experience, Whitman consciously hoped to answer Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1843 essay, The Poet, which called for a truly original national poet, one who would sing of the new country in a new voice. Displayed are many Whitman-authored items including multiple editions of Leaves of Grass, including the first, , Memoranda During the War, as well as items authored by others such as Irving, Cooper, Melville, Emerson and Thoreau.


The exhibit accompanied by this catalog, Walt Whitman: A Centenary Exhibition, was mounted not to make a critical appraisal of Whitman's work; instead, it is hoped that the materials assembled here will help explain the phenomenon which was Walt Whitman. While the subject matter and themes present in Whitman's poetry reflect the historical attitudes and concerns of his day, the books themselves are also artifacts of a fascinating and extremely dynamic period of American publishing history.