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Walt Whitman at the Lilly

Compiled on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, an event that had a profound influence on Walt Whitman’s life and work, this exhibit seeks to highlight the extensive Whitman-related holdings of the Lilly Library at Indiana University Bloomington.  Thanks to the pioneering collecting efforts of J. K. Lilly, the Lilly Library boasts an extraordinary collection of first editions (among them a rare copy of the final edition of Leaves of Grass in the cover Whitman rejected), manuscripts, and photographs.   

When Whitman declared, in the long poem he later titled “Song of Myself,” that he was planning not “to stop till death,” he was entirely serious.  His many revisions and rearrangements have caused bibliographers interminable problems, precisely because it is not always easy to distinguish between what is a new edition and what is merely an “impression.”   I have followed, for the most part, the classifications used in Joel Myerson, Walt Whitman:  A Descriptive Bibliography (Pittsburgh:  University of Pittsburgh Press, 1993).  But I also like to think of the various incarnations of Whitman’s constantly evolving poem the way Darwin (whom Whitman admired) thought of species, as varieties in permanent flux between which “no clear line of demarcation” can be drawn. 



Curated by Christoph Irmscher. Photographs by Zach Downey