Whitman’s Leaves of Grass

This project preserved three of Walt Whitman’s early imprints including the UI Library copies of the first and second editions of Leaves of Grass, as well as a sales broadside for this great work of American literature.

Leaves of Grass

The large format first edition, Brooklyn 1855, is from the first run of the first edition. It features gold leaf stamping over a die de-bossed dark green cloth cover, gilt edges, marble endsheets and an engraved frontispiece portrait of the author. This edition measures 20.5 cm x 29 cm. The smaller second edition (11.2 cm x 16.3 cm) also features gold stamping of the publisher’s binding cover while the text provides titled sections and a table of contents. Both editions were printed by Whitman himself, which lends special significance to many details of their bindings, layout and typography. The sales broadside, printed after the civil war, also reflects Whitman’s enterprise.

Both books were restored, preserving their original binding components and reinforcing their structures to permit non-damaging inspection. Edge and fold tears were mended and the texts resewn using existing sewing stations. Previous cover repairs were detached and the gutter margins of endpapers and board cloth were lifted to enable reconstructions. A light weight book cloth was used for the spine restoration. The text block and assembled cover were then reattached and the original spine cloth fragment reattached in place.

Whitman Broadside

The printed sales broadside was removed from its unstable plastic enclosure and its surface was dry cleaned. Next it was washed in filtered water, neutralized, and buffered. Tears were then mended and holes filled in. Finally, the broadside was encapsulated between layers of polyester film with an underlying buffered sheet of Mohawk Vellum Beige to provide additional backing support. Later it was matted and framed for exhibition.


Project costs: $4,260