Whitman 1855

What was Walt doing at this time? Late in 1854, Whitman was working in
carpentry. He is assumed to have started his writings for what would later be
known, and published as Leaves of Grass in late 1854 or early 1855. One of his
brothers once commented that Walt would get an idea while working, write it
down, then take the rest of the day off. How did Walt get his book published?

Allen contends that Walt probably sought out a commercial publisher to take his
book at first, though there is no mention or proof of this. However, Whitman
took his book to the Rome brothers, James and Thomas, who had a printing shop on
the corner of Fulton and Cranberry. These two men were friends of Walt. They let

Walt supervise their work and even help in the setting of some of the type.

Whitman is thought to have set about ten pages. However, the frontispiece and
probably the binding had to be done somewhere else. Some think that the book
went on sale on July 4, but it isn't probable that any book stores were open on
that day. However, an advertisement appeared in The New York Tribune on July 6
for the book. How did Walt come up with the money for the books? We can't answer
this for sure, but one fact may shed some light on the subject: The Whitman's
bought a house on May 24, 1855, on Ryerson Street. Mrs. Whitman was given legal
permission to sign the papers because her husband was ill. The house was
purchased for $1,840. Therefore, it is a possibility that Walt got money from
his mother. How did Walt advertise the book? The two bookstores that advertised
the book in The New York Tribune were: Swayne, No. 210 Fulton St., Brooklyn, and

Fowler and Wells, No. 308 Broadway, NY. However, four days later, Swayne
withdrew from the advertisement. Fowler and Wells ran it for the entire month.

What of the book? How did it come about? What about that picture? Those who
looked at the book were confronted with a steel engraved frontispiece portrait
of Whitman. He was wearing work jeans, shirt with unbuttoned collar, and a felt
hat cocked to an outrageous angle. This picture was originally a daguerreotype
taken in July of the previous year by Gabriel Harrison, a friend of Whitman's.

Whitman placed the order for the engraving with Macrae in NY, but Macrae didn't
have the knowledge or resources for a stipple print, so the order was given to

Hollyer, a stipple expert. Years later, Hollyer sent a publisher, Herbert Small,
a letter in which Hollyer described a chance meeting with Whitman soon after the
engraving was finished. Hollyer met up with Whitman at a restaurant and talked
to him about the portrait, asking him what he thought. Whitman said he liked it
but would like to have some alterations made. The next morning, Whitman brought
the plate in to Hollyer and told him what he wanted. Hollyer made the
alterations quickly, with professional attention. A couple days later, Whitman
walked into Hollyer's office with freshly printed volumes of Leaves of Grass and
presented Hollyer with the first copy issued. How did the book itself come
across to the American public? There was no author's name on the book, or on the
title page, just his portrait. But, if one looked closely enough, Walter Whitman
held the copyright. The book was printed in an odd style. There were no titles
to the poems, and the print ran clear across the page, making the book awkward
to anyone in 1855, as this was not the style in which books were printed.

Whitman had about a thousand copies printed, but not all were bound. An
estimated two or three hundred were bound in cloth, and some were bound in paper
covers, being sold by Fowler and Wells several months after the original
advertisement at the lower price of seventy five cents. It is estimated that
only a couple dozen people bought the book. How did Whitman take the sales, or
lack of sales? Whitman made a statement later in the year, in a moment of self
advertisement, that the book "readily sold," but later, in his old
age, he stated that not a single copy was bought and that he himself kept only
one copy. More probable is that the extra copies, after having been on the
shelves for some time, were given away as gifts by both Whitman and the book
store. One such gifts was sent