Happy Easter! Read most every surviving scrap of paper Walt Whitman wrote on in the Whitman Sampler

The kind souls over at the Library of Congress have compiled the remaining extensive writing of Walt Whitman, from well before his Leaves of Grass era to his death, in this wonderfully robust archive. Though much of his work is gone, lost to time and misplacement, the writing that ended up in the possession of Thomas Biggs Harned remained intact.

Whitman's personal habits were such that he wrote and collected his notes in a casual and unsystematic manner, entrusting his thoughts to scraps of paper, be it the back of a used envelope or the verso of a letter. His notebooks contain an equal number of random jottings, some no more than bits and pieces of paper sewn together to form a small notebook. These notes and notebooks include names and addresses, trial titles, trial lines of poetry and prose pieces, diary and hospital notes, pencil sketches and drawings, drafts of poems and essays, autobiographical and personal notes, printing and publishing notes, and miscellaneous notes on a wide range of subjects such as history, geography, politics, and ethnology.

Library of Congress

Though it can be a little difficult to parse out what to look for exactly, I'd suggest perusing the "featured content" section for thorough curation. Or, for those of you more adventurous types, try flipping through his notebooks. I've always found it captivating to look through a person's journals and get a little insight into what they're thinking about. Especially if they're one of the most interesting, singular authors of all time.

From: Library of Congress

The LOC has this to say regarding the above curious artifact

In 1942, a group of Whitman notebooks from the Harned Collection, along with other national treasures, were evacuated from Washington, D.C., for safekeeping during World War II. Upon the return of the material from storage in 1944, it was discovered that ten Whitman notebooks and a cardboard butterfly were missing. In 1995, the Library regained custody of four of these notebooks and the butterfly, but six notebooks remain missing.  The recovered items are numbered 1, 2, 5, 7, and 11 in the Library's 1954 pamphlet "Ten Notebooks and a Cardboard Butterfly Missing from the Walt Whitman Papers," and numbers 80, 86, 94, 101, and 220 in the 1955 Walt Whitman: A Catalog.

These recovered notebooks contain diary entries, poetry drafts and trial lines, prose drafts, notes on Civil War hospital patients, names and addresses, and miscellaneous notes. They relate to Whitman's early career as a journalist and poet and include notes on perception and the senses, and observations made in Washington, D.C., while Whitman was working as a nurse in Civil War hospitals in the city. Whitman also used the notebooks to record the public's reaction to and acceptance of his poetry. The earliest notebook in the collection, written between 1847 and 1854, contains drafts of one of Whitman's most famous poems, "Song of Myself." The cardboard butterfly is thought to be the same Whitman wired on his finger in a photograph that was published as the frontispiece for the 1889 birthday edition of Leaves of Grass.  Although photocopies of parts of the recovered items remain in the collection, cross references refer only to the original documents.

Library of Congress

Enjoy some Malt Whitman in your Easter sampler.

Previously: Walt Whitman — patriotic poet, gay iconoclast, shrewd marketing ploy, or all three?