About

This project attempts to show Walt Whitman’s Specimen Days as a fragmentary text that can be read in any order — a virtual exhibition.

In a prefatory footnote in the beginning of Specimen Days, Whitman reflects that he wishes he could “convey to the reader the associations that attach to these soil’d and creas’d livraisons, each composed of a sheet or two of paper, folded small to carry in the pocket, and fasten’d with a pin.” Whitman says that many entries have been left largely “untouched” and are “nearly verbatim copies” of his original diaries, sketches, essays, and reflections originally written over the several decades prior to their final publication in the volume. To Whitman, the entries are discrete and tangible objects small enough to be carried around in a pocket. They are his material specimens – representative samples of his own life, pinned as the natural objects in a museum collection.

With thanks to the Biodiversity Heritage Library for the images of nineteenth-century botanical prints on the site.

This site was built and is maintained by Kayla Shipp at Emory University.

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