Library of Congress


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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Poet at Work
Walt Whitman, half-length portrait, seated, facing left, wearing hat and sweater, holding butterfly

[Detail] Walt Whitman holding butterfly


Collection Overview

The four early notebooks in the Walt Whitman Notebooks,1847-1860s collection contain fragments of the poem "Song of Myself," trial lines of poetry and prose, Civil War hospital notes, and personal jottings on a wide range of subjects. The notebooks and a cardboard butterfly were returned to the Library of Congress in 1995, fifty years after they mysteriously disappeared from the Library's manuscript collections.

The patient student will have greater success using this collection. There is no search function, table of contents, or index to the notebooks. Rather, a page turner allows the user to browse the notebooks one page at a time. However, the Learn More About It documents present the notebooks in terms of their historical and literary subjects and provide numerous links to specific passages. Though Whitman's handwriting is legible, some words and sections are difficult to decipher.

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Special Features

These online exhibits provide context and additional information about this collection.

Historical Eras

These historical era(s) are best represented in the collection, although they may not be all-encompassing.

  • The Civil War and Reconstruction, 1850-1877

Related Collections and Exhibits

These collections and exhibits contain thematically-related primary and secondary sources. Browse the Collection Finder for more related material on the American Memory Web site.

Other Resources

Recommended additional sources of information.

There are currently no other resources for this collection

Search Tips

Specific guidance for searching this collection.

The Walt Whitman notebooks are not searchable. The notebook pages appear just as Whitman wrote them, with no table of contents or index. Because there is no subject index for the collection, a page turner function has been added to help you browse the notebooks.

The Learn More About It documents present the notebooks in terms of their historical and literary subjects and provide links to specific passages.

For help with general search strategies, see Finding Items in American Memory.