* Horace Traubel's WITH WALT WHITMAN IN CAMDEN - Volumes 8 & 9 - Published by W L Bentley Rare Books *
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Over a period of four years, from 1888 to 1892, Horace Traubel each day recorded his long conversations with Walt Whitman, first jotting them in a kind of shorthand on scraps of paper in the dim light of the poet's bedroom, later transcribing and compiling his day's notes longhand, while his memory was still fresh.

As if that were not enough, Horace then had to struggle to bring his monumental record to the public. Forced to go from publisher to publisher seeking support for his project, he saw only three volumes of his projected eight-volume series in print when he died. He did not know it would take 77 more years and the combined effort of a series of editors and publishers to actualize his dream.

In 1906, fourteen years after Walt Whitman's death, SMALL, MAYNARD AND COMPANY of Boston published the first volume of Horace Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden, with an English edition, under the imprint of GAY & BIRD released in London the same year. [1] [1a]

The typography and binding style of this initial volume set an elegant standard that the publishers of subsequent volumes were never again able to match. Opening the book, the reader finds a long folding plate of Whitman's Last Will and Testament. Most of the numerous illustrations were printed separately by photo-lithography and tipped onto their pages by hand. The leafy frame winding around the text on the gilt spine block was copied and adapted for nearly all the subsequent issues. However, the short (but for the printer, bothersome) marginal glosses that Horace added to his text pages were abandoned after the first volume, and the individualized typographic arrangement of dates, salutations and closings in the numerous letters gradually gave way to more standardized formats.

Although Small, Maynard had already brought out various editions of Whitman's own writings as well as Walt Whitman: An American Primer and Chants Communal by Horace Traubel (both 1904), and Walt Whitman's Diary in Canada by William Sloane Kennedy (1904), they did not publish any further volumes of With Walt Whitman in Camden.

For Volume 2 (1908), Horace worked with D. APPLETON AND COMPANY in New York, but this publisher too was to issue one volume only. [2]

In 1914, the quixotic literary publisher MITCHELL KENNERLEY issued reprints of the first two volumes under his own imprint, followed in 1915 by his own edition of Volume 3. Although Kennerley advertised his plan to continue publishing the entire series, he soon ran out of funds and abandoned the project.. [1b] [2a] [3]

Four years later, at the age of 59, Horace Traubel died without a publisher for the typescript he had prepared for the fourth volume

Over the next 34 years, Horace's wife Anne Montgomerie Traubel continued the laborious effort of transcribing and editing his crabbed handwriting in collaboration with noted Whitman scholar Sculley Bradley. In 1953, only one year before Anne's death, publication of the series resumed when the UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA PRESS issued Volume 4 (apparently with a very small print run, as this is the rarest volume in the series). [4]

While the release of new Whitman material after a hiatus of 38 years was a positive development to waiting scholars, the designers had chosen to introduce an incongruous modern style to the new volume. Inside, the old-reliable Scotch Roman type was replaced by Caledonia, William Dwiggins' modernized version of the same face, while the classical page layout acquired asymmetrical running heads and folios. Outside, although the binding cloth was still a deep forest green, the elegant Art Nouveau spine block was dropped in favor of nondescript stamped lettering on a sturdy, utilitarian library-style binding.

By 1959, however, responsibility for publishing Horace's record had apparently been assumed by SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY PRESS. In that year, the remaining sheets of Volume 4 were re-issued with the Southern Illinois imprint on the title page and the intertwined leaf design restored to the spine, making it possible for at least some readers to own a set with uniform bindings. Two years later, the New York publishers ROWMAN AND LITTLEFIELD issued a photo-lithographic reprint of Volumes 1, 2, and 3 as a 3-volume set in its own slipcase, again retaining the original design for the spine. [4a] [1c] [2b] [3a]

In the meantime, Horace's daughter Gertrude Traubel continued the editing and preparation of new materials for publication with the encouragement and assistance of the great Whitman collector Charles E. Feinberg.

The publication of new material under the Southern Illinois imprint began in earnest with the publication in 1964 of Volume 5. The typography returned toward that of the first volumes, using a new version of Scotch Roman for the text, and returning to a more classical, symmetrical page layout. [5]

In 1973, a 1-volume abridged version of selected conversations, arranged by Walter Teller, was published by RUTGERS UNIVERSITY PRESS, exposing a wider range of readers to Whitman's life, thoughts, and opinions.

Gertrude continued to carry the torch, now with the help of journalist and Whitman scholar William White, and in 1982, Southern Illinois University issued Volume 6. When Gertrude died in 1983, at the age of 91, work on Volume 7 had only been started. [6]

William White carried on where Gertrude had left off, compiling the notes for Volume 7, but by now it was clear that 9 volumes, not 8, would be required to contain all of Horace's conversations, and it soon became apparent that he would be unable to continue due to his failing health.

In 1985, with assistance provided by the Fellowship of Friends, a California non-profit cultural organization, Jeanne Chapman and Robert MacIsaac assumed the task of transcribing and editing the remaining manuscript materials, now preserved at the Library of Congress. Their collaboration led to the release in 1992 of Volume 7 by Southern Illinois and to the completion of the series in 1996 with the publication of Volumes 8 & 9 by W L BENTLEY RARE BOOKS. [7] [8] [9]


The outline above is intended to document the main milestones in the making of With Walt Whitman in Camden. Most of what is presented has been gathered from the prefaces and acknowledgements of the books themselves (see sources) combined with direct physical examination of as many copies of the books as possible, according to established bibliographic principles. All opinions and errors are those of the author.