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Celebrating Walt Whitman: Rare Editions of Leaves of Grass

Celebrate Our New Aquisitions on April 20, 2023

Walt Whitman, A Brooklyn (College) Boy


Celebrate Our Acquisition of Two Rare Editions of Leaves of Grass 

with a Special Collections viewing & presentation by Karen Karbiener!


Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is a book born in Brooklyn that continues to inspire the world. The poet began his literary career here, printing the first edition of his revolutionary Leaves of Grass in Brooklyn Heights in June 1855; by September, he attempted to bolster sales by announcing himself “Walt Whitman, a Brooklyn Boy” in an anonymous self-review.  Come celebrate the homecoming of Leaves of Grass at Brooklyn College Library, the recent recipient of two rare editions of America’s ‘cultural declaration of independence’: a first edition donated by Susan Jaffe Tane, and a Centennial Edition (1876) gifted by Susan Zeiger.  


On April 20th at 4pm, please join us for a viewing of these iconic books in the library’s Special Collections room, where two important portraits will also be on display: Charles Hine’s provocative 1860 image of Whitman in his early 40s and G. W. Waters’ 1877 portrait of the “Good Gray Poet.” At 4:15pm in the Woody Tanger Auditorium, Karen Karbiener will present the stories of the books from Whitman’s hands to their new position of honor at Brooklyn College, revealing their surprising connections to the portraits.  Your participation is welcome during the ensuing Q&A.



The Brooklyn College Archives and Special Collections seeks to document and preserve the rich history of our borough, its community institutions, leaders and noteworthy events. The recent gifts of a first edition of Leaves of Grass (1855) and an 1876 Centennial Edition of Leaves of Grass enhance our collection of materials by and about the self-proclaimed “Brooklyn Boy”, also recognized as the “Father of Free Verse”, the “Bard of Democracy” and America’s original representative voice.  The Archive not only protects and preserves such rare treasures, but makes them available to the public so that Brooklyn’s cultural history will continue to inspire the world.

Karen Karbiener is a scholar, writer, curator, and cultural activist and has been teaching at New York University since 2003. Winner of the Kluge Fellowship at the Library of Congress and a Fulbright recipient, she has published widely on Whitman, including an edition of Leaves of Grass, two audiobooks on the poet’s life and influence, a book introducing Whitman’s poetry to children, and a collaboration with illustrator Brian Selznick on an experiential edition of Live Oak, with Moss, Whitman’s secret same-sex love poems. She was the co-curator with Susan Tane of Poet of the Body: New York’s Walt Whitman (Grolier Club, NY; 2019) and is the author of a book based on the exhibition (University of Chicago Press, 2022). Karbiener is the president and founding member of the Walt Whitman Initiative, a non-profit organization serving as a center for cultural activism and poetry-related events (including New York’s annual Song of Myself marathon, in its 20th year in 2023).  She is currently working on a Whitman biography.