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Mary Church Terrell Main Library
148 W College St. Oberlin, OH 44074-1545


The main visitor lot is the east Service Building lot, and the south row of the Carnegie Building lot for visitors to offices within that building.

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About the Collection

Special Collections has a strong holding of works by and about Walt Whitman, which grew organically through purchase and donation. The works included are primarily different editions of Leaves of Grass, as well as poems originally from Leaves of Grass but published separately as well as some related ephemera.

Front of a postcard with cursive writing.
Back of a postcard with cursive writing.

Included in these publications are facsimiles of original editions, including the 1839 and 1860-61 editions, small and artisan press editions of single poems, a multi-volume set of the complete writings of Whitman - both poetry and prose, a small press publication of one of Whitman’s notebooks, and several works of biography, memoir, and anecdotal material about Whitman.

Apart from books, the Special Collections holds several ephemeral pieces related to Whitman, such as a printed broadside advertising his works. Of special note is one edition of Whitman’s poems which was previously owned by the English writer Edmund Gosse and by Oliver Brett, containing bookplates of both men.

Tipped into this same edition is a postcard (above) which was handwritten by Whitman himself and addressed to his close friend, Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe. Several of the books in the collection were donated to Oberlin College by the prominent book collector and Whitman scholar Charles E. Feinberg. This collection shows, through the editions themselves and the commentary on them, Whitman’s creative process and the complexity of the burgeoning American literary scene.