Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking

Walt Whitman.
Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking. 
Torrance, California: Labyrinth 1978. (29416)

Signed by typographer Richard Bigus in the colophon. Numbered 26 in an edition of sixty-five.

The aim of this rendition is laid out clearly on the title page, “This new edition of ‘Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking’ attempts to translate the spirit of Whitman’s poem into concrete typography . . . Throughout the book the title repetitions suggest Whitman’s loud, continuous evocation to the origin and to the disappearance of all things.”

“Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” first published in Leaves of Grass (1860) as “A Word Out of the Sea,” follows the poet’s youthful self beneath September moonlight in a wander from his bed through trees and briars to Paumanok’s shore (Long Island, New York). With all senses attuned, he recalls a nesting pair of mockingbirds, their four green eggs in May, and the melodic variations of their chants. But in fall the male’s forlorn call is incessant and unanswered except by the eternal lapping at the water’s edge.

Out of step with conventions of his time, Walt Whitman (1810–1892) now is seen as America’s preeminent poet of the nineteenth century. Born on Long Island, he worked as clerk, printer, editor, teacher, and federal employee. Whitman self-published the first edition of Leaves of Grass in 1855. He added to and revised its subsequent eight editions through the year of his death.

The graphic quality impressed by Richard Bigus on each of the ten sheets of handmade Japanese Hosho paper carries the dynamism of a broadside, more so than a page of continuing text. The repetition of Whitman’s beguiling title becomes a vehicle to fuel and contain the verses. The poem is guided by edging fashioned from the repeated word “endlessly” reserving space for a nest or moon form typeset in segments of the title, printed in black, green, blue, yellow, red, or gray inks. Bigus studied under William Everson and Jack Stauffacher, taught at schools across the United States and New Zealand, and is retired Associate Professor of Art at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. For many years he operated Labyrinth Editions in Athens, Ohio; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Honolulu and is considered an authority of printing on vellum. He contributed to the Anne and David Bromer publication, The Mystique of Vellum (Bridwell AFW8258).

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Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking