This is an original 1860 copy of Leaves of Grass in my collection. By 1860, Whitman had released two earlier versions of Leaves of Grass that he had published himself. The 1860 edition was the first true ‘big release’ of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass by a publisher; Thayer & Eldridge. (This copy lacks the printer engraving on the copyright page and is likely a Worthington edition).
Of the book title, Walt says:
“I am well satisfied with my success with titles – with Leaves of Grass, for instance, though some of my friends themselves rather kicked against it at the start – particularly the literary hairsplitters, who rejected it as a species of folly. ‘Leaves of Grass,’ they said: ‘there are no ‘leaves’ of grass’; there are ‘spears’ of grass: ‘that’s your word, Walt Whitman: spears, spears.’ But ‘Spears’ of Grass would not have been the same to me. Etymologically ‘leaves’ is correct – scientific men use it so. I stuck to leaves, leaves, leaves, until it was able to take care of itself. Now it has got well started on its voyage – it will never be displaced.”
Traubel, Horace. (1906). With Walt Whitman in Camden (March 28 – July 14, 1888). Boston: Small, Maynard & Company. pp. 186.