Justin Kaplan

Franklin Library Justin Kaplan books

Walt Whitman A Life - Limited First Edition Society - 1980
Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain - Pulitzer Prize Classics - 1986


Biographer Justin Kaplan

Justin Kaplan (1925–2014) was an American author, editor, and biographer renowned for his insightful and meticulously researched works on literary and historical figures. Born on September 5, 1925, in Manhattan, New York, Kaplan's career spanned several decades and earned him recognition as a distinguished scholar and writer. Kaplan's early years were marked by a passion for literature and a commitment to intellectual pursuits. He attended Harvard University, where he studied English literature and began honing his skills as a writer and critic. After graduating, Kaplan pursued a career in publishing, working for prominent publishing houses such as Simon & Schuster and Viking Press.

Throughout his career, Kaplan demonstrated a keen interest in American literature and history, with a particular focus on the lives and works of iconic authors and cultural figures. His biographies are characterized by thorough research, engaging prose, and a deep understanding of his subjects' lives and legacies. One of Kaplan's most acclaimed works is his biography of Mark Twain, Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain (1966), which won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography in 1967. The biography offers a comprehensive and insightful portrait of the celebrated author, tracing his life from his early years in Missouri to his rise to literary fame and enduring legacy.

In addition to his biography of Mark Twain, Kaplan authored several other notable works, including Walt Whitman: A Life (1980) and Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer (2008), which explores Abraham Lincoln's life through the lens of his writing and oratory skills. Kaplan's biographies are celebrated for their depth of research, nuanced portrayal of his subjects, and ability to illuminate the cultural and historical contexts in which they lived.

Kaplan's contributions to American letters earned him numerous awards and honors, including the National Book Award for Nonfiction and the Bancroft Prize. His work as an editor and anthologist also played a significant role in preserving and promoting American literary heritage. Justin Kaplan's legacy as a biographer and literary scholar continues to resonate in the world of letters. Through his insightful and meticulously researched works, Kaplan shed light on the lives and legacies of some of the most influential figures in American history and literature, leaving an indelible mark on the genre of biography. Kaplan passed away on March 2, 2014, but his contributions to literary scholarship endure as a testament to his enduring impact on the literary world.

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