Justin Kaplan

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Justin Daniel "Joe" Kaplan (September 5, 1925 – March 2, 2014) was an American writer and editor. He was best known as a biographer, particularly of Samuel Clemens, Lincoln Steffens, and Walt Whitman.


Kaplan received his bachelor of science degree from Harvard University in 1945. After pursuing a post-graduate degree for two years, he left graduate school to work for the publishing house Simon & Schuster, where he eventually became a senior editor.

Kaplan left publishing for writing in 1959 and began work on his first biography, Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain, a study of the famous author that was published in 1966. The book was a critical success, winning both the National Book Award in category Arts and Letters[1] and the Pulitzer Prize for Biography.[2] He followed this up with two more well-received biographies, Lincoln Steffens: A Biography (1974), and Walt Whitman: A Life (1980), which won a National Book Award in category Autobiography/Biography.[3][a]

In 2006, Kaplan published When the Astors Owned New York: Blue Bloods and Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age. He also edited several anthologies and the 16th and 17th editions of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (1992, 2002).

Kaplan married author Anne Bernays in 1954. The two wrote a double memoir entitled Back Then: Two Lives in 1950s New York, as well as The Language of Names (1997). They lived in Cambridge and Truro, Massachusetts.[4]

Kaplan died at the age of 88 on March 2, 2014. He had Parkinson's disease.[5]


  1. ^ Walt Whitman won the 1981 award for hardcover "Autobiography/Biography".
    From 1980 to 1983 in National Book Award history there were dual hardcover and paperback awards in most categories, and several nonfiction subcategories including General Nonfiction. Most of the paperback award-winners were reprints, including the 1982 Autobiography/Biography.


  1. ^ "National Book Awards – 1967". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-10. (With acceptance speech by Kaplan.)
    "Arts and Letters" was an award category from 1964 to 1976.
  2. ^ "General Nonfiction". Past winners and finalists by category. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
  3. ^ "National Book Awards – 1981". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  4. ^ Marchand, Brenda (March 13, 2003). "At home with Justin Kaplan and Anne Bernays". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 22 December 2010. 
  5. ^ NYTimes obituary