MELVILLE - It was known for decades that it existed, but historians were not sure what had happened to Walt Whitman's family Bible.

Last May, a woman who had been married to the great-great-great-grandson of Whitman's sister decided it was time to bring the Bible back to where it belonged.

For five generations, the Bible had been protected and cared for.

Cynthia Shor, Director of the Walt Whitman Birthplace in Melville, picked up the 20-pound Bible from the descendent who lived in Florida.

Up until then, Long Island historians only knew the Bible had at one time existed, and that it was a Christmas gift from Whitman to his sister Mary Elizabeth in 1878.

Once in the historians' hands - each page carefully turned - another hidden gem was uncovered.

"When you open it up, you are surprised by the dedication Whitman wrote to his sister," says curator Richard Ryan.

Inside there's poetry and, in Whitman's own handwriting, the family genealogy. Tucked inside the Bible there's also a lock of his mother's hair.

The Bible is on display at the Walt Whitman Birthplace.