Justin Kaplan (born Justin Daniel Kaplan (September 5, 1925, New York, New York, USA; March 2, 2014 Cambridge, Massachusetts), United States Author, biographer, and book publisher, known for his acclaimed literary biographies of Mark Twain, Lincoln Stephens, and Walt Whitman, as well as his sixteenth edition of Bartlett’s Quotations (1992 ).
Kaplan grew up in New York City. After graduating from Harvard University (BS, 1945), he entered graduate school but left in 1947 to work for various publishers, including Simon & Shuster, where he rose to editor-in-chief. In this role, he has collaborated with writers such as Bertrand Russell, Will Durant, Nikos Kazantzakis, and sociologist C. Wright Mills.
In 1959, Kaplan left publishing to begin writing his first book, a biography of Mark Twain titled Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain (1966), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National book award. Kaplan began his biography of Clemens at age 31 rather than at an early age, a practice later followed by other biographers. Kaplan’s Lincoln Steffens: A Biography (1974) tells the story of the famous journalist and illegitimate son in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, while Walt Whitman: A Life (1980) won a National Book Award and received a lot of attention.
Kaplan has taught at Harvard University and Emerson College in Boston, and is a biographer-in-residence at the Institute of Modern Biography at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. He edited several anthologies. As editor-in-chief of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations (1992), he favored more contemporary quotes, including that of filmmaker Woody Allen (“It’s not that I’m afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” ) and Kermit the Frog (“It’s not that easy to be green.”) and one goes to the classy actor Cary Grant (“Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.”).