Topic: Documentary editing

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, Part II: Henry Barton Dawson (1821-1889)

By William M. Ferraro, Managing Editor
July 15, 2016

Title page of the catalogue.

Title page of the catalogue.

Award-winning journalist and World War II historian Rick Atkinson visited the Washington Papers near the start of his research for a trilogy examining the Revolutionary War. He sought insights into Washington from the editors and obscure sources that might shed light on overlooked or shadowy aspects of the conflict. The editors shared plenty of thoughts and anecdotes, and Atkinson nosed around our extensive holdings of microfilm and reference works. What I enjoyed most, however, was bringing to his attention an item from my personal collection: the auction catalogue for dispersing Henry B. Dawson’s library produced by the New York City house Bangs and Co. and titled Catalogue of the Large Historical Library of the Late Henry B. Dawson, LL.D., an Extensive and Valuable Collections of Books, Pamphlets and Periodicals . . . . I told Atkinson that if he were starting a major Revolutionary War work in the later nineteenth century and sought insights and obscure sources, he would have visited Dawson rather than a documentary editing project like the Washington Papers.

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Documentary Editing at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute

By Cathy Moran Hajo, Director of the Jane Addams Papers Project
July 1, 2016

IMG_20160617_124340732-300x222Since 2001, the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, held annually in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, has been an annual gathering of technologists, scholars, librarians, graduate and undergraduate students…and editors. For the past three years, Jennifer Stertzer (Washington Papers) and Cathy Hajo (The Jane Addams Papers Project), joined this year by Erica Cavanaugh (Washington Papers), have offered a course titled “Conceptualising and Creating Digital Editions,” one of a rich slate of hands-on and theoretical week-long immersions into digital humanities.

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George Washington’s War Diary

By Benjamin Huggins, Associate Editor
June 23, 2016

Washington's first entry. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Washington’s first entry. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. Click on image to enlarge.

In my most recent blog post, I mentioned that General Washington kept two diaries during the Revolutionary War: his weather diary (which he maintained from January to June 1780) and his journal kept from May to early November 1781. In this post, I want to discuss the latter diary.

Written entirely in Washington’s own hand, the journal shows almost no corrections, suggesting that Washington may have copied the entries into the diary after writing a draft. The journal consists of two volumes: the first covering May to August 14, 1781, and the second spanning from August 14 to November 5, 1781 (the entry for August 14 is split between the two volumes). Washington opened his war diary with a statement of regret:

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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: William Spohn Baker (1824-1897)

By William M. Ferraro, Associate Editor
May 6, 2016

Modern documentary editors benefit enormously from ready access to electronic databases that allow nearly instantaneous immersion into an ocean of primary and secondary sources. Much of what we find and exploit was the work of our scholarly forebears, many of whom were not professional historians. I wish to honor some of these easily overlooked and unfortunately forgotten individuals in a series of contributions to Washington’s Quill over the next year or so. A person’s influence on current editing at the Washington Papers will be my major selection principle.

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General Washington Records the Weather

By Benjamin L. Huggins, Associate Editor
April 14, 2016

In the years before he became commander in chief of the Continental Army in the Revolution, Washington kept diaries of, in his words, “Where & how my time is Spent.” Many of these journals have survived, and they have been printed in volumes I, II, and III of the Diaries.1 But during the war, Washington kept a diary only during two periods.

From May to November of 1781, he maintained a daily journal of significant events and occurrences during the campaign that culminated in the decisive Battle of Yorktown. Scholars have made extensive use of this diary. But the general also kept another, lesser-known diary during the war: a diary of the weather at his headquarters at Morristown, New Jersey, from January to June 1780.

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Completing the Transcription of the Barbados Diary

January 27, 2016

Though the project only began in July 2015, the Washington Papers is pleased to announce that our transcription of George Washington’s Barbados diary is complete! We’re excited to be closer to publishing a newly transcribed and annotated edition, the first in more than a century. Washington’s Barbados diary, written when he was 19 years old, records the only foreign excursion he ever took.

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Benjamin Franklin and the Adams Family: Editing the Founders

George Washington Statue in Boston Public Garden

George Washington Statue in Boston Public Garden

By Neal Millikan, Assistant Editor
January 5, 2016

“To edit a book well, especially if in any way historical, is far more of a labor than a [wo]man commonly gets credit for. It requires varied knowledge and extensive resources–far more than I could have imagined. I find it engrosses my attention very completely.”

–Diary of Charles Francis Adams, May 9, 1850

Reading this quote in the editor in chief’s office at the Adams Papers made me smile. With these three brief sentences Charles Francis Adams perfectly described what we strive to do as documentary editors.

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George Washington Forgeries at Mount Vernon

By Neal Millikan
May 8, 2015

Neal is an Assistant Editor for The Papers of George Washington. She is currently editing volumes for the Presidential Series.

Among the special collections owned by the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon are nearly 500 documents written by George Washington. And not surprisingly, there are also some known forgeries, one of which is attributed to Robert Spring, and another of which is likely the work of Joseph Cosey.

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Transcription: Looking Back 200 Years

By Prajeeth Koyada
January 10, 2015

Prajeeth is a first year chemistry major at the University of Virginia. He currently transcribes documents for the Financial Papers Project.

Transcribing documents for the Papers of George Washington has been both an enlightening and mystifying experience. For every “Caleb Gibbs” I uncover, a multitude of questions arise– “who was this person?”, “why was he important”, “what are his greatest achievements, and failures?”, among others–and occupy my thoughts until I move on to the next line and my thoughts are now focused on a new individual, maybe a “Josiah Hall” this time. The entire time, from the moment I open the papers to the instant I shut off the computer, I don’t exist in that large room on grounds – I’m reading, thinking of, and most importantly, experiencing a minuscule part of the life of George Washington and his correspondents.

Sorry to sound overly Romantic, but the transcription of George Washington’s correspondence truly is an adventure in some respects. I uncover what his debts and obligations were, to whom they were entitled to, and what exactly he owed. A form of enlightenment, I gain a unique insight regarding the needs of the Continental Army during and after the Revolutionary War– something not provided in the history courses everyone has taken.

Henry Alexander Ogden’s 1897 depiction of uniforms and weapons used in the Revolutionary War

On the side, by reading some of the other transcribed diaries the Papers have produced, I follow the footsteps of Washington and his patriots; I do not just relive the same lessons taught in history class, but get to see what daily life looked like, in all of its small details. Most definitely, these papers have helped me to humanize these long-past figures, bastions of a far away age. When we think of George Washington and his soldiers, we usually see them as symbols of freedom, fighting an impossible battle for independence, which of course puts us in a certain perceptual mold. For me, reading these soldiers’ complaints about rations, stories told around the campfire, and images of their own personal lives reminds me that these soldiers were just like you and me, fighting for what they believe in. In other words, the Papers reminds me just who fought for the United States’ freedom and instills in me even more appreciation and respect for those same people.

Although I’ve made this work sound extremely serious, the truth is this work is remarkably fun and, at times, amusing! There are various stories that come to mind that these soldiers relate that would entertain even today, two centuries later. History is a great passion of mine, and being able to see a glimpse of what life was like during the birth of the United States for the people who helped achieve it is an amazing opportunity I’m grateful for.