Abraham Woodhull (alias Samuel Culper), a farmer and Patriot spy on British-controlled Long Island, wrote Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge (alias John Bolton) a letter from Setauket, N.Y., on August 16, 1780 that is in the Papers of George Washington at the Library of Congress. Although the editors at The Papers of George Washington do not know precisely when George Washington received that letter, we can make a reasoned guess.
This summer, the University of Virginia Press published George Washington’s Barbados Diary, an edition of the journal and ship log kept by Washington during his only trip abroad. Publication of the diary concludes more than two years of work conducted by assistant editors Lynn A. Price and Alicia K. Anderson. It is also the first complete edition of the obscure text in 126 years.
In June of this year, two of my Washington Papers colleagues (Kim Curtis and Dana Stefanelli) and I attended the Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents (IEHD), sometimes affectionately referred to as Camp Edit. The five-day workshop, held each year prior to the Association for Documentary Editing (ADE) conference, introduces new editors to a mix of technologies and strategies for creating a scholarly edition. And so, in an effort to provide a glimpse into documentary editing, I would like to share what I learned at Camp Edit.
In late June, numerous textual-editing scholars will travel to Olympia, Washington, to attend the Association for Documentary Editing (ADE) Annual Meeting. This year, the ADE Seminar on Critical Issues will discuss the difficulties of digital publication of documentary editions, which can be exacerbated by limited financial and technological resources. As the moderator of this seminar panel, I have begun to consider what insights might result from this much-needed conversation.
The first thing people tend to comment on when hearing of my new position is that I am a woman. Now, the scholarly editing field is fairly advanced in terms of gender parity; there are many projects headed by and staffed by women. But for some reason, a female editor in chief of George Washington’s papers surprises people. I take pleasure in telling them that I am not the first. I was preceded by the very fine scholar and editor, Dorothy Twohig, who, as managing editor, was with the Papers beginning in 1969, first under Donald Jackson and then Bill Abbot.
Neither associate editor Benjamin L. Huggins nor assistant editor Adrina Garbooshian-Huggins could have anticipated the complexities involved in editing The Papers of George Washington’s Revolutionary War Series, volume 26. One such difficulty concerned the content of the documents, which included the communication of misleading or even false intelligence. And so, in anticipation of the volume’s publication later this year, I sat down with both editors—who collaborated on the volume—to examine the work behind the next installment of the series.
When undertaking research, editors of The Papers of George Washington have occasionally discovered intriguing historical connections that are not included in the annotation. In some cases, the information is omitted because connections cannot be definitively tied together and therefore lack sufficient certitude to warrant inclusion.
Digital publication remains a challenge for many documentary editing projects, especially when dealing with complex documents such as farm reports, financial records, and ship logs. Traditionally, editors have relied upon TEI-based solutions (an XML format for humanities projects), often omitting those more complicated documents and focusing instead on correspondence, speeches, and diary entries.
When I tell people that I am a copy editor at The Washington Papers, most are horrified: “You edit George Washington?!” When I explain that The Washington Papers is a documentary editing project, they are even more confused: “You make movies?” Eventually, I get around to describing what I really do: copyediting.
Throughout my childhood and young adulthood, I flirted with different answers to this ever-present question: teacher, pediatrician, school psychologist, child psychologist. Having earned a BA in psychology (and classics) from the University of Virginia in 2000, I settled on clinical psychologist, with the goal of teaching college students and treating patients. Since this required a PhD, I applied to several highly competitive doctoral programs but was rejected by all of them. What would have happened had I been accepted? For one thing, I would have missed becoming acquainted with George and Martha Washington.