Date of this Version
Documentary Editing: Journal of the Association for Documentary Editing, Volume 32: 2011 ISSN 0196-7134
I suspect that many scholars begin to edit a work by accident: I begin with the anecdote of how I became an accidental editor of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in academic year 2002. I had read not a single work by Harriet Beecher Stowe when I was admitted to the Ph.D. program at the University of Virginia. During my first semester, I was often at Alderman Library’s Special Collections floor to subject a copy of Delariviér Manley’s Memoirs of Europe (1710) to bibliographical analysis. I was reading Stowe’s work in another course, was already in Alderman for the Manley work, and so decided to look up the first edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1852 by John P. Jewett. The catalog search showed that Special Collections also held an original newspaper copy of Stowe’s work, which began its serial run the year before Jewett’s edition, so I requested that too. The bound volume of National Era numbers with Uncle Tom’s Cabin in weekly installments made all “books” of my previous experience seem small, just as Stowe’s authorial voice seemed more like one from a whirlwind than human. On beginning the dissertation prospectus, I was advised that the newspaper version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin could form the basis for an intriguing type of digital edition. The first step, to imagine how a new edition could preserve some of the periodical’s rich context, was one of many, and I have been editing Stowe’s work since shortly after that push in the right direction, over seven years ago.