Documentary Editing, Association for


Date of this Version


Document Type



Newsletter of the Association for Documentary Editing, Volume 4, Number 2, May 1982. ISSN 0196-7134


© Association for Documentary Editing, 1982. Used by permission.


I think I will plunge right in, and propose that not only is interpretive editing all that we can do, not only is it proper, but that it is the best chance we have of producing works of history which will stand as classics of historical writing. I want to use as an example of a good, classic, interpretive, edition of correspondence and published writings, Henry Adams's three-volume edition of Writings of Albert Gallatin. This is the edition of Gallatin's writings which scholars now have, and which they had for about the last century. In 1877 Henry Adams was engaged by Gallatin's only surviving son to write a biography of Albert Gallatin. He concluded by publishing both a Life and a selected edition of writings. Adams, grandson of John Quincy Adams, and a son of Charles Francis Adams, was a medieval historian, editor of the North American Review, biographer, author of a multi-volume narrative history of the early Republic, philosopher of history, art historian, and novelist. Members of Henry Adams's family had, of course, been closely associated with Gallatin, and John Quincy and Gallatin served together on a diplomatic mission to negotiate the Treaty of Ghent. Adams had, therefore, superb qualifications for undertaking both a biography and an edition of Gallatin's writings. He was an intelligent and knowledgeable person, with an interest in the subject; and we cannot really, on top of all that, expect him to have had training as a documentary editor. It is Henry Adams's conception