Documentary Editing, Association for


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Newsletter of the Association for Documentary Editing, Volume 5, Number 1, February 1983. ISSN 0196-7134


© Association for Documentary Editing, 1983. Used by permission.


One of the most rapacious editors of nineteenth century American literary figures was Franklin Benjamin Sanborn (I831-1917). When he moved to Concord in the mid-1850s, Sanborn began making friends with all the major Transcendentalists. As Theodore Parker's literary executor (though Parker's widow prevented him from editing anything) and a friend of Bronson Alcott and Henry David Thoreau, he had access to their journals and manuscripts. But, as an editor, Sanborn left much to be desired: he often transcribed incorrectly, left out much material, and invented new material to suit his purposes. Perhaps the most famous example of Sanborn's editorial technique is his two volume edition of Walden, published by the Bibliophile Society in 1909, in which he cheerfully re-arranged the book to accommodate the insertion of 12,000 words of manuscript material that Thoreau had discarded from various stages of the book while writing it. Sanborn's editorial policies reflected his individuality - he was a member of John Brown's "Secret Six" and at age eighty-three was in court defending his right to use his own sewage to fertilize his garden - as well as his experience as a professional author - he published over a dozen books and served variously as editor and correspondent of the Boston Commonwealth and Springfield Republican - but surely seem cavalier by today's standards.