Documentary Editing, Association for


Date of this Version

Spring 2004

Document Type



Documentary Editing, Volume 26, Number 1, Spring 2004. ISSN 0196-7134


2004 © the Association for Documentary Editing. Used by permission.


My introduction to documentary editing differs from that of other scholarly editors. They are scholars who became editors; I am an editor who found a project in medical history. With an M.D. degree, I had written many articles on health issues and had edited a medical society journal.

In 1999, I began researching the manuscript of Joseph Mersman (1824-1892), an obscure man who was a whiskey rectifier. From 1847 to 1864, Mersman kept a diary and made entries in English, French, and German. His 300-page record, at the Missouri Historical Society, describes life in Cincinnati and St. Louis, including the 1849 cholera outbreak.

After the epidemic, Mersman visited a brothel. Soon he had secondary syphilis and described his treatment: tea made from sarsaparilla and hot baths. After fifteen months, when his doctors pronounced him cured, Mersman married and then sired eight children. My article in the spring issue of Documentary Editing discusses this story at length.