Documentary Editing, Association for


Date of this Version

Spring 2003

Document Type



Documentary Editing, Volume 25, Number 1, Spring 2003. ISSN 0196-7134


2003 © by the author.


Is there a story in those notes? Let me answer that in the affirmative. Drawing on the Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, I can tell you that there are many, many stories in those notes. But I should explain the question. Certainly there are stories behind the notes: the serendipitous moments of discovery, the slogging through barren sources, or the comeuppance when a research strategy proves terribly wrong. Stories behind the notes also encompass stories that are left behind, chipped off or sanded away as the editor trims her knowledge down to precisely the kernel needed to explicate the text.

Stories in the notes are offered to the reader as aids in reading the texts well. Unlike the note that explicates an isolated reference or image, these notes weave and link together the edition's various narratives to complement its plot. Arising from the text, they reflect the editor's mastery of the documents and their context after it is filtered through the discipline of editing. While proofreading our third volume, I have been asking myself questions: what is it we do? why do we seem to have so many stories in our notes? are there patterns? why do our notes seem so bloody long even after I've whittled and whittled away at them? And those questions led me back to another puzzle I chewed on for awhile: how do historical editors get themselves caught between, on the one hand, the Jerry Georges of the world who say "the NHPRC will not fund scholarship," and, on the other hand, colleagues who regard editions as not scholarly enough? I rephrased the questions: how do I use historical research in annotation? To find balance between editorial restraint and good historical research, we need to articulate (or confess) activity that sounds anything but restrained and consider not only the dichotomy of restraint and temptation but also the dichotomy between restraint and superficiality. It is quite easy to keep the annotation in check if the editors don't know anything about their subject.

Previous Versions

Dec 8 2021