5.0098 Library of America (2/76)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Mon, 27 May 91 16:05:29 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0098. Monday, 27 May 1991.

(1) Date: Fri, 24 May 91 08:01:16 EDT (33 lines)
From: "L. Dale Patterson" <LDPATT01@ULKYVM>
Subject: 5.0095 Notes and Queries

(2) Date: Mon, 27 May 91 10:25 EDT (43 lines)
From: John Lavagnino <LAV@brandeis.bitnet>
Subject: Library of America

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 24 May 91 08:01:16 EDT
From: "L. Dale Patterson" <LDPATT01@ULKYVM>
Subject: 5.0095 Notes and Queries

The Library of America series has been in publication for at least 7 or
more years (probably 10). You are right that the material is of good
quality. The paper is acid-free and archival quality (meaning it won't
yellow or turn brittle with age) and the bindings, as you may have
noticed allow the book to be opened flat without damage to the spine or
binding. One can subscribe to the series, coming at most once a month.
If you dont' want a volume you can send it back.

I subscribed for several years and was pleased with the product.

There is a distinction between authoritative and critical edition, of
course. These are not critical editions in the sense of containing
extensive notes and references to variants of the text. If that is
important then you won't find it here. There are notes about the text
and notes about the author. The other impressive aspect about the
series is the breadth, in time and space. Authors from the colonial to
mid-twentieth century are involved and even some lesser known authors
are getting into the series, which is great (e.g. when the series was
started Sarah Orne Jewett was probably not as popular as she is today,
but the decision was made to include her-though I don't think her volume
is out yet)

I believe the publisher's mean definitive in the sense of the scope of
the entire series, not the authoritative text, though according to the
prospectus there was the attempt to arrive at a good textual reading.

-- Dale Patterson
University of Louisville
BITNET: ldpatt01 @ ulkyvm
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------45----
Date: Mon, 27 May 91 10:25 EDT
From: John Lavagnino <LAV@brandeis.bitnet>
Subject: Library of America

In response to Christian Allegre's inquiry about the Library of America:
these editions are generally quite reliable, though they aren't in every
instance the best around. The Whitman volume, for example, is an
accurate reprint of the texts, and it's the only one-volume edition with
both the 1855 and 1891--1892 Leaves of Grass and with some of the prose.
But the Norton edition of the poetry is a more scholarly edition: it
includes many fragments that don't appear in the Library of America
edition, and the notes are much more extensive.

Many other Library of America volumes---notably their Hawthorne,
Howells, and Melville---take their texts from the definitive scholarly
editions of their writers, and in those instances are usually the best
editions you can obtain for a reasonable cost. Every volume has a
detailed "Note on the Text" at the end which will tell you everything
you need to know to judge the origin of the texts they're using. In
short, these are always pretty good editions, and sometimes are the

As far as its claim to be a definitive *collection*, this is perhaps
more open to question. The Pleiade comparison is apt, because that was
one model for this series. And it is a unique series because it often
offers comprehensive collections of its authors---you can get a whole
lot of Hawthorne, not just the Greatest Hits---but there are lots of
gaps in its roster of authors, in part because they've only been at it
for a decade. For example, the coverage of black and women writers is
still very poor. There are many paperback series that cover more
authors, but usually without covering more than the Greatest Hits; in
fact the Library of America itself has started a paperback series of
that sort.

I can't resist mentioning one problem with the Whitman volume: it omits
a poem from the 1891--1892 Leaves of Grass, ``Come, said my Soul,''
which appeared on the title page. It's a rather common mistake in
reprints of this work. I wrote to the Library of America about it last
fall but to date have received no response.

John Lavagnino
Department of English and American Literature, Brandeis University