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Editorial Method


Editorial Method
Mark G. Emerson

This is the first volume in the Douglass Correspondence Series, which is designed to present letters to and from Frederick Douglass in chronological order. The present volume begins with his first letter to William Lloyd Garrison in 1842 and concludes in 1852, covering a time when Douglass established himself as a well-known orator, autobiographer, and newspaper editor.

Selection of Copy-Text

Two types of documents serve as copy-text for the letters appearing in this volume: the autograph letter (AL), written wholly in the author’s own hand; and the printed letter (PL), typeset in contemporary newspapers. Of the copy-texts of the letters selected for publication in this volume, 42 percent are autographs and 58 percent are printed letters. The letters of this period predate Douglass’s use of typing machines, and none of his known letters during this decade involved the use of an amanuensis. Thus, no typed letters (TL) or letters handwritten by someone other than the author (HL) serve as copy-texts for the correspondence appearing in this volume.
Autographs serve as copy-text when available. Many of the letters to and from Douglass were contemporaneously published in newspapers, and in fact more than half of the letters appearing in this volume have survived only through their printed records. Douglass’s correspondence was often printed in more than one newspaper, with no secondary evidence surviving to indicate priority in such situations. Where no holograph is available, the letter appearing in the newspaper that first printed the letter serves as copy-text. In some instances a newspaper indicates that it is reprinting a letter that appeared in another newspaper, but no exemplars of the earlier publication have been located. In these cases the earliest surviving newspaper printing serves as copy-text, and all known information about the initial publication is provided in a note.

Transcription of the Letters

The essential principle guiding transcription was to record everything in word processing as it appears in the copy-text. For copy-texts taken from


newspapers, this includes reproducing the format, such as the position of the place and date and the positioning of the salutation. It also includes replicating font style, whether regular or italic, and font effect, such as superscript and both small and full-size capital letters. Any misspellings or other typographical errors have been transcribed without correction, and any symbols are duplicated. Some newspaper copy-texts are excerpts from unlocated originals. In such cases, the transcription reproduces the symbols used in the newspaper copy-text, such as a series of asterisks or ellipsis points to indicate omissions. Variation in the number of ellipsis points appears to correspond to the number of words omitted in certain newspaper abridgments; the exact number of points appearing in the copy-text is faithfully reproduced in the present edition. Missing text in the body of a letter resulting from damage to the original (or to a sole surviving copy of a first printing) is indicated in square brackets by the words [missing text].
For autographs, the central principle guiding transcription was to record everything the author wrote in composing, correcting, or revising the text. Any authorial alterations, such as insertions and cancellations, are recorded. The symbols used to indicate authorial revisions are angle brackets ((inserted)) to indicate insertions and a strikethrough type (canceled) to indicate cancellations. Spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and abbreviation are retained exactly as found in the autographs. Superscription is duplicated for both letters and numerals. In accordance with standard typographical conventions, words underlined once in the autographs are italicized in the transcript, those underlined twice are represented in small caps, and words underlined three times appear as full-size capital letters. Illegible words or passages are signaled by the bracketed term [illegible]. The format of each letter, including the position of the date and place, has been duplicated.

Emendation and Standardization of Correspondence

A. Silent emendations. No emendations to the transcription of the copy-text have been made without indications in square brackets [ ], with the following exceptions.
1. Superscripts. Superscripts, suffixes in abbreviated words (Fredk) and ordinal numbers (18th), have been brought down to the line.
2. Interlineations. Inserted and marginal text has been properly placed in the running text, angle brackets have been removed, and interlineated text has been brought down to the line.

3. Cancellations. Superseded words and phrases struck out by the


writer are recorded in the transcription but are generally omitted from the present edition without editorial comment. In some instances, however, the canceled word or phrase has been deemed important, and the deleted material has been restored to the text, indicated by a strikethrough type and explained in an annotation, if necessary.
4. Punctuation typeface. The few instances in which newspapers failed to follow Douglass’s consistent preference for roman punctuation trailing or preceding italicized words have been silently emended to roman type throughout.

B. Overt emendations. The following methods were used in overtly emending the transcript, as reproduced from the copy-text. All emendations to the letter texts are recorded, but purely physical characteristics, such as line spacing and paragraph indentation, have been silently regularized.

l. Spelling. Spelling has been preserved as it appears in the copy-text. Misspelled words have not been marked by an editorial [sic]. If the sense of a word has been obscured by misspelling, the word has been spelled correctly, with any changes indicated by square brackets.

2. Abbreviations. Abbreviations have been retained as they appear in the copy-text, but those that are confusing or not easily recognizable are expanded in square brackets. For example, the word “Dolls” has been expanded to “Doll[ar]s” to avoid any confusion.

3. Punctuation. Punctuation in the copy-text is preserved, with the following exceptions. When independent clauses in a paragraph are not separated by punctuation or joined by a coordinating conjunction, terminal punctuation is inserted in brackets after the first independent clause, and the first word of the following sentence is capitalized, if not already so, and marked by square brackets. Missing quotation marks, such as a single or double closing quote, have been supplied in the appropriate matching style and are indicated by square brackets.

4. Slips of the pen. Slips of the pen, such as recording the same word twice, are uncorrected; repetitions of words across letter pages fall into the same category and are also uncorrected. No slips of the pen are marked by [sic].

5. Capitalization. The transcript preserves the capitalization as found in the correspondence, except that the first word of a sentence, when not capitalized, has been capitalized as indicated by square brackets.

6. Typesetting errors. Three general classes of errors committed by


typesetters in printing a letter have been corrected. First, words that are misspelled have been corrected, as indicated by square brackets, giving the author the presumption of having spelled the word correctly. Second, when a typographical error renders a passage confusing, or ads-leading, the error has been (retreated, as indicated by square brackets. For example, when a printed letter states that a mob “intimated” a speaker, the word has been corrected to “intim[id]ated,” with the changes indicated by square brackets. Third, words not separated by a space have been separated, with the change indicated by an empty pair of square brackets between the words; for instance, “wasalso” is changed to “was[ ]also“ in order to avoid confusion.

C. Standardizations. Many of the original extratextual elements listed below, such as salutations, recipient identification, and complimentary closings, were laid out for newspaper columns, where space economy was a concern and had nothing to do with ease of reading. Moreover, authors employed different formatting methods in constructing their letters. These are considered nontextual elements of correspondence, and the standardization of format for the present edition is not part of the emendation record. In presenting these extratextual components, the following silent methods of standardization have been employed for consistency and ease of reading.

1. Place and dateline. Both the placement and format of the place and the date of composition have been standardized in each letter and appear flush right one line below the editorial heading, regardless of the placement in the copy-text. The place of composition appears first and takes the form of a city and a state or country, separated by a comma and followed by a period. The dateline appears on the same line, following the place of composition, in the form of a date, a month spelled out, and a year followed by a period. In the place and dateline, expanded text required to complete abbreviated information is indicated by square brackets. Information concerning the place and dateline that is missing in the copy-text has been supplied, as indicated by square brackets, when this information can be discerned with certainty or through conjecture. Inaccurate information in the copy-text, such as a misspelled name of a city, has been corrected in brackets and is explained in annotation. If the place of composition is not conjecturable, the abbreviation “[n.p.]” is employed. Any additional information appearing in the place or dateline of the copy-text, such as the day of the week or a street address, is provided in an


notation. In some instances the author composed the letter over the course of several days and has dated each entry. In such cases only the initial date is standardized, and the subsequent internal dates are considered part of the body of the letter and are not standardized.

2. Recipient information. Recipient information preceding the salutation or following the signature is not emended, but the irregular physical formats are brought into conformance with the following general layout. Information concerning the recipient or recipients of the letter appears flush left in the line following the place and dateline, regardless of where it occurs in the copy-text. The names and recipients appear first, including honorifics used by the author. Any identifying information provided by the author, such aes a recipient's affiliation with an organization, appears flush left on the line following the recipient’s name. The next line contains any information regarding street address or other location, such as the name of a building, provided by the author. The names of city and country, if provided by the author, appear in the line above salutation and are separated by commas.

3. Salutations. The placement and font effect of the salutations in the correspondence has been standardized. They appear at the top left of the body of the correspondence one line below the recipient information, or one line below the place and dateline if there is no recipient information.

4. Complimentary closings. Complimentary closings begin one line above the signature, as a new paragraph, regardless of their location in the copy-text. Font effect has been standardized.

5. Signatures. Signatures are placed flush right one line below the complimentary closing, regardless of their placement in the copy-text. Font effect has been standardized.

6. Postscripts and footnotes. Text following signature, except for recipient information or footnotes, is treated as a postscript or a post-postscript by the author. Such material appears flush left on the line following the signature and is marked by a supplied [P.S.] or [P.P.S.] if none appears in the copy-text. Footnotes by the author of the letter appear flush left on the line below the signature and carry the same symbols that appear in the copy-text; for example, if a footnote is identified by an asterisk, the same symbol is employed. A footnote inserted by someone other than the author of the letter, such as an editor, appears in annotation.


Textual Verification

After initial transcription and before editing, members of the Frederick Douglass Papers staff ensured that the transcribed letter matched as closely as possible the copy-text, as reproduced by photocopy from microfilm or the original holograph. First, the transcribers proofread against the photocopy of the letter they transcribed, correcting their own typing errors. In the ‘ second step, a member of the editorial staff read the photocopy of the copy-text aloud to another member of the staff, who verified the accuracy of the transcription. Next a member of the staff made any necessary corrections to the transcription to assure its accuracy, and another member of the staff verified the accuracy of those corrections.

Arrangement of Letters

Letters are arranged chronologically on the basis of the dateline. Undated letters have been given approximate dates based on context and internal references. When a letter includes or has been assigned a month only, it appears at the end of the entries for that month in the given year.

Editorial Headings and Notes on Provenance

An editorial heading introduces both the author and recipient of the letter. In cases in which the name of either the author of the letter or the recipient is misspelled or when a pseudonym or initials are used, the heading identifies and correctly spells the name, if it is known or can be conjectured. Thus headings for letters sent to Douglass under the pseudonym “Ethiop” identify the author as William J. Wilson, and headings for letters written by Douglass to Harriet Bailey, an alias of Ruth Cox, identify the recipient as Cox. Full formal names are used in the heading even when the person is known by a sobriquet. In cases in which the author or recipient cannot be identified more specifically, the name as it appears in the copy-text appears in the heading.

The provenance of the letter is indicated in the editorial source note for each letter, which follows the signature and any authorial postscript or footnote, or the body of the letter when there is no signature, and precedes the annotations. The first sentence of each source note uses the sigla listed earlier to characterize the copy-text, followed by a colon and the abbreviated location of the copy-text. The second sentence of the source note indicates reprints, if any, of the letter in the same form as the copy-text. Each


successive sentence in a source note indicates a different ferrn of the letter and its location. Further publication information recorded in the source note has been limited to letters appearing in scholarly compilations, latter-day copies located in collections of archival material, and letters rep gblished (in part or in whole) in Douglass’ s own writings. The following displays a typical sequence:

PLSr: Lib., 26 September 1845 . Reprinted in NASS, 2 October 1845. PL: ASB, 5 October 1845. PLeIr: PaF, 9 October 1845. HLSr: General Correspondence File, reel 1, frames 544–49, FD Papers, DLC; Anti- Slavery Collection, MB. TLSr: General Correspondence File, reel 1, frames 550–52, FD Papers, DLC.

In this example, a printed letter signed with a representation of the author’s signature serves as the copy-text, and the copy-text was printed in the Liberator on 26 September 1845. The letter was reprinted in the same as the copy-text (i.e., a printed letter with a representation of the author’s signature) in the National Anti-Slavery Standard on 2 October 1845. A printed letter without a signature representation appeared in the Anti-Slavery Bugle on 5 October 1845. The Pennsylvania Freeman printed an excerpt of the letter with a representation of the author’s initials on 9 October 1845. Two handwritten copies of the letter with signature representations exist, one at the Library of Congress and the other at the Boston Public Library. The Library of Congress also contains a typed letter with a signature representation.


Numbered notes follow the source note for each letter, providing clarification without attempting to be exhaustive. Most of these notes contain biographical information, including full names, birth and death dates when known, and the writer’s or recipient’s education, vocation, residence, and relationship to Douglass. Place-names, including towns, geographic features, buildings, and monuments, likewise receive identification. The notes also contain explanations of events mentioned in the letters, as. well as quotations and literary or historical allusions, and other miscellaneous information such as concepts, publications, and foreign words or phrases. Annotations are not cross-referenced.


January 6, 1842


Yale University Press 2009



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