Sunday, October 29, 2017

A statement from Robert Sandberg in response to my post earlier today on my hopes for the final NN volume of THE WRITINGS OF HERMAN MELVILLE

Hershel, your post is a comprehensive summary of your discoveries in recent years and how many of them went unacknowledged or contradicted in the years following their publication. You also underscore the extreme importance of understanding that the final Northwestern-Newbery volume contains NOT completed, but uncompleted writings that Melville left in manuscript when he passed away on September 28, 1891.

It has taken a very long time (more than 45 years) to process the 1,000 or so manuscript leaves for publication in the final volume of the fifteen-volume Northwestern-Newberry WRITINGS OF HERMAN MELVILLE series. It was just over 35 years ago that I sat daily from June 8 through August 6, 1982, Monday through Saturday, during Houghton Library’s regular library hours, transcribing (I did a fresh literal transcription in the summers of 2013 and 2015) the 335 leaves of the PARTHENOPE (formerly “Burgundy Club”) poems and prose pieces contained in fifteen folders (including the folder containing “Pausilippo” removed by Melville for publication in TIMOLEON). From July 30 to August 2, 1982, I transcribed what I eventually came to realize was the theretofore unknown and untranscribed, “House of the Tragic Poet.” At the time, I thought surely someone had transcribed this piece previously. But as I worked in the following years on my dissertation with my advisor, Harrison Hayford, we finally determined that “House of the Tragic” poet was in fact a new piece.

As announced last month on the Melville Society website and in an earlier post on the Melville Society Facebook page, the final volume of the Northwestern-Newberry series containing reading texts and transcriptions of all the uncompleted writings Melville left in manuscript on his desk when he passed away on September 28, 1891, is at long last being published this fall. As of today, October 29, the paperback edition of “BILLY BUDD, SAILOR” AND OTHER UNCOMPLETED WRITINGS is available on the Northwestern University Press website The hardcover is still in production, but should be available by the end of November.

Many funding issues delayed the work needed to complete the final volume of the Northwestern-Newberry WRITINGS OF HERMAN MELVILLE series. Sadly the series General Editor, Harrison Hayford — who began the publishing project in 1965 — passed away in 2001. But happily by 2010 Northwestern University Press could commit the funds needed to print the final volume, and the editors of the final volume — Hershel Parker, Thomas Tanselle, Alma A. MacDougall, and I — found time in our personal schedules, over a five-year period beginning in 2012, to bring to a successful conclusion the project of publishing the final volume. As you have suggested, Hershel, let's think of the publication of the final volume as a birthday present for Harry Hayford on what would have been his 101st birthday, November 1st.

1 comment:

  1. eloquently stated -- I have ordered and look forward to reading the fruits of your collective labors. -- Paul Maher Jr.