The Emily Dickinson Archive, coming this fall, will make manuscripts of Dickinson’s poetry, along with transcriptions and annotations from scholarly editions, available in open access—inspiring new scholarship and discourse on this literary icon. Read more »
Here, for the first time, is the poetry of Emily Dickinson as she herself “published” it in the privacy of her upstairs room in the house in Amherst.
She invented her own form of bookmaking. Her first drafts, jotted on odd scraps of paper, were discarded when transcribed. Completed poems were neatly copied in ink on sheets of folded stationery which she arranged in groups, usually of sixteen to twenty-four pages, and sewed together into packets or fascicles. These manuscript books were her private mode of publication, a substitute perhaps for the public mode that, for reasons unexplained, she denied herself. In recent years there has been increasing interest in the fascicles as artistic gathering, intrarelated by theme, imagery, or emotional movement. But no edition in the past, not even the variorum, or has arranged the poems in the sequence in which they appear in the manuscript books.
Emily Dickinson’s poems, more than those of any other poet, resist translation into the medium of print. Since she never saw a manuscript through the press, we cannot tell how she would have adapted for print her unusual capitalization, punctuation, line and stanza divisions, and alternate readings. The feather-light punctuation, in particular, is misrepresented when converted to conventional stop or even to dashes.
This elegant edition presents all of Emily Dickinson’s manuscript books and unsewn fascicle sheets—1,148 poems on 1,250 pages—restored insofar as possible to their original order, as they were when her sister found them after her death. The manuscripts are reproduced with startling fidelity in 300-line screen. Every detail is preserved: the bosses on the stationery, the sewing holes and tears, and poet’s alternate reading and penciled revisions, ink spots and other stains offset onto adjacent leaves, and later markings by Susan Dickinson, Mabel Todd, and others. The experience of reading these facsimile pages is virtually the same as reading the manuscripts themselves. Supplementary information is provided in introductions, notes, and appendices.