Introduction

Emily Dickinson's Correspondences (EDC) is the major editorial work on Emily Dickinson's writings being produced by the Dickinson Electronic Archives (DEA) project. The editorial achievements printing the manuscript writings of Emily Dickinson have been most impressive. Twenty-nine more or less official volumes of Dickinson's works have appeared since the first posthumous volume was published near Christmas 1890. These volumes printed the writings here in a variety of forms.

The DEA projects build on this superb foundation by presenting our critical inquiries regarding the editing of Emily Dickinson's writings via new media and for open critical review. The DEA incorporates new media tools into scholarly editing and thus uses previously unavailable strategies for representation of original materials and for storage and retrieval of the consequent data. Also, while the principles of organization for previous editors has been by genre (printed volumes have represented poems or letters, therefore organizing the materials by dividing prose from poetry), the Dickinson Editing Collective's organizing principle is by the record left by Dickinson's writing and distribution practices (individual manuscripts sent to a particular audience, and saved and stored by that recipient; writings saved and stored by Dickinson herself-either bound into a manuscript book and tied with a string or left loose in a box or drawer). The work of the Collective is also set apart by the fact that our editorial center is Dickinson's manuscript page and so images of those pages are key elements of our edited reproductions. The high-quality, color digitized photographs of original manuscripts featured here are not the kind of archival quality images planned for production by such manuscript collections as the Houghton Library and the Boston Public Library, but are reproduced for optimum readability and web deliverability. Our long-term goals include pointing our XML/TEI-conformant marked up texts to the images that will eventually be featured by the online productions of those special collections.

With editors such as Thomas H. Johnson and R.W. Franklin (each of whom edited a variorum as well as volumes of letters, manuscript books, reader's editions), the Collective shares a strong commitment to producing resources of the highest achievable quality and thus seeks to render representations that faithfully fulfill their stated goals of transmitting Dickinson's writing with as little interpretive noise as possible. Though no editorial production can be entirely free of interpretive noise, and all editing is to some degree interpretive, critical interpretation is the central business of articles and monographs and thus of our digital articles, samplers. The primary work of EDC is to make data about the poet's writing and epistolary distribution as available and usable as is currently possible.

EDC is probably best accomplished by describing the contrasts between two intimately related editorial endeavors, one of which, Correspondence with Susan Dickinson, is a subset of EDC, and one of which is a print production of some of the materials from that correspondence, Open Me Carefully: Emily Dickinson's Intimate Letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson. In Open Me Carefully the goal of editors Smith and Ellen Louise Hart was to make "a cohesive book that would most effectively relate the human story behind this most generative of literary and emotional unions" between Susan and Emily Dickinson. Painfully aware that "typography cannot sufficiently transmit. . .aspects of Dickinson's handwriting which influence[d]" their editing, Hart and Smith translated line breaks and some marks of punctuation into print and noted as much as they could in the notes at the back of the book (given their critical abilities and the word count allowed) but did not pretend to present a comprehensive representation of all material elements of manuscript inscriptions (OMC xxii-xxiv). Theirs was a selection and was presented as such.

By contrast, Correspondence with Susan Dickinson, which contains every Emily Dickinson text featured in Open Me Carefully and the many writings to Susan Dickinson that print parameters would not allow, does not have a particular interpretive drive but seeks to present the most extensive record extant of Emily Dickinson's correspondence with a contemporary by offering web-deliverable, clear images of all known documents sent from Emily to Susan Dickinson. Those will be accompanied by TEI-conformant XML markup of all texts (notes as well as transcriptions), thus making the data deeply, widely, and precisely searchable. In other words, the editors have embarked on a much deeper digital representation of Correspondence with Susan Dickinson than the HTML-encoded production of transcriptions, notes, and images currently available in the working directories of the DEA. Whatever critical interpretations are generated by this data is the business and work of users of this material.

This transformation of digital representation in a single correspondence is part of a plan to present a much deeper digital representation of EDC than presently exists. In EDC, the editors of the DEA aim to present high quality web-deliverable images of all known documents sent by Emily Dickinson to any of her ninety-nine or more correspondents and to make those digital reproductions available for open critical review. As is being done in Correspondence with Susan Dickinson, these images will be accompanied by TEI-conformant XML markup of all texts (notes as well as transcriptions) contained therein. Though informed by the opinions of their creators (guest coeditors working in conjunction with the DEA's general editors), these digital presentations in EDC do not have the same interpretive drive as do critical or biographical works about or made from them, just as the presentation of Correspondence with Susan Dickinson does not have the same interpretive drive as did that in Open Me Carefully. The purpose of marking up all of the texts is to make data as available and usable as possible, not to determine what interpretations will be formulated from that data.

The productions of these various correspondences will proceed at different paces and users of the DEA will be able to watch these editorial endeavors unfold. We have begun with Correspondence with Susan Dickinson because it is the largest and most capacious of the individual correspondences (in number and diversity of documents) and, ironically, until the past decade or so, the most overlooked and understudied. Our general plan is to proceed through the correspondences by editing those with the most documents first, but sometimes that scheme will be interrupted. For example, our first guest coeditor has chosen to work on Correspondence with Helen Hunt Jackson and Correspondence with Thomas Niles, so users will see those correspondences edited before Correspondence with Thomas Higginson. The DEA is designed for open critical review, and we encourage users to post commentary by sending comments to the editors at dea-l@lists.virginia.edu. Also, anyone interested in serving as a guest editor for a particular correspondence should send a statement of interest and c.v. to Martha Nell Smith.

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