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BILLY BUDD, SAILOR AND OTHER UNCOMPLETED WRITINGS – Publication of the Final Volume of the Northwestern-Newberry Series: The Writings of Herman Melville

As of today, October 29, the paperback edition of “Billy Budd, Sailor and Other Uncompleted Writings is available on Amazon as well as the Northwestern University Press website. The hardcover is still in production, but should be available by the end of November. Click here for the NUP catalog page, or here for the book on Amazon.

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 as a graduate student from June 8 through August 6, 1982, Monday through Saturday, at the Houghton Library at Harvard transcribing 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. In the summers of 2013 and 2015, to prepare the reading and transcription texts for the now published final volume, I did a fresh literal transcription of these same manuscripts, as well as new transcriptions of the manuscripts of “Rammon,” “Story of Daniel Orme,” “Under the Rose,” and around 36 uncollected poems unpublished at the time of Melville’s death on September 28, 1891.

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 Northwestern-Newberry 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.

Completion of the volume was the result of a sustained collaboration among the editors. Hershel Parker, General Editor, wrote the “Historical Note,” coordinated the editorial process, and negotiated the restart of the project with Northwestern University Press. G. Thomas Tanselle, Bibliographical Editor, who has contributed to each of the NN volumes, was again tireless in the effort he devoted to this final volume. He wrote the “General Note on the Text, produced all of the editorial appendices for BILLY BUDD and WEEDS AND WILDINGS, proofed and checked for accuracy the components of all the other the editorial appendices (discussion notes, lists of emendations, all transcriptions, notes on individual pieces, related documents), and corrected and revised the heretofore standard reading and transcription texts of BILLY BUDD (Harrison Hayford and Merton M. Sealts, Jr., Univ. of Chicago, 1962) and WEEDS AND WILDINGS (Robert C. Ryan, dissertation, 1967). Alma A. MacDougall has acted as the supervising editor for all the NN volumes published since 1982 [ISRAEL POTTER (1982), THE CONFIDENCE-MAN (1984), THE PIAZZA TALES (1987), MOBY-DICK (1988), JOURNALS (1989), CLAREL (1991), CORRESPONDENCE (1991), and PUBLISHED POEMS (2009)]. For this final volume, Alma served as Executive Editor and reviewed for accuracy all reading and transcription texts, historical notes, discussion notes, emendation lists, illustrations, created the index, and prepared the final printer’s copy for the press.

Hershel Parker, who succeeded Harrison Hayford as the series General Editor, suggested that we might think of the publication of the final volume as a birthday present for Harry Hayford on what would have been, on November 1st, his 101st birthday. Happy Birthday, Harry!

Harrison Hayford

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