Text: Stuart and Susan Levine, “Editorial Method,” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan PoeEAP: Eureka (2004), pp. xxxi-xxxiv (This material is protected by copyright)


[page xxxi:]


A Note on the Text

There are four copies of the 1848 Putnam edition of Eureka in which Poe wrote changes; sometimes he also jotted down notes to himself, such as “Here describe the whole process as one instantaneous flash,” which comes at the end of paragraph 96. We have followed Nelson's sensible suggestion to prefer readings from the last and most extensive revision, the “Hurst-Wakeman” copy that Poe annotated in the summer of 1849, and our text incorporates those.

The changes are not very numerous or extensive, but they do make it impossible to duplicate the page and line number system that Richard P. Benton added in his facsimile edition. So we decided, at Burton R. Pollin's suggestion, to number the paragraphs as T. O. Mabbott had done in preparation for the edition he planned. Note, however, that Poe decided to begin a new paragraph (see ¶105) in one of his penciled emendations.

Small letters in the text identify places in which our text differs from the 1848 Putnam edition or in which Poe made annotations of any sort. Lettered footnotes show what occurred at each place where alteration or note appears. See also “A Note on Variant Readings,” below.

A Note on Poe's Notes

Where Poe made corrections or additions to the text, we accepted his changes, indicating each with a small raised letter that guides the reader to a comparison of alteration and original in the list of variants. Poe also added some new footnotes, most including asterisks. We accepted these as well, placing each on the page where it occurs, just as he treated his published footnotes. After each new footnote we add an explanation in parentheses. These footnotes are not listed among the variants.

Poe penciled in some notes to himself as well. We reproduce these also [page xxxii:] on the pages where they occur rather than in the variants and provide explanations in parentheses.

The note at the close of paragraph 140 is especially interesting. Nelson suggests that it is Poe's memorandum to himself. Knowing Poe's fondness for claiming to have predicted events, we think he meant to use it in a revised edition by way of bragging.

A Note on Variant Readings

Lettered footnotes identify variant readings in places in which Poe annotated his own text in order to correct typographical errors, to alter words, phrases, or paragraphing, to add new footnotes, or to jot down notes to himself. See “A Note on the Text” for an explanation of our policy for establishing a critical text.

In the lettered footnotes,

P = The 1848 Putnam edition, available in a facsimile edition (Benton).
O = The Osborne copy, annotated in July 1848, now in rare book department, Alderman Library, University of Virginia.
W = The Whitman copy, annotated in October 1848, now in the Lilly Library at Indiana University.
NM = The Nelson-Mabbott copy, annotated in January and June 1849, now in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, Austin.
HW = The Hurst-Wakeman copy, annotated in the summer of 1849, now in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City.

To make the lettered footnotes as uniform and easy to use as possible, we list in each case all readings, chronologically, with the one we adopted in italics and with explanations when appropriate immediately following. For example, had Poe used “green” in Putnam, “blue” in Nelson-Mabbott, and “purple” in Hurst-Wakeman, we would select “purple,” and the item would read: P green / NM blue / HW purple. In cases in which Poe intended italics, we add the bracketed word [italics] for clarity. In a few cases, we made changes for consistency in places which Poe and earlier editors seem to have missed. We list these here: In paragraph 209, a word Poe several times hyphenated, “cannon-ball,” occurs at the line's end without a hyphen. In several places in Eureka, Poe restored hyphens in similar [page xxxiii:] situations when the printer left them out; several times he spelled “cannon-ball” with a hyphen, so we restored it, assuming Poe missed one here. In paragraph 23, he neglected to close a quotation within a quotation; we closed it in brackets. Similarly, in paragraph 58, where Poe added capital letters on “Matter,” “Attraction,” and “Repulsion,” he missed one, which we added in brackets.

In some cases we made decisions by analogy, looking for similar cases in Poe's fiction because the fiction has been word-indexed by Pollin (Word Index to Poe's Fiction). In paragraph 218: “washer-womanish” does not appear in the fiction, so it is not in Pollin's Word Index (its use here in Eureka is duly noted in Pollin, Poe, Creator of Words). But the similar “old-womanish” does appear in the fiction, so we retained the hyphen. In paragraph 221 we hyphenated “non-luminous.” It is in Pollin's Word Index but not in Nelson (“Apparatus for a Definitive Edition”). It plainly should be hyphenated; it appears with a hyphen later in the same paragraph.

In paragraph 246 appears the word climacic. Some editors have altered it to “climactic,” but because Pollin (Poe, Creator of Words) lists both “climacic” and “climacing,” we assume that Poe coined and intended it. And in paragraph 178, Poe writes “excentrically.” Although Pollin (Word Index to Poe's Fiction) shows that Poe usually spelled the word “eccentrically,” we let the odd spelling stand because it appears in one of his sources for Eureka. The matter is explained in the note to paragraph 178.

For the convenience of readers using Nelson's “Apparatus for a Definitive Edition,” we have also added (in parentheses) indications of places in which that list of variants seems in error and of readings he decided to reject but we reproduce as variants. Neither is intended as criticism of Nelson. The latter is simply a matter of editorial policy. And as for apparent errors: these sometimes creep in after a document has left an editor's control. Would that we could be certain our own work were without errors.

James A. Harrison's edited Complete Works (16:319-36) includes a listing of Poe's handwritten material from the Hurst-Wakeman copy, and Nelson warns that he “noted ten errors when comparing the Harrison [i.e., Complete Works] list to the actual variants as found in the Hurst-Wakeman copy” (178). Our text of Eureka differs from that in Complete Works in that when it was plain that Poe had caught an error or intended to change his published text we accepted his corrections and alterations in our text and presented the rejected published version in the Variants. Harrison, in contrast, presented the 1848 published volume as his text [page xxxiv:] and reproduced the Hurst-Wakeman corrections and notes separately. He did not offer a list of handwritten material in the Osborne or Nelson-Mabbott copies.

It seemed preferable in the lettered footnotes to add a few words of explanation as needed rather than to design an elaborate code. In this way a reader can determine what are the features of a given text or passage without undue leafing back and forth.




The Hurst-Wakeman copy, was formerly in the collection of H. Bradley Martin and merely on deposit at the Morgan Library. It is now in the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane.



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