- A Map of Time and Blood: An Introduction to the Skinner Family Papers 1826–1850 by Mary Maillard, and: On the Carpet: The Coming of Age Letters of Penelope Skinner 1832–1840 by Mary Maillard, and: Albemarle Son: The Coming of Age Letters of Tristrim Lowther Skinner 1833–1849 by Mary Maillard, and: The Belles of Williamsburg: The Courtship Correspondence of Eliza Fisk Harwood and Tristrim Lowther Skinner 1839–1849 by Mary Maillard
Many within the academic community have raised concerns regarding recent documentary editing publishing projects involving archival collections, most particularly in relation to National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) funding guidelines. Scholars have voiced fears about a decline in scholarship standards, a loss of emphasis on the importance of transcription and annotation, and even the long-term viability of such projects. Documentary editor Mary Maillard’s series of electronic publications are clear examples of ways such ventures can maintain the standards of traditional scholarship while taking advantage of the possibilities offered by digital mediums. After exposure to the Skinner Family Papers at the University of North Carolina’s Southern Historical Collection, Maillard began a multiyear process to provide annotated transcriptions of selected letters from this collection in a digital format. She has further enhanced the publications with images and meticulous appendixes.
Using skills from her past documentary experiences and studies with the NHPRC’s Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents, Maillard has created not only an overall introduction to the Skinner Family Papers but also three other electronic publications, each focusing on a different period and individual from this noted North Carolina family. An additional publication is projected for 2016. The first publication, A Map of Time and Blood: An Introduction to the Skinner Family Papers 1826–1850, uses correspondence and images to introduce the reader to several prominent individuals from the Skinner family, most of whom were from Edenton, North Carolina: Joseph Blount Skinner, his children Tristrim Lowther Skinner and Penelope Skinner Warren, and Tristrim’s long-suffering intended, Eliza Fisk Harwood of Williamsburg, Virginia. Maillard argues that these letters illustrate a more dynamic and complex antebellum southern family unit than has been previously brought to light, asserting, “Here is an Old South practicing restraint and attempting to live within its means” (p. 23).
Each of the three additional publications focuses on various familial and social relationships, including that of a father and an independent-minded yet socially determined daughter; the connection between a demanding father and his duty-bound firstborn son; and various complex courtship interactions between southern antebellum families of means. Each publication contains transcriptions of selected correspondence, images of family photographs and artifacts, notes, bibliographies, and chronological lists of documents. The genealogical charts and name indexes are also extremely helpful for navigating the many familial references throughout the letters. Maillard’s numerous notes are also well documented. [End Page 671]
Maillard frequently refers to economic depression and urgency as prominent, though sometimes unspoken, themes. For example, Joseph Blount Skinner removed his son Tristrim from college in part to exert more control, but apparently for financial reasons as well. The economic depression of the late 1830s and 1840s directly affected the patriarch, as his financial sense of responsibility also included supporting siblings and aiding friends in need. Joseph Blount Skinner was the embodiment of the white southern male sense of honor, duty, and authority so clearly outlined by historians such as Bertram Wyatt...