- Completing the Final Volume of The Writings of Herman Melville
Published Poems (2009)
“Billy Budd, Sailor” and Other Uncompleted Writings (2017)
Though Harrison Hayford passed away in 2001, the foundation he laid down while editing and publishing thirteen of the fifteen volumes of the Northwestern-Newberry (NN) The Writings of Herman Melville enabled the editors who survived him to complete the publication of the remaining two volumes. This foundation consisted of the editing and bibliographical procedures that he, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle devised and implemented to produce reliable and definitive texts and of the capacity to follow these procedures that he fostered in the many students, colleagues, and scholars that he mentored or inspired to participate in the enterprise. The completion of the entire Northwestern-Newberry series, aptly characterized as a “mandate fulfilled” by Hershel Parker in his contribution to this set of essays, involved some fifty-two years, many more than the number originally estimated for the project’s completion. Some of the unanticipated delays can be explained in terms of expired grants and subsequent searches for support and funding, but others were due to the editors being unwilling to proceed unless the work could be done according to established editorial and bibliographical procedures and standards. By 2010—nearly thirty years after I had first begun working with manuscripts that would be included in the final volume—all but one of the fifteen volumes of the NN series had been published. It was then that I joined the other editors in a seven-year effort to complete the last volume of the series to be published, “Billy Budd, Sailor” and Other Uncompleted Writings. Hayford was my mentor in the years when I first began to study Melville’s writings and work with the manuscripts; in the years following his death, as we worked to complete the final volume, he was my inspiration.
I first met Hayford when taking a seminar on Melville while I was a graduate student in the department of English at Northwestern University (1979–83). Taking courses with Hayford had some unique benefits. When other Melville scholars were in town (often staying at Hayford’s home), he would [End Page 34] invite them to make a guest appearance in a class he was teaching; memorable among these visits were those paid by Viola Sachs and Howard P. Vincent. I will never forget my first visit to the Melville Room that Hayford had established for the Northwestern-Newberry project. Located in Chicago’s Newberry Library, it housed more than a score of file cabinets containing offprints of essays on Melville and his writings, a section of shelves containing dissertations on Melville, locked glass cabinets containing first editions of Melville’s writings, and, off in a corner of one of the rooms, the Hinman collator that was used to compare early editions, letter by letter, comma by comma. The Newberry Library—designed by architect Henry Ives Cobb and completed in the fall of 1893—with its grand architecture and collections of rare books, maps, music, and manuscripts was a fitting home for the Melville Room. I will always remember the tour of the Newberry Library given me by Richard Colles Johnson, a Newberry librarian and Associate Editor of the NN series. Sometime in the winter of 1981 I joined with other Northwestern graduate students of Hayford—including Mary K. Bercaw and Robert D. Madison, who went on to contribute to many volumes in the NN series—to do research for the NN edition and catalog the offprints, dissertations, and books that were continually being added to the Melville Room. It was also around this time that I first met Alma MacDougall—the NN editor who was to oversee the production of so many NN volumes—when we spent late afternoons and evenings proofing galleys of Israel Potter. Towards the end of Spring quarter 1981, there came an unexpected offer that I could not refuse: Hayford invited me to assist him on a research tour of selected libraries in New England to look for undiscovered papers related to Melville.
Those who knew Hayford know that he did not drive. In return for...