The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau Dunshee Ambrotype of Thoreau, 1861 (Courtesy Concord Museum)
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"Reflections in meadow flood, above Lowell St. bridge, June 2, 1910"--detail (Courtesy Concord Free Public Library)

"Hardly a man takes a half hour's nap after dinner, but when he wakes he holds up his head and asks, 'What's the news?' as if the rest of mankind had stood his sentinels."


Announcements of the publication of Thoreau Edition volumes and new features of this Web site appear here, as well as upcoming events and items of interest. Project and Web site awards are listed and described on our awards page.

  • Thoreau's First Draft of His Account of the Wreck of the Elizabeth and the Aftermath: On July 19, 1850, during a hurricane that damaged ships and coastal communities from North Carolina to Connecticut and produced flooding across New England, the barque Elizabeth foundered and broke up within sight of wreckers waiting on the shore of Fire Island. According to the July 25, 1850, issue of the New-York Daily Tribune, fifteen people survived and eight died. The dead were Margaret Fuller, her husband Giovanni Ossoli, their young son Angelo, Angelo's nursemaid, Celesta Paolini, Charles Sumner's brother, Horace, and three crew members, George Bates, George Sandford, and Henry Westervelt. Sponsored by Emerson, Horace Greeley, and Marcus Spring, Thoreau traveled to Fire Island on July 24 to recover what he could of Fuller's effects; Fuller's manuscript history of the Italian revolutions was of particular interest. When he returned to Concord, Thoreau read an account of his investigation to Emerson and Elizabeth Hoar. The basis for his reading, an eighteen-page penciled draft which was tipped into volume 1 of Manuscript Edition set #1, was acquired by the Houghton Library in 2015. An edited transcript of this draft, in which Thoreau's revisions have been accepted, will be included in a footnote to Thoreau's July 24, 1850, letter to Emerson (Correspondence 2: 1849-1856, forthcoming 2016). Thoreau's revised version tells the poignant story with journalistic distance, but the draft in its unedited form reveals Thoreau working to convey what his informants have told him as precisely as he can; he is occasionally unable to suppress his anger at the incompetence and venality of the wreckers. Links to the manuscript pages and a literal transcript of each follow:

    MS page 1       Transcript page 1
    MS page 2       Transcript page 2
    MS page 3       Transcript page 3
    MS page 4       Transcript page 4
    MS page 5       Transcript page 5
    MS page 6       Transcript page 6
    MS page 7       Transcript page 7
    MS page 8       Transcript page 8
    MS page 9       Transcript page 9
    MS page 10     Transcript page 10
    MS page 11     Transcript page 11
    MS page 12     Transcript page 12
    MS page 13     Transcript page 13
    MS page 14     Transcript page 14
    MS page 15     Transcript page 15
    MS page 16     Transcript page 16
    MS page 17     Transcript page 17
    MS page 18     Transcript page 18

    See also stories in the UCSB Current, the Harvard Gazette, and the Boston Globe.

    Revised August 2015

  • Images of Thoreau Manuscripts Now Available On Line: As of July 2015, seven libraries have scanned and digitized some or all of their Thoreau manuscripts: the Abernethy Library at Middlebury College, the Beinecke Library at Yale University, the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library, the William Munroe Special Collections at the Concord Free Public Library, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, the John Hay Library at Brown University, and the Houghton Library at Harvard University, which provides access to digital images in several collections of Thoreau material--MS Am 278.5-278.5.25, MS Am 1280.214.1, MS Am 3032, and HEW 12.7.10.

    Links to letters to and from Thoreau that are included in these digital collections can be found at Correspondence 1-3.

    Posted July 2015

  • Online Journal Transcript: Images of the manuscripts of the sixteen manuscript volumes Thoreau kept from September 3, 1854, through his last entry on November 3, 1861, can now be viewed along with images of the transcripts. Thanks to Professor Kathryn Dolan and her students in the Opportunities for Undergrauate Research Experiences program at Missouri University of Science and Technology, dates of entries have been bookmarked in the images of the manuscripts as well as the transcripts. If your browser does not show the navigation pane buttons when you open the link to a file, download the file (right click and print and save it as a PDF). When you open it on your computer you should see the bookmark icon among others to the left of the image of the page.

    18 (September 3, 1854 - May 12, 1855)
    19 (May 13, 1855 - January 3, 1856)
    20 (January 4 - April 23, 1856)
    21 (April 23 - September 6, 1856)
    22 (September 7, 1856 - April 1, 1857)
    23 (April 2 - July 31, 1857)
    24 (July 31 - November 25, 1857)
    25 (November 25, 1857 - June 4, 1858)
    26 (June 4 - July 8, 1858)
    27 (July 9 - November 9, 1858)
    28 (November 9, 1858 - April 7, 1859)
    29 (April 8 - September 21, 1859)
    30 (September 22, 1859 - February 13, 1860)
    31 (February 15 - July 22, 1860)
    32 (July 23 - November 22, 1860)
    33 (November 23, 1860 - November 3, 1861)

    Revised July 2015

  • Correspondence 1: 1834-1848: Published on August 1, 2013, this is the inaugural volume in the first full-scale scholarly edition of Thoreau's correspondence in more than half a century. When completed, the edition's three volumes will include every extant letter written or received by Thoreau--in all almost 650 letters, roughly 150 more than in any previous edition, including dozens that have never before been published.

    Correspondence 1 contains 163 letters, ninety-six written by Thoreau and sixty-seven to him. Twenty-five are collected here for the first time; of those, fourteen have never before been published. These letters provide an intimate view of Thoreau's path from college student to published author. At the beginning of the volume, Thoreau is a Harvard sophomore; by the end, some of his essays and poems have appeared in periodicals and he is at work on A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and Walden. The early part of the volume documents Thoreau's friendships with college classmates and his search for work after graduation, while letters to his brother and sisters reveal warm, playful relationships among the siblings. In May 1843, Thoreau moves to Staten Island for eight months to tutor a nephew of Emerson's. This move results in the richest period of letters in the volume: thirty-two by Thoreau and nineteen to him. From 1846 through 1848, letters about publishing and lecturing provide details about Thoreau's first years as a professional author. As the volume closes, the most ruminative and philosophical of Thoreau's epistolary relationships begins, that with Harrison Gray Otis Blake. Thoreau's longer letters to Blake amount to informal lectures, and in fact Blake invited a small group of friends to readings when these arrived.

    Following every letter, annotations identify correspondents, individuals mentioned, and books quoted, cited, or alluded to, and describe events to which the letters refer. A historical introduction characterizes the letters and connects them with the events of Thoreau's life, a textual introduction lays out the editorial principles and procedures followed, and a general introduction discusses the significance of letter-writing in the mid-nineteenth century and the history of the publication of Thoreau's letters. Finally, a thorough index provides comprehensive access to the letters and annotations.

    The volume's editor, Robert N. Hudspeth, is Research Professor of English at the Claremont Graduate University and professor emeritus of English at Redlands University. He is the editor of The Letters of Margaret Fuller and the author of Ellery Channing.

    Posted August 2013