The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau Dunshee Ambrotype of Thoreau, 1861 (Courtesy Concord Museum)
What's New About the Project About Thoreau's Writings About Thoreau Resources for Research
"Young maples, Walden Pond, Thoreau's Cove, June 11, 1901" (Courtesy Concord Free Public Library)
Description and History
Editorial and Production Procedures

"I esteem it a rare happiness to be able to write anything, but there, if I ever get there, my concern for it is apt to end. Time & Co. are after all the only quite honest & trustworthy publishers that we know."

----Letter, Thoreau to James Elliot Cabot, March 8, 1848

To learn more about the Thoreau Edition's Walden Anniversary Paperback Series published by Princeton University Press in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Walden, featuring five Thoreau Edition texts with new introductions, click here or see below.

Ordering Information

Cape Cod

Edited by Joseph J. Moldenhauer

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 0-691-06532-2 (1988)

From the fatal shipwreck of the opening episode to the late reflections on the Pilgrims' Cape Cod landing and reconnaissance, encounters with the ocean dominate Thoreau's compelling account of Cape Cod. His trips to the Cape, he wrote, were intended to afford "a better view than I had yet had of the ocean"; and in the plants, animals, topography, weather, people, and human works of Massachusetts' long projection into the Atlantic, Thoreau finds "another world." Throughout, Thoreau relates the experiences of fishermen and oystermen, farmers and salvagers, lighthouse-keepers and ship-captains, as well as his own intense confrontations with the sea as he travels the land's outmost margins.

Paperback: ISBN 0-691-11842-6 (2004)

Our paperback series edition of Thoreau's Cape Cod, available from Princeton University Press, includes the text and a new introduction by Robert Pinsky.






Correspondence 1: 1834-1848

Edited by Robert N. Hudspeth

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN: 978-0-691-15892-1 (2013)

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.


Correspondence 2: 1849-1856

Edited by Robert N. Hudspeth, with Elizabeth Hall Witherell and Lihong Xie

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN: 978-0-691-17058-9 (v. 2)

Correspondence 2 contains 246 letters, 124 written by Thoreau and 122 written to him. Sixty-three are collected here for the first time; of these, forty-three have never before been published. During the period covered by this volume, Thoreau wrote the works that form the foundation of his modern reputation. A number of letters reveal the circumstances surrounding the publication of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers in May 1849 and Walden in August 1854, as well as the essays “Resistance to Civil Government” (1849; now known as “Civil Disobedience”) and “Slavery in Massachusetts” (1854), and two series, “An Excursion to Canada” (1853) and “Cape Cod” (1855). Writing and lecturing brought Thoreau a small group of devoted fans, most notably Daniel Ricketson, an independently wealthy Quaker and abolitionist who became a faithful correspondent. The most significant body of letters in the volume are those Thoreau wrote to Harrison Gray Otis Blake, a friend and disciple who elicited intense and complex discussions of the philosophical, ethical, and moral issues Thoreau explored throughout his life.


Early Essays and Miscellanies

Edited by Joseph J. Moldenhauer and Edwin Moser, with Alexander C. Kern

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 0-691-06286-2 (1975)

This collection of fifty-three early pieces by Thoreau represents the full range of his youthful imagination. Collected, arranged, and carefully edited for the first time here, the writings date from 1828 to 1852 and cover a broad range of subjects: learning, morals, literature, history, politics, and love. Included is a major essay on Sir Walter Raleigh that was not published during the author's lifetime and a fragmentary college piece here published for the first time. Titles of essays published in the volume are given below.

Early Essays

  • The Seasons
  • Anxieties and Delights of a Discoverer
  • Men Whose Pursuit Is Money
  • Of Keeping a Private Journal
  • "We Are Apt to Become What Others . . . Think Us to Be"
  • Forms, Ceremonies, and Restraints of Polite Society
  • A Man of Business, a Man of Pleasure, a Man of the World
  • Musings
  • Kinds of Energetic Character
  • Privileges and Pleasures of a Literary Man
  • Severe and Mild Punishments
  • Popular Feeling
  • Style May . . . Offend against Simplicity
  • The Book of the Seasons
  • Sir Henry Vane
  • Literary Digressions
  • Foreign Influence on American Literature
  • Life and Works of Sir W. Scott
  • The Love of Stories
  • Cultivation of the Imagination
  • The Greek Classic Poets
  • The Meaning of "Fate"
  • Whether the Government Ought to Educate
  • Travellers & Inhabitants
  • History . . . of the Roman Republic
  • A Writer's Nationality and Individual Genius
  • L'Allegro & Il Penseroso
  • All Men Are Mad
  • The Speeches of Moloch & the Rest
  • People of Different Sections
  • Gaining or Exercising Public Influence
  • Titles of Books
  • Sublimity
  • The General Obligation to Tell the Truth
  • "Being Content with Common Reasons"
  • The Duty, Inconvenience and Dangers of Conformity
  • Moral Excellence
  • Barbarities of Civilized States
  • T. Pomponius Atticus
  • Class Book Autobiography
  • "The Commercial Spirit of Modern Times"


  • DIED . . . Miss Anna Jones
  • Aulus Persius Flaccus
  • The Laws of Menu
  • Sayings of Confucius
  • Dark Ages
  • Chinese Four Books
  • Homer. Ossian. Chaucer.
  • Hermes Trismegistus . . . From the Gulistan of Saadi
  • Sir Walter Raleigh
  • Thomas Carlyle and His Works
  • Love
  • Chastity & Sensuality



Edited by Joseph J. Moldenhauer

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 0-691-06450-5 (2007)

Excursions presents texts of nine essays, including some of Henry D. Thoreau's most engaging and popular works, newly edited and based on the most authoritative versions of each. These essays represent Thoreau in many stages of his writing career, ranging from 1842--when he accepted Emerson's commission to review four volumes of botanical and zoological catalogues in an essay that was published in The Dial as "Natural History of Massachusetts"--to 1862, when he prepared "Wild Apples," a lecture he had delivered during the Concord Lyceum's 1859-1860 season, for publication in the Atlantic Monthly after his death. Three other early meditations on natural history and human nature, "A Winter Walk," "A Walk to Wachusett," and "The Landlord," were originally published in 1842 and 1843. Lively, light pieces, they reveal Thoreau's early use of themes and approaches that recur throughout his work. "A Yankee in Canada," a book-length account of an 1850 trip to Quebec that was published in part in 1853, is a fitting companion to Cape Cod and The Maine Woods, Thoreau's other long accounts of explorations of internal as well as external geography. In the last four essays, "The Succession of Forest Trees" (1860), "Autumnal Tints" (1862), "Walking" (1862), and "Wild Apples" (1862), Thoreau describes natural and philosophical phenomena with a breadth of view and generosity of tone that are characteristic of his mature writing. In their skillful use of precisely observed details to arrive at universal conclusions, these late essays exemplify Transcendental natural history at its best


Journal 1: 1837-1844

Edited by Elizabeth Witherell, William L. Howarth, Robert Sattelmeyer, and Thomas Blanding

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 0-691-06361-3 (1981)

This first volume of the Journal covers the early years of Thoreau's rapid intellectual and artistic growth. The Journal reflects his reading, travels, and contacts with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and other Transcendentalists. With characteristic reticence, Thoreau mentions only a few episodes in his emotional history: an ill-fated romance, the death of his elder brother, and an unhappy sojourn on Staten Island, where he tried to write for New York periodicals. Parts of Thoreau's Journal have been published, but always with large omissions of text and with considerable grooming of its erratic manuscript style. This edition presents the entire surviving manuscript in a text preserving Thoreau's words as he originally wrote them.


Journal 2: 1842-1848

Edited by Robert Sattelmeyer

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 0-691-06186-6 (1984)

Volume two of the Journal includes Thoreau's extensive reminiscences of his 1839 excursion with his brother John along the Concord and Merrimack rivers and all his first impressions and observations entered in journals during the famous Walden sojourn. Collectively, these journals illustrate the middle stage of Thoreau's literary career--a stage noteworthy for his "devotion to the mastery of his craft" as evidenced by the progressive, intermingled drafts of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and Walden, "Thomas Carlyle and His Works," "Wendell Phillips Before Concord Lyceum," and "Ktaadn, and the Maine Woods." More than half of the material presented in Journal 2 is previously unpublished.


Journal 3: 1848-1851

Edited by Robert Sattelmeyer, Mark R. Patterson, and William Rossi

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 0-691-06533-0 (1990)

This volume of the Journal spans an important period of rapid change in Thoreau's life and literary career, including the publication of his first book and a crisis in his friendship with Emerson, during which the Journal assumes its mature form as the extensive, regular, and dated record of his studies of and reflections on the natural and human life of the Concord region.


Journal 4: 1851-1852

Edited by Leonard N. Neufeldt and Nancy Craig Simmons

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 0-691-06535-7 (1992)

Despite activities as time-consuming and varied as surveying for the town of Concord and helping a fugitive slave escape to Canada, Thoreau wrote nearly eight hundred manuscript pages in his Journal in the eight months covered by the volume. Confirmed in his vocation as a natural historian, he began to compile the richly detailed records of Concord's woods, fields, and streams that would occupy him the rest of his life, and he consciously shaped the Journal to reflect his new aims as a writer. He also began the major revision of his Walden manuscript that would lead to its publication in 1854.


Journal 5: 1852-1853

Edited by Patrick F. O'Connell

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 0-691-06536-5 (1997)

During the period covered by this volume, Thoreau was busy revising and publishing excerpts from his Walden manuscript and preparing manuscripts of "An Excursion to Canada" and Cape Cod for publication. There is, however, little evidence of this activity in the Journal. Instead, the four manuscript volumes contained in Journal 5, covering an annual cycle from spring 1852 to late winter 1853, find Thoreau intensely concentrating on detailed observations of natural phenomena and on "the mysterious relation between myself & these things" that he always strove to understand. Increasingly, the Journal attempts to balance a new-found scientific professionalism and the accurate recording of phenomenological data with a firmly rooted belief in the spiritual correspondences that Nature reveals.


Journal 6: 1853

Edited by William Rossi and Heather Kirk Thomas

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 0-691-06537-3 (2000)

Journal 6 covers the period from March 9 through August 18, 1853. During this time Thoreau was working as a surveyor, establishing himself more securely as a contributing member of the Concord community, and he was also pursuing his studies of the natural phenomena of Concord and revising his manuscript of Walden. The three activities were interdependent: surveying provided Thoreau a living and, by giving him regular opportunities to walk and observe in the woods and fields of Concord, it enriched both his work as a naturalist and his work on Walden.


Journal 7: 1853-1854

Edited by Nancy Craig Simmons and Ron Thomas

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 978-0-691-06540-3 (2009)

Journal 7 is edited from the 454-page manuscript that Thoreau kept from August 19, 1853, through February 12, 1854. During the six months covered here, Thoreau continued to add to his store of observations about local animals, plants, and weather. Most of the Journal is dedicated to describing natural phenomena, such as changes in leaf color and the ripening of berries, in the context of seasonal cycles. His observations create a detailed portrait of Concord and the surrounding areas that demonstrates his nascent efforts to understand phenological patterns and variations. In addition, Thoreau integrates these observations with ethical reflections about living in harmony with nature, following the model of Roman agricultural writers. Journal 7 includes a number of passages found in Walden; by early 1854 Thoreau had completed the sixth version of Walden and revised it, and had begun making a fair copy for the printer. The volume also includes Thoreau's account of a September 1853 trip to the Maine woods that appeared in 1858 as "Chesuncook"; the draft is published here for the first time.


Journal 8: 1854

Edited by Sandra Harbert Petrulionis

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN: 0-691-06541-1 (2002)

Journal 8 is edited from the 467-page notebook that Thoreau kept February 13-September 3, 1854. It reveals him as an increasingly confident taxonomist creating lists that distill his observations about plant leafing and seasonal birds. Two particularly significant public events took place in his life in the summer of 1854. On July 4, at an antislavery rally at Framingham, Massachusetts, Thoreau appeared for the first time in the company of prominent abolitionists, delivering as heated a statement against slavery as he had yet made. And on August 9, Ticknor and Fields published Walden, the book Thoreau had been working on since 1846. In Journal 8 Thoreau indicates that these public accomplishments, though satisfying, took a toll on his creative life and did not fully compensate him for the hours spent away from the woods.


The Maine Woods

Edited by Joseph J. Moldenhauer

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 0-691-06224-2 (1972)

The Maine Woods is a characteristically Thoreauvian book: a personal account of exploration, of exterior and interior discovery in a natural setting, conveyed in taut, workmanlike prose. Thoreau's evocative renderings of the life of the primitive forest--its mountains, waterways, fauna, flora, and inhabitants--are valuable in themselves. But his impassioned protest against despoilment in the name of commerce and sport, which even by the 1850s threatened to deprive Americans of the "tonic of wildness," makes The Maine Woods an especially vital book for our time. This edition presents Thoreau's fullest account of the wilderness as he intended it.

Paperback: ISBN 0-691-11877-9 (2004)

Our paperback series edition of Thoreau's The Maine Woods includes the text and a new introduction by Paul Theroux. Available from Princeton University Press.





Reform Papers

Edited by Wendell Glick

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 0-691-06241-2 (1973)

The selections from the polemical writings of Thoreau that make up Reform Papers represent every stage in his twenty-two years of active writing. Consequently, they are a microcosm of his literary career, allowing the reader to achieve a full sense of Thoreau's evolution as a writer and thinker. The volume opens with "The Service," one of the best examples of Thoreau's early style and interests, and contains ten other essays as well.

Reform Papers

  • The Service
  • Paradise (To Be) Regained
  • Herald of Freedom
  • Wendell Phillips Before Concord Lyceum
  • Resistance to Civil Government
  • Slavery in Massachusetts
  • A Plea for Captain John Brown
  • Martyrdom of John Brown
  • The Last Days of John Brown
  • Life without Principle
  • Reform and the Reformers

The Higher Law

Paperback: ISBN 0-691-11876-0 (2004)

Our paperback series edition of The Higher Law includes the essays from Reform Papers and a new introduction by Howard Zinn. Available from Princeton University Press.






Edited by K. P. Van Anglen

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 0-691-06531-4 (1986)

This volume collects Thoreau's literary translations for the first time. Seven works that are substantial, independent compositions, either published or intended for publication, are included (see list below). Thoreau's activity as a translator was firmly grounded in his classical education at Harvard; his coursework there included eight terms of Latin and eight of Greek. But the impetus for these literary translations was far broader. The shape of a particular translation is governed not only by the translator's knowledge and sensitivity, but also by contemporary assumptions about the proper method and function of translating. Thoreau's translations display the literalism sanctioned by Transcendentalist theories of translation, which posited a purer connection between the word and the nature of the thing it named in ancient and primitive languages than in English. The influence of the original language in a faithful translation, seen in both content and style, was considered positive and invigorating and is apparent in Thoreau's work.


  • The Prometheus Bound.
  • Anacreon.
  • The Seven Against Thebes.
  • Pindar.
  • Fragments of Pindar.
  • Pindaric Odes From HM 13204
  • The Transmigrations of the Seven Brahmans.



Edited by J. Lyndon Shanley

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 0-691-06194-7 (1971)

Thoreau's Walden, ostensibly a simple account of a year spent alone in a cabin by a pond in the woods, is one of the most influential and complex books in American literature. Eight years in the writing, Walden was not a commercial success when it was published in 1854, and it was not reprinted until 1862, the year of Thoreau's death. But by 1900 Walden was acclaimed by many as a classic, among the finest prose works of the century. It has been increasingly recognized as an important document of social criticism and dissent. It has been seen as a religious testament, with a kinship to oriental mysticism. It has been described as a mythic book, and it has been used as a Freudian key to the mind of its iconoclastic author. Thoreau's words have become increasingly significant in modern times. Anticipating the evils of modern society and the problems of modern man, Walden's meanings seem more relevant every day.

Paperback: ISBN 0-691-09612-0 (2004)

Our paperback series edition of Thoreau's Walden celebrates the 150th anniversary of the publication of Thoreau's best-known work. Includes the text and a new introduction by John Updike. Available from Princeton University Press.




A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Edited by Carl F. Hovde, William L. Howarth, and Elizabeth Witherell

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 0-691-06376-1 (1980)

In the late summer of 1839 Thoreau and his elder brother John made a two-week boat-and-hiking trip from Concord, Massachusetts, to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. After John's sudden death in 1842, Henry began to prepare a memorial account of their excursion. At Walden Pond he wrote two drafts of this story, which he continued to revise and expand until 1849, when he arranged for its publication at his own expense. The contemporary audience for A Week was troubled by its heterodoxy and apparent formlessness; but modern readers have come to see it as an appropriate predecessor to Walden, with Thoreau's story of a river journey actually depicting the early years of his spiritual and artistic growth.

Paperback: ISBN 0-691-11878-7 (2004)

Our paperback series edition of Thoreau's A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers includes the text and a new introduction by John McPhee. Available from Princeton University Press.

Ordering Information

Most volumes of The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau are readily available in bookstores. To order directly, see the Princeton University Press Website, or phone 1-800-777-4726 (for North American customers) or 1-609-883-1759 (for all other customers) between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.


Out-of-Print Volumes in The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau

The Illustrated Maine Woods

Edited by Joseph J. Moldenhauer

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 0-691-06224-2 (1974, out-of-print) 
Paperback: ISBN 0-691-01404-3 (1977, out-of-print)

The illustrated edition of The Maine Woods features the work of Herbert Wendell Gleason, one of the great American landscape photographers of the last two centuries. Gleason's fascination with the New England of Thoreau led him to trace the writer's journeys, including the travels in Maine described in this book.


The Illustrated Walden

Edited by J. Lyndon Shanley

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 0-691-06266-8 (1973, out-of-print)
Paperback: ISBN 0-691-01309-8 (1973, out-of-print)

This volume combines Thoreau's classic text and more than 65 photographs--most never published--of the Walden area taken at the turn of the century by Herbert Wendell Gleason, one of the greatest American landscape photographers. This edition fulfills Gleason's original intention to pair the text of Walden with his own breathtaking images.


The Illustrated A Week on the Concord 
and Merrimack Rivers

Edited by Carl F. Hovde, William L. Howarth, and Elizabeth Witherell

Princeton University Press
Hardback: ISBN 0-691-06573-X (1983, out-of-print)
Paperback: ISBN 0-691-01430-2 (1986, out-of-print)

Like the best-selling illustrated edition of Walden, this book offers a selection of superb photographs by the famous turn-of-the-century photographer, Herbert W. Gleason. The photographs are the ideal accompaniment to Thoreau's account of his trip in the late summer and early fall of 1839.