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
"Thoreau's Journals, at home of E. H. Russell, Worcester, February 26, 1901" (Courtesy Concord Free Public Library)
Thoreau's Manuscripts
Thoreau's Handwriting
Online Journal Transcripts
Thoreau's Correspondence
First Publications of Thoreau's Books and Essays
Recommended Editions of Thoreau's Works
Selected Editions of Thoreau's Works
  first publications of HDT's works

"I feel as if my life had grown more outward when I can express it."

----A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Thoreau began to identify himself as a writer at about the time he graduated from Harvard College in August 1837. He changed the order of his given names from David Henry to Henry David, and in October 1837 he started a Journal in which he kept entries for twenty-four years, until November 1861. Preparation of an edited version of that Journal, which is contained in forty-seven manuscript volumes, is arguably the Thoreau Edition's most significant contribution to Thoreau scholarship. The published Journal will be complete in sixteen volumes: seven are available now (see Publications), one is in press, and work is underway on several more. The Online Journal Transcripts provide readers with access to unedited, diplomatic texts of the Journal from September 1854 to November 1861.

At his death in 1862, Thoreau had published two books, fifteen essays, serialized versions of portions of two books that were published posthumously, a few excerpts from Walden that functioned as pre-publication "teasers," and a number of poems, some alone and others within prose works. The Edition has made available authoritative versions of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and Walden, originally published in 1849 and 1854, and The Maine Woods and Cape Cod, the two books that were not published in their entirety until after Thoreau's death. Three other published volumes, Early Essays and Miscellanies, Reform Papers, and Translations, and one in press, Excursions, present seventy-two essays, forty-one of which can be considered juvenilia, and seven translations. Volumes to come will contain all of Thoreau's poetry and several late essays that he left incomplete at the time of his death.

Three hundred thirty-eight of Thoreau's letters survive, and evidence suggests that he wrote many more that are no longer extant. In the first surviving letter, dated 1834 on the basis of circumstantial evidence, Thoreau asks Oliver Sparhawk, the steward of Harvard College, to arrange for improvements to Hollis 32, the room he shares with James Richardson Jr. The final one that survives is a business letter dated April 2, 1862, a little over a month before Thoreau's death: this is a cover letter, written by Sophia Thoreau for her brother, for the submission of "Wild Apples" to Ticknor and Fields. In it Thoreau also prompts the firm to make an offer for the copies of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers returned to him by Munroe. In three volumes of Correspondence the Edition will make available letters to Thoreau as well as those he wrote.

In addition to his Journal, his letters, and the literary writings published or intended for publication (and the drafts of these), Thoreau left behind a great deal of manuscript material that will not be published in the Thoreau Edition. This material includes a notebook recording the surveys he did; over 200 of those surveys in draft and complete form; twenty-one bound books and many unbound leaves of extracts from his reading in literature, history, natural history, geography, archaeology, and what would now be called cultural anthropology; and almost 2,000 pages of notes, lists, and charts in which he recorded and attempted to present in a systematic way his observations of natural phenomena from 1850 until late fall 1861.

William L. Howarth, in his Literary Manuscripts of Henry David Thoreau (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1974), lists, describes, and locates all but the surveys in section F, "Notes and Notebooks, 1835-1862," 281-331. The surveys at the Concord Free Public Library may be viewed online. Some of the books of extracts can be found in facsimile editions, and Suzanne Dvorak Rose describes the contents of seven of the specialized extract books--the Indian Books--and transcribes Thoreau's tables of contents for four more in her dissertation, "Tracking the Moccasin Print: A Descriptive Index to Henry David Thoreau's Indian Notebooks and a Study of the Relationship of the Indian Notebooks to Mythmaking in Walden" (Univ. of Oklahoma, 1994). The phenological material is available only in its original format, in manuscript repositories.

Thoreau used the lecture platform to introduce portions of A Week, Walden, most of the essays published in his lifetime, and much of what appeared after his death. Bradley P. Dean and Ronald Wesley Hoag published two annotated lists of these lectures: "Thoreau's Lectures Before Walden: An Annotated Calendar" in Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, ed. Joel Myerson (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995), 129-230, and "Thoreau's Lectures After Walden: An Annotated Calendar" in Studies in the American Renaissance 1996, ed. Joel Myerson (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996), 216-329. Howarth identifies surviving manuscript leaves that were included in lectures in section C, "Lectures and Essays," 133-179.