On Why You Can’t Beat a (Real) Book for Research

Something wasn’t looking right. It certainly seemed unlikely to me that the scholars of transcendentalism, who, after all, have been mining a very small body of texts for a very long time now, could have missed a signed article by a noted, if not central figure, in the transcendentalist journal. And they didn’t. A little time in the archives this morning proved what I had begun to suspect from a close look at the electronic texts – there is only one article by William B. Greene in the Dial, but there are two listed in APS Online, separately indexed, without clear page numbers, and out of order in the issue index. For the record, what APS calls “Beauty, Justice and Harmony” is actually the last three pages of “First Principles.” Fortunately, the archives at BGSU have a set of the Dial reprints and, after some running around by the archivists, it only took a second to clarify the matter.

So, a word or two to the wise: if you’re using electronic resources, make use of the page maps if they’re available. If you’re archiving material, try to provide some means of establishing the relationships between elements in a bound volume.

That erases one of the potential new W. B. Greene texts, but there’s still some cause for celebration. “Song of Espousal” pretty clearly now has earliest publication honors, and there appear to be two essays by Greene in Massachusetts Teacher and Journal of Home and School Education, “What Is The Minus Quantity?” and “Influence,” that have gone unremarked.

[I’ve since come to doubt whether the two essays in the Massachusetts Teacher are by William Batchelder Greene, but have never been able to confirm things one way or another.—2017]

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.