- Variant A: lovely day home all morning very busy i wrote to brother and sister yesterday and tomy to night comes off the long gatherd of Celebration by the […] it was very grand (Memorable Days site)
- Variant B: lovely day home all morning very busy i wrote to brother and sister yesterday and tomy to night comes off the long talked of Celebration by the banneker institute it was very grand (Emilie Davis’s Civil War)
- Variant C: Lovely day. Home all morning. Very busy, I wrote to Father and Sister yesterday and Tomy. Tonight it comes off, the long awaited Celebration by the Banneker Institute. It was very grand. (Notes from a Colored Girl)
“Woe is she who finds occasion to quote that passage. The editors did not see the same things on the page. Did Emilie write to her brother or her father? Did she think the celebration was “long gatherd,” “long talked of,” or “long awaited”? Adding confusion are disagreements between the editors about basic data. They differ as to the name of Emilie’s father, and that is just the beginning.
“These divergent results are unsettling. Is history usually this wobbly? Are words on historical pages this uncertain as a rule? These are not the differences of interpretation and viewpoint that historians embrace as intellectual exercise and self-improvement. In this case, the raw elements of history, its primary sources, have gone through competing reﬁ neries with inconsistent output. How does this happen?”
Learn more in “Getting History’s Words Right: Diaries of Emilie Davis”by Ann D. Gordon, originally appearing in the April 2015 issue of The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. The essay won the Boydston Essay Prize from the Association for Documentary Editing.
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