About Documentary Editing

The editing of historical documents has been practiced in the United States for over two hundred years. Little was done to record the methods of documentary editors, however, until the 1970s when the Association for Documentary Editing (ADE) was established. Before that time, editors embarking on new projects could find little to guide their efforts. The ADE has provided a forum for editors where they can exchange ideas and discuss standards of editorial practice. A relatively small organization with less than three hundred members, the ADE today remains dedicated to the highest standards of professional editing. The editors who established the ADE typically worked on large university-based editorial projects, such as the Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But that is no longer the case necessarily. Technology is changing the documentary editing field and changing it rapidly. The internet affords anyone the opportunity to place documents online, and many individuals and small institutions are doing so, unaware of the assistance available from the ADE. They are also often unaware of the direction to be found in publications like Mary-Jo Kline and Susan Holbrook Perdue's A Guide to Documentary Editing, now in its third edition; or Beth Luey's Editing Documents and Texts: An Annotated Bibliography; or Michael E. Stevens and Steven B. Burg's helpful Editing Historical Documents: A Handbook of Practice. For anyone involved in a documentary editing project, from a family historian with a small collection of letters to publish, to an editor of the correspondence of a major literary figure, the ADE will prove to be a valuable resource. It is well worth exploring: www.documentaryediting.org .