Critical Edition Update

Critical Edition quarterly update

Curtice Nelson Hitchcock (1892-1946) was Whitehead’s primary contact at Macmillan during the 1920s. Serving as Assistant to the President and later Vice President, Hitchcock would depart Macmillan in 1933 to found his own publishing house, Reynal & Hitchcock, with Eugene Reynal in 1934 (which published, among other works, the English translation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince). He died of a heart attack in 1946 at the age of 54, and two years later Reynal & Hitchcock was bought and absorbed by Harcourt Brace.


It is once again a time of transitions at WRP. Jason Taksony Hewitt, our editorial assistant hired last year, is leaving us. I want to thank him for his hard work, and in particular all the hours he put into making the new WRP website a reality. He will be missed. In his place we have hired Robert McDonald, who studied philosophy with Brian Henning at Gonzaga, and began the Process PhD program here at Claremont School of Theology last year. Rob’s self-introduction can be found at the end of this update.

Probably the most exciting thing to happen in the past few months is that we finally received Whitehead’s correspondence with Macmillan from the New York Public Library after a long delay. It consists of 96 letters, all but four of which fall between the years 1924-27 (some of the later correspondence has apparently been lost). Victor Lowe had already discussed these letters somewhat in the second volume of his Whitehead biography (see pages 160-161 and 179-180). Some of them are quite amusing internal memos between various Macmillan staff expressing exasperation at Whitehead’s lack of interest or understanding in business matters. In various places they wrote that “Whitehead always has his head above the clouds and is perfectly incapable of transacting business in a definite fashion,” that it is “perfectly useless to write Whitehead because he never answer[s] letters,” and that he “knows no more about business matters than a child.” At one point Macmillan sent Whitehead three time-sensitive letters over a six-week period asking his permission to publish a new edition of Science and the Modern World before Evelyn finally answered, expressing embarrassment that the letters had gone unanswered, and asking that future business correspondence be sent directly to her due to what she called “my husband’s postal silence.”

I have been training Rob over the past several weeks in our transcription methods and protocols, with transcription of materials for the 1930-33 volume of student notes continuing. We still have a ways to go, but I expect that we will be finished by the end of this calendar year, then turn to transcription of letters.

The editing of the second CEW volume covering 1925-27 also continues. We are nearing completion of the textual verification phase, which has proved to be a very time-consuming process. The fact that we have as many as four relatively complete sets of notes for a given year necessitates comparison of these texts with one another to correct errors that could not be discovered any other way (e.g., without multiple sets of notes, we would not know that in his opening lecture of Fall 1926, Whitehead probably did not talk of “formulae and axioms,” as one student has it, but rather “formulae in action,” as another two students have it!). While such close comparisons are slow work, we are continually persuaded of their absolute necessity. Soon we will be moving to the editorial phase proper, in which we will begin to move toward a finalized text which expands shorthand for readability, adds explanatory footnotes, and points out important differences between the various sets of notes in order to most nearly approach Whitehead’s words. We believe that this next volume of the CEW will, like the 1924-25 volume, prove an invaluable resource to Whitehead scholars, covering as it does the period in which he wrote both Religion in the Making and Symbolism, and with his Gifford lectures only a year away.

Joseph Petek
Chief Archivist and Assistant Editor
Whitehead Research Project


Robert McDonald:  Self-introduction

As Joe stated above, I began my studies toward the PhD in Religion (Process Studies) last fall, so I am preparing for my second year of full-time coursework. In conjunction with my new work with the Whitehead Research Project, I am the Administrative Assistant in CST’s Writing & Speech Center, as well as being a Writing Associate for Systematic Theology.

Prior to CST, I attended Gannon University (Erie, PA) and Gonzaga University. During my time at Gannon I studied Philosophy, Theology, and History as an undergraduate, as well as Public and Business Administration as a graduate student; I studied graduate Philosophy at Gonzaga. In addition to my studies, I worked for US Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr., the Faith & Reason Institute at Gonzaga University, and the Upward Bound Program at Gannon University. These experiences (among others) have left me with a range of research interests: process thought broadly conceived; personalism(s); the thought of Teilhard de Chardin; philosophies of religion, science, and technology; comparative religion/theology; philosophical anthropology; and environmental ethics.

I am excited to be working with the WRP, being especially grateful for the opportunity to both develop my understanding of Whitehead’s thought and to be involved in furthering scholarship of process thought.

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