Critical Edition Update

Critical Edition of Whitehead quarterly update, summer 2020

Whitehead’s will, dated March 27, 1891, witnessed by his parents.

Since the last quarterly update, the major milestone we’ve reached is the one we already announced shortly after its publication: the release of “Whitehead’s Lost Papers,” a donation of Whitehead’s grandson and heir, George Whitehead. It had been over a year since the donation, and the scans now publicly available at the Whitehead Research Library (WRL) represent many months of work scanning and cataloging. We believe them to be an important new resource for Whitehead scholars, and are very pleased to make them available.

Two supplementary notes regarding the papers are worth mentioning:

  1. Whitehead’s 1891 will was accidentally omitted from the original release, and has now been posted with the rest of the papers. A miscommunication resulted in the will being sent back to Whitehead’s grandson, George Whitehead, before it could be scanned in color. However, the content of the black-and-white reference scan we have posted online is completely legible.
  2. The previous narrative regarding Whitehead’s papers was that they had all been destroyed upon his death at his request (coming primarily from Victor Lowe). Upon the discovery of these papers, it seemed clear that this narrative was false. But in looking more closely at what remains, we have come to appreciate that the answer to this question is more complicated than “true” or “false.” It now seems likely to us that some of Whitehead’s papers were either not retained by him or were indeed destroyed, with the family choosing to preserve some writings and not others. We will likely never know the criteria according to which they made such decisions.

Speaking of Whitehead’s papers, shortly after we posted them, we briefly thought that we had a lead on a manuscript of his 1925 Lowell lectures that would become Science and the Modern World (SMW), but this turned out to be a bust. A relative of Henry Osborn Taylor and Julia Isham Taylor who had previously sent us several Whitehead letters and photos had contacted us to ask if we wanted a copy of some lectures by Lawrence J. Henderson. In sending us these lectures, she also sent photocopies of a few pages of a 2016 book titled American Philosophy: A Love Story by Dr. John Kaag, who discussed looking through William Ernest Hocking’s massive library of first editions. In the book, Kaag wrote that

Hocking courted Whitehead for several years and finally invited him to deliver the prestigious Lowell Lectures at Harvard in 1923, which were subsequently published as Science and the Modern World in 1925. The presentation copy of this book had been wedged into a rusty file cabinet at the back of the Hocking Library. (159–160)

It’s worth noting that Kaag got a few things wrong in this paragraph: it was A. Lawrence Lowell, and not Hocking, who invited Whitehead to give the lectures, and the invitation was extended in 1924 with the lectures being delivered in 1925, not 1923. In any case, when we contacted Dr. Kaag for his help tracking down the manuscript, it turned out that it was merely a first edition of SMW inscribed to the Hockings by Whitehead. So this was one lead that did not pan out.

The task that has been taking up the majority of our time since the last update has been the transcription of Whitehead’s essays that will make up two volumes of his collected papers. As noted previously, the remaining yet-to-be-transcribed articles are all math-heavy and logic-heavy, which has slowed the process considerably. However, we hope to be done with transcription of the remaining articles in the next few months.

We have gathered what we believe to be the majority of the different versions of the essays that will comprise the collected papers and are about ready to begin the laborious process of double verification. It is worth noting that in a very few cases we may be missing original or alternate versions, such as a version of “Technical Education and Its Relation to Science and Literature” cited by Victor Lowe in his list of Whitehead’s works in the LLP volume, and published versions (if they exist) of obituaries written for A. Lawrence Lowell, James Haughton Woods, and Philip Cabot. We have not yet made final decisions on how we will handle differences between versions in the published volume, nor will we know for sure until the work properly begins (for instance, whether we will print the original or most recent versions of the essays).

On everything else, we remain in a holding pattern. The second volume of Whitehead’s Harvard Lectures (HL2) remains in the hands of the copy editor, who has not properly begun to work on it yet, and does not expect to have proofs to us before August (though the book is now listed on EUP’s website, and is scheduled for publication in January 2021). We have also submitted an NEH grant application for which we expect to hear results in August 2020. A second grant application we submitted to the SSHRC of Canada was unfortunately not funded.

It is possible that not everyone is aware that Claremont School of Theology, which is the WRP’s parent organization (as a project of CPS, which is a faculty center of CST), has now sold its California campus and is moving this summer to embed with Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. CPS is moving with it. Andrew Schwartz, the Executive Director of CPS, has told us that he is working with Willamette University’s Hatfield Library to house the CPS library and archive collection. Their facilities far exceed those of CST, so this will definitely be a step up. Once CST officially merges with WU on July 1, CPS will become a “University-level” transdisciplinary center (i.e., not under a single department). Andrew expects to keep all CPS programs active and rebuild CPS staff in Salem. The direct impact of this move on WRP should be relatively small, but we can hope that it may lead to greater awareness of our work.

Brian Henning, Executive Editor
Critical Edition of Whitehead
Joseph Petek, Assistant Editor
Critical Edition of Whitehead