Critical Edition Update

Critical Edition of Whitehead quarterly update, summer 2019

A copy of a letter to Russell in which Whitehead refuses to hand over his notes

We continue to make good progress on the second volume of Harvard lectures. Editing is now complete for the Fall 1925, Spring 1926, and Fall 1926 portions of Whitehead’s Philosophy 3b lectures. We are now in the midst of editing the lectures for Spring 1927, which will round out the Philosophy 3b material for the volume. After this is completed, we will still need to edit the notes for Whitehead’s seminars (though we only have notes for about ten sessions), as well as Whitehead’s 1927 lectures in Philosophy A (a survey course for undergraduates, with lectures split up among various members of the department) and his one Fall 1926 guest lecture in Richard Clarke Cabot’s Social Ethics seminar.

Scanning of the newly discovered Whitehead papers is now complete, but the material still has not been fully cataloged while we focus our attention on working toward the submission of the second volume of Harvard lectures. We have, however, added a few new items to the online Whitehead Research Library, as follows:

  • Address to the Council of Trinity College concerning the deanship: A handwritten address in which Whitehead proposes two changes to Trinity College statutes, the first to give the Council the power to elect only one dean, as opposed to a senior and a junior dean, and second, to remove the restriction which obliges the Council to elect the dean from among the clergy.
  • Lowell Lectures outline: A typed outline for the Lowell Lectures upon which Whitehead has written “Science and the Modern World” at the top, and the schedule. It seems to have been his personal copy.
  • Important Notice to Instructors: A notice to Harvard instructors on how to handle course lists and the reporting of absentee students. Whitehead was no doubt given this prior to his first class and dutifully held on to it.
  • Letter from Whitehead to Bertrand Russell: This letter appears to be a handwritten reference copy of a letter sent to Russell on January 8, 1917, held by the Bertrand Russell Archives of McMaster University, in which he explains why he is unwilling to share his philosophical notes with Russell. That Whitehead wrote out a reference copy for himself certainly seems to indicate that it was important to him.

In mid-May, we completed and submitted the manuscript for Whitehead at Harvard, 1924-25 to Edinburgh University Press. This anthology of essays exploring the significance of the first volume of the Critical Edition is scheduled to be published in early 2020.

With initial transcription complete for four out of six planned volumes of student notes, we have shifted our transcription efforts to Whitehead’s previously unpublished or uncollected essays (i.e., those which did not later appear in his monographs), with an eye toward editing two volumes of “collected papers” as a part of the Critical Edition.

We have begun an application for an NEH Scholarly Editions and Translations Grant. If funded, the award would provide up to $100,000 in funding for each of three years, starting as early as spring of 2022. During this three year period grant support would be used to transcribe the handwritten materials for the fifth and sixth volumes of the Harvard Lectures (HL5 and HL6), the verification of transcribed handwritten materials for HL3, and the verification and critical editing of two volumes of collected papers.

The work of transcription, verification, and critical editing is time-consuming and expensive. If you believe in the value of the Critical Edition of Whitehead, please consider supporting our work with a donation today:

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