Critical Edition Update

Critical Edition of Whitehead quarterly update, spring 2020

Whitehead’s father, Alfred Whitehead, writes a letter to congratulate him on his recently published book, A Treatise on Universal Algebra. He died the following month.

We had set ourselves two major tasks for this year: (1) finish cataloging and uploading the Whitehead papers to the Whitehead Research Library in order to be able to make them more widely available to the public, and (2) transcribe the original versions of Whitehead’s collected papers (i.e., those essays not subsequently published in monographs), with an eye toward editing two volumes of them as a part of the Critical Edition. Happily, we have made speedier progress on these two tasks than we initially projected.

The Whitehead papers have now been fully cataloged and uploaded to the Whitehead Research Library. However, most of them are still not publicly viewable just yet. We have an agreement in place with the donor to not share personal correspondence between immediate family members of Alfred and T. North Whitehead that is deemed to be purely private and of no obvious historical import for a period of fifteen years (specifically, until February 4, 2034). So our next task is to comb through the papers and determine which items must remain sequestered under these criteria. The remainder will be publicly shared as soon as possible. We will post an update when these materials are available, which will likely be sometime in the next month.

As for the collected papers, we are nearing completion of initial transcription for the original versions of all essays to be included in the two volumes of collected papers. However, the essays remaining are especially time-consuming due the inclusion of lots of material on symbolic logic, which requires the use of specialized software to accurately transcribe. We also need to contend with alternate published versions. And even when we finish, the initial transcription is only the first step in a long process toward publication. We are still years away from that.

Closer to publication is the second volume of Whitehead’s Harvard Lectures (HL2), which is now in the hands of a copy editor. We still expect the volume to be published in early 2021.

Our anthology of essays on the first volume of Harvard lectures, Whitehead at Harvard, 1924-25, was published by Edinburgh University Press in January. Based on papers delivered at the 2017 WRP conference in Claremont, it is the first book to critically assess the impact of the publication of Whitehead’s first year of lectures, and includes chapters penned by leading Whitehead scholars on topics ranging from his philosophy of evolution as influenced by Harvard colleague Lawrence J. Henderson, to his thoughts on quantum theory, and his attitude toward and intersections with Kant. We dare to hope that readers will find it illuminating.

We’ve located a few more items thanks to Leemon McHenry, who pointed us toward several Whitehead letters and a few photographs of Jessie Whitehead that were in the Dorothy Emmet papers at the Lucy Cavendish College archives.

As mentioned in previous quarterly updates, we have completed and submitted an application for an NEH Scholarly Editions and Translations Grant. We recently submitted another grant application, this time as a part of an SSHRC partnership grant (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) that explores the origins of European phenomenology in Canadian archives, including the papers of Winthrop Pickard Bell and Allison Heartz Johnson, who were both Whitehead students who took extensive notes of his lectures. If funded, the award would provide support for transcription of Harvard lectures and transcription verification.

The work of searching for, transcribing, and editing archival materials is time-consuming and costly. If you are able to support our work with a donation, it would be much appreciated. Just follow this link. Any donation is appreciated, but we could particularly use recurring monthly donations as a reliable source of funding.

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