Mabbott Poe is an online resource based on the papers of Thomas Ollive Mabbott (1898-1968), editor of the three-volume Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe.[i] The centerpiece of Mabbott Poe is an exhibit of Mabbott’s research files on Poe’s works in prose and poetry. These contain many of Poe’s probable or actual sources for his tales and poems, first printings as well as reprints in their original periodicals or in facsimile, Mabbott’s as well as his wife Maureen Cobb Mabbott’s notes, and various other intriguing materials. The exhibit provides a model of primary source research, a record of the text editing process, and an ensemble of paper-based editorial materials and techniques.
For a brief biography of Mabbott, links to articles articles by and about him, and a list of the Mabbott collection's contents, see The University of Iowa Library's Papers of Thomas Ollive Mabbott.
Mabbott Poe was made possible by the generous assistance of Special Collections, Main Library, The University of Iowa Libraries, and the Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio at The University of Iowa.
While planning a Spring 2017 undergraduate course on “Poe & His World,” I decided to schedule two class meetings in The University of Iowa Library’s Special Collections, which holds Mabbott’s papers, books, and historical newspapers and periodicals. I viewed the collection shortly before the beginning of semester to prepare a “pull list,” and, as is so often the case with archival visits, this one led me to a cache of materials that I planned to glance at, but didn’t think would amount to anything. These materials were the preparatory notes for Mabbott’s three-volume Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, and they stole my attention for the rest of my day in the archive. The files of notes, each one devoted to a poem or tale, contained first printings and reprints of Poe’s works in periodicals and newspapers, in their original state and facsimile; manuscript notes by Thomas and Maureen Mabbott; and just about anything else related to the works, from historical broadsides about apes turned barbers to mid-twentieth-century fashion advertisements featuring sociable crows. I saw the value of the nineteenth-century magazines, still in their original state and unbound. I also felt that the research process recorded in the files expressed the editor’s tireless and at times idiosyncratic pursuit of contextual influences and cultural afterlives.
I left Special Collections feeling that Mabbott’s research files could be a teaching tool as well as a reference for textual criticism. Shortly before the beginning of the Spring 2017 semester, I proposed Mabbott Poe to The University of Iowa Library’s Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio, and they generously offered their support. Special Collections, too, offered support, volunteering to make high-resolution scans of the files. Of course, Mabbott Poe had just begun to take shape when the “Poe & His World” course began, so we couldn’t make use of it as I had intended. However, when Special Collections finished scanning a file of research notes, the staff passed the digital facsimiles along to me, so that the class could begin to work with them. Over the course of the semester, I found that the facsimiles provided students with the opportunity not only to read Poe’s works in their newspaper and periodical contexts, but also to see, firsthand, how editors construct textual corpora, narrowing a plurality of variants to a single text and consolidating dispersed contextual influences in an author's name.
Our class discussions entailed further consideration of the technologies Mabbott had at his disposal when preparing his edition. Digital remediation of historical periodicals, photocopied manuscripts, and editorial marginalia highlighted the significant role media plays in research, text editing, and cultural production in general. As Mabbott Poe continues to grow, I see it facilitating discussions about primary source research, text editing, and media history in Poe courses as well as survey courses that feature Poe.
As a life-long numismatist and connoisseur of historical ephemera, Thomas Ollive Mabbott was, first and foremost, a collector. Discovery of and commentary on lost, ignored, or forgotten documents from literary history formed the backbone of his scholarship. His first extensive work of Poe scholarship (also his doctoral dissertation) was the first edition of the “unfinished tragedy” Politian, which Mabbott “based on a thorough collation of the remaining portions of Poe’s original MS, and of all printed versions of the play known to have appeared during the poet’s lifetime.”[ii] Mabbott also wrote the introduction to the Facsimile Text Society’s edition of Poe’s personal and annotated copy of The Raven and other Poems.[iii]But these are only highlights. Mabbott was an accomplished scholar of Milton, Whitman, and others. His research was not limited by nation, period, or even canon. Many of his editorial and scholarly works are listed in the appendix of Maureen Mabbott’s Mabbott as Poe Scholar: The Early Years (1980).[iv] His edition of the Collected Works was the fruit of a life devoted to collecting, editing, and preserving texts.
Several important editions of Poe preceded Mabbott’s Collected Works. Rufus W. Griswold’s The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe (1850-1856) is notorious for being the first edition to pretend to collect the poems and tales, but it is really just a selection. Moreover, given Griswold’s attempts to mutilate Poe’s already tainted reputation as the executor of his literary estate, his selection is suspect.[v] Griswold aside, Mabbott’s edition of the Collected Works follows and improves on two significant predecessors: Edmund Clarence Stedman and George Edward Woodberry’s The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, 10 vols. (1894-95) and James A. Harrison’s The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, 17 vols. (1902). Despite its impressive number of volumes, Harrison’s “complete works” is, in fact, incomplete. As Mabbott points out in the general introduction of Volume One: “Since 1902 scholars have recovered, from old periodicals and from manuscripts, many compositions inaccessible to Harrison. The bulk of Poe’s writings here to be presented has been increased about twenty per cent” (1:xvii). Of course, the author’s corpus has continued to grow since Mabbott’s time, as the editor himself might have anticipated.
Mabbott’s volumes of Poe’s Collected Works have a somewhat tragic history: he dated the “Acknowledgements” published in Volume One of the Collected Works 1 May 1968. He passed away on May 15. Clarence Gohdes and Rollo G. Silver added a note after the “Acknowledgements” confirming that the present volume was “all but finished” before his death. Because Maureen Mabbott had been an “assistant to her husband” as Eleanor D. Kewer, Chief Editor for Special Projects of the Harvard University Press, also had, Gohdes and Silver assure us that his posthumous collaborators were “fully cognizant of Mr. Mabbott’s methods of work” when they, along with some of Mabbott’s former assistants, took it over (1:vii). Kewer and Mrs. Mabbott state in the “Acknowledgements” for Volume Two, the first volume of the tales, that T.O.M.’s method helped them continue his work because his goal was to “emphasiz[e] sources and records rather than his own opinions.” The collaborators add: “[t]his emphasis has made it possible to complete his work on the Tales by verifying and fleshing out references, and by following closely his leads” (2:v). And yet, the research files betray a combination of science and whimsy. Like Auguste Dupin's detective work, Mabbott’s combined convention and imagination, objectivity and subjectivity. Did Maureen Mabbott and Eleanor Kewer have access to T.O.M.'s concrete methods and individual peculiarities? Or was the editor's melange of sensibilities already the result of collaboration?
The research files adjust and focus how we think about Mabbott’s edition of Poe and perhaps about editorial methods in general. For instance, Maureen Mabbott had more of a hand in editing the volume of poems (Volume One) than Gohdes and Silver suggest. Her hand appears throughout the file on “The Raven.” Such traces confirm that Mabbott’s death did not take his editorial project out of his hands, for it was never entirely his. The research files allow us to reconstruct the collaborative efforts that contributed to Mabbott’s Collected Works, an editorial project perhaps directed by Mabbott, but not completely attributable to him in any of the three volumes. The same could be said about the technological resources that he had at his disposal. Had it not been for affordable photo-reproduction in Mabbott’s day, much of the research that contributed to the Collected Works would not have been possible. Photocopies and photographs of newspapers and manuscripts allowed Mabbott and his collaborators to gather drafts and publications so that they could track the complex evolution of Poe’s tales and poems in one space (rumor has it the space was the Mabbotts' home). The digital Mabbott Poe remediates the facsimiles that assisted the carefully assembled Collected Works, and, in doing so, the resource highlights the difference between Mabbott and company’s editorial process and the fortuitous circumstances of our own.
In summer 2018 Mabbott Poe configured and defined its Dublin Core Metadata Elements. The configuration and definitions as they appear below suit the goals of the project as of 2018. They are subject to change on the basis of user feedback and changes to the Mabbott Poe site. Because they are subject to change, this section of the “About” page will be updated as necessary.
Dublin Core Metadata Elements for the Research Files
The metadata elements for each research file identifies the file folder containing documents related to an individual work by Edgar Allan Poe and credits the institutions, offices, and/or persons responsible for the file’s digitization. The elements situate the research files within The University of Iowa Library (its Special Collections and Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio). They also establish relationships with other institutions and digital projects external to The University of Iowa. The contents and logic behind the contents of the metadata elements are as follows:
Title: “[the title of the tale or poem by Poe]”
The physical file folders are labeled with the titles of Poe’s works, and Mabbott Poe maintains this labeling method.
Creator: Thomas Ollive Mabbott
T.O. Mabbott’s actual role as creator of the files is debatable, given that Maureen Cobb Mabbott and others worked with his papers after his death. Additionally, the file folders were almost certainly provided and labeled by Special Collections Librarians when the papers were donated to The University of Iowa. Nevertheless, the composition of the files has been attributed to T.O. Mabbott by the library, and Mabbott Poe maintains this attribution.
Contributor: The University of Iowa Digital Scholarship and Publication Studio; Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries.
The two contributors of each digitized research file credits the departments in The University of Iowa Library that have supported Mabbott Poe. Special Collections has supported research on the physical files and scanning of the files. The Digital Scholarship and Publication Studio has provided design and technical support for the site.
Description: [a general introduction to the research file]
The description for each research file is based on a template that can be customized for each file according to the file’s title and the types of documents it contains. The introduction also provides, courtesy of The Poe Society of Baltimore, a link to an electronic text of the work by Poe as it appears in Mabbott’s edition.
Relation: Thomas Ollive Mabbott’s Research Files for the Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe
The relation identifies the research files as a project within Mabbott Poe.
Source: Papers of Thomas Ollive Mabbott, Special Collections, University of Iowa Library; [citation for work by Poe in Mabbott’s edition]
First, the source situates the research files in their physical repository, The University of Iowa Library’s Special Collections. Second, it provides a citation of the work by Poe as it appears in Mabbott’s edition.
Dublin Core Metadata Elements for Individual Documents within the Research Files:
The metadata elements for individual documents are subject to greater variation than the elements for the research files. Titles, creators, contributors, format, and description vary greatly from document to document. However, the documents have the same relation and source as the research files containing them. The contents and logic behind the contents of the metadata elements are as follows:
Title: “[title based on a prominent textual feature of the document]”
Mabbott Poe treats the documents in the research files as unique instantiations of texts, sometimes original printed materials and at others photocopies distinguished by markup and marginalia. Mabbott Poe therefore derives the title of individual documents from the peculiar features of the documents themselves. Below is a list of notes on the titling of documents according to their peculiar features and formats. (See below for a separate definition of the “Format” element.)
Original Periodical or Other Print Ephemera: In the case of the full-issue of a periodical, the title of the document should reflect the publication’s title and date of publication rather than a Poe text featured inside that periodical.
Microfilm Prints and Photocopies of Newspapers, Periodicals, and Books: It is often the case that a file contains a photocopy from a newspaper, periodical or book, sometimes of a book review or other work by Poe. In that case marginalia in the upper margin of the photocopy provides a suitable title for the document, as the photocopies tend to be excerpts from periodicals and books without covers or title pages and therefore lack context provided by the marginalia. In cases where photocopies of books include title pages and lack marginalia, Mabbott Poe provides a citation of the book.
Manuscripts: The derivation of titles from marginalia on photocopies is consistent with the titles of manuscript notes, transcriptions, and collations found throughout the research files.
Note: Mabbott Poe provides full citation information for sources of photocopied books, newspapers, and periodicals in the “Description” element. (See the definition of the “Description” element below.)
Creator: [whoever can be designated the originator of the text in question]
In the case of books, newspapers, and periodicals, the creator is given as the author of the published text. The same goes for manuscripts as long as the handwriting can be identified. (See the section on identifying handwriting.)
Contributor: [whoever can be designated the originator of a document’s marginalia]
Most of the documents in the research files have been annotated by T.O. Mabbott or editorial assistants. Maureen Cobb Mabbott wrote on many of the photocopied documents. The contributor element lists as many of the participants in the editorial process as can be identified. (See the section on identifying handwriting.)
Format: [periodical, photocopy, manuscript, microfilm print…]
One of Mabbott Poe’s goals is to facilitate inquiry about the technological conditions of text editing. With this in mind, the format element highlights the various paper-based media involved in Mabbott’s research as well as the digitization process itself.
Description: [as comprehensive as possible]
The description situates individual documents within Mabbott’s version of Poe’s text (usually an endnote, footnote, or some part of the editor’s introduction to the work in question). The description also provides a formal citation, when necessary, of the source of an excerpt from a book, newspaper, or periodical. Sometimes brief, sometimes long, the description attempts to include as much pertinent information about the document as possible.
Relation and Source: these are the same for individual documents as they are for research files.
Maureen Cobb Mabbott, Eleanor D. Kewer, Patricia Edwards Clyne, Burton Pollin, and many others, contributed to Thomas Ollive Mabbott’s editorial labors for the Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe. The most significant contributor, however, was Maureen Cobb Mabbott, whose correspondence, filed among Mabbott’s papers, show us that she did more than assist with the publication of the two volumes of tales and sketches (Volumes II and III) after her husband’s death, but also oversaw the final editing and preparation of copy for Harvard University Press.
Users of Mabbott Poe will find Maureen Mabbott credited as a contributor in many of the documents among Mabbott’s research files. Because Special Collections holds Maureen and T.O. Mabbott’s correspondence, their handwriting can be distinguished and they can be credited accordingly. In rare cases it is unclear who has marked up or annotated a document, though it may very well be one of the Mabbotts. In those cases the contributor is either given as “unknown” or followed by a question mark. I hope to be able to identify the handwriting of other contributors in the future. For now, I have provided samples from the correspondence of T.O.M. and Maureen Mabbott as reference points for identifying their marginalia.
Letter in the hand of Thomas Ollive Mabbott:
Letter in the hand of Maureen Cobb Mabbott:
[i] Edgar Allan Poe, Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Volume One: Poems; Volumes Two and Three: Tales and Sketches, ed. Thomas Ollive Mabbott; with the assistance of Eleanor D. Kewer and Maureen C. Mabbott (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1969; 1978). Henceforth cited by volume and page number, i.e., 1:1.
[ii] Edgar Allan Poe, Politian: An Unfinished Tragedy, ed. Thomas Ollive Mabbott (Richmond: The Edgar Allan Poe Shrine, 1923), 41. See also Maureen Cobb Mabbott, Mabbott as Poe Scholar: The Early Years (Baltimore: Enoch Pratt Free Library, 1980), 8-9.
[iii] Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven and Other Poems: Reproduced in Facsimile from the Lorimer Graham Copy of the Edition of 1845 with Author’s Corrections, ed. Thomas Ollive Mabbott (New York: Columbia University Press, 1942).
[iv] Mabbott as Poe Scholar, 33-36.
[v] For an account of Griswold’s slandering of Poe and others who defended him, see Arthur Hobson Quinn, Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), 672-693.