Nov. 22-Dec. 5, 2002
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George Washington Washington documents online

By Charlotte Morford Scott

An archive of historic documents and letters written by or on behalf of George Washington is now available online, thanks to a cooperative effort between the University library’s Electronic Text Center and a scholarly editing project, The Papers of George Washington. The archive is the electronic edition of John C. Fitzpatrick’s comprehensive study, “The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799,” a monumental collection of more than 17,400 letters and documents.

Fitzpatrick’s work was originally prepared under the direction of the U.S. George Washington Bicentennial Commission, organized by Congress in 1932 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birth. The Library of Congress held the single largest collection of Washington manuscripts -— more than 60,000 separate documents -— and Fitzpatrick, who had served as assistant chief of the manuscripts division for 30 years, assembled 37 volumes plus a two-volume index of the Washington papers. While the work was remarkable for its time, there were still more papers than even Fitzpatrick was able to include.

The archive is the
electronic edition of
John C. Fitzpatrick’s comprehensive study,
“The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799,” a collection of more than 17,400 documents.

Now the Papers of George Washington, a documentary editing project housed at the U.Va. Library, has collaborated with the Library’s E-Text Center to make Fitzpatrick’s work available online while its own project, a 90-volume, updated and comprehensive presentation of Washington papers, is in process.

“Fitzpatrick’s ‘Writings’ are an incredible achievement by any standards,” says Frank Grizzard, senior associate editor of The George Washington Papers. “But it presents only one side of the story, since letters sent to Washington are mentioned only infrequently, in the notes.

“Using today’s documentary editing techniques, we’re producing a collection that is far more inclusive than was possible in Fitzpatrick’s day. Nonetheless, having his volumes online is a crucial bridge while we work on completing the 90 volumes of Washington papers.”

The Library of Congress supplied the texts to the E-text Center, which in turn converted the text to XML for enhanced online searching and browsing.

“Our mission is to make humanities texts available to the world through the Internet,” says Matt Gibson, associate director of the E-Text Center. “We’re delighted to be able to make the Library of Congress’ Fitzpatrick volumes accessible to a global audience. The collection represents a significant addition to current E-text materials and greatly enriches the University of Virginia Library’s digital holdings.”


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