Research Programs: Summer Stipends

Period of Performance

6/1/2003 - 7/31/2003

Funding Totals

$5,000.00 (approved)
$5,000.00 (awarded)

William Byrd’s Histories of the Dividing Line

FAIN: FT-51529-03

Kevin Joel Berland
Pennsylvania State University, Shenango Campus (Sharon, PA 16146)

The project involves development of a new, scholarly edition of the Dividing Line histories of William Byrd. These narratives describe a 1728 surveying expedition to settle the boundary between Virginia and North Carolina. They record the intersection of private and public culture in colonial Virginia, and are valuable to students of colonial history and culture, race, gender, and the history of science in the new world. A new edition, providing students and scholars with access to authentic texts and new material on historical contexts and on Byrd's methods of composition, will be a welcome addition to the field.

Media Coverage

[untitled review] (Review)
Author(s): Philip Levy
Publication: The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Date: 2/10/2014
Abstract: Review

[brief untitled review] (Review)
Publication: Scholarly Editing: The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing
Date: 10/24/2014
Abstract: Scholarly Editing: The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing Volume 35, 2014 | review.recenteditions2014.html
URL: review.recenteditions2014.html

[untitled review] (Review)
Author(s): Bradford J. Wood
Publication: Bradford J. Wood, untitled review, William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser. 71 2 (April 2014), pp. 304-306
Date: 10/24/2014

"Locating Early America," (Review)
Author(s): Thomas Hallock
Publication: American Literary History, 26, 3 (September 2014): 1-10.
Date: 10/24/2014
Abstract: Review essay.

Associated Products

The Dividing Line Histories of William Byrd II of Westover (Book)
Title: The Dividing Line Histories of William Byrd II of Westover
Author: William Byrd II
Editor: Kevin Joel Berland
Abstract: After his 1728 Virginia-North Carolina boundary expedition, Virginia planter and politician William Byrd II composed two very different accounts of his adventures. The Secret History of the Line was written for private circulation, offering tales of scandalous behavior and political misconduct, peppered with rakish humor and personal satire. The History of the Dividing Line, continually revised by Byrd for decades after the expedition, was intended for the London literary market, though not published in his lifetime. Collating all extant manuscripts, my scholarly edition of these two histories provides wide-ranging historical and cultural contexts for both, helping to recreate the social and intellectual ethos of Byrd and his time. Byrd enriched his narratives with material appropriated from earlier authors, many of whose works were in his library--the most extensive in the American colonies. Berland identifies for the first time many of Byrd's sources and raises the question: how reliable are histories that build silently upon antecedent texts and present borrowed material as firsthand testimony? In my analysis I demonstrate the need for a new category to assess early modern history writing: the hybrid, accretional narrative.
Year: 2013
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: UNC Press website
Secondary URL:
Secondary URL Description: Listing of reviews
Publisher: University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture
Type: Scholarly Edition
ISBN: 978-1-4696-069
Copy sent to NEH?: No

Some of Byrd's Words... (Blog Post)
Title: Some of Byrd's Words...
Author: Kevin Joel Berland
Abstract: In his Dividing Line histories, William Byrd introduced several words not represented in the Oxford English Dictionary. In this blog posting I discuss a number of examples
Date: 10/2/2013
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: My occasional blog on scholarly issues.
Secondary URL:
Secondary URL Description: UNC Press's blog, discussing the edition and linking to my blog post
Blog Title: Netwallah Redivivus

"Byrd's Lightning." (Blog Post)
Title: "Byrd's Lightning."
Author: Kevin Joel Berland
Abstract: A discussion of meteorology in WIlliam Byrd's Dividing Line Histories
Date: 11/30/2013
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: My occasional blog on scholarly matters
Secondary URL:
Secondary URL Description: "Kevin Joel Berland: William Byrd II, Archiving Colonial Virginia’s Natural History" -- an introduction and link to my blog.
Blog Title: UNC Press Blogs