Research Programs: Scholarly Editions and Translations

Period of Performance

9/1/2010 - 8/31/2013

Funding Totals

$230,000.00 (approved)
$230,000.00 (awarded)

The Almanacks of Mary Moody Emerson: A Scholarly Digital Edition

FAIN: RQ-50462-10

Penn State (University Park, PA 16802-1503)
Sandra H. Petrulionis (Project Director: November 2009 to November 2014)

Preparation for publication of a scholarly, annotated, digital edition of the complete Almanacks of Mary Moody Emerson. (36 months)

Born in Concord, Massachusetts on the eve of the American Revolution, Mary Moody Emerson (1774-1863) was a self-educated scholar, theologian, and author whose intellectual production bridges the 18th and 19th centuries. Most widely known as the brilliant aunt of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mary Emerson influenced her nephew's work and published her own pseudonymous essays; her most significant accomplishment is a series of unpublished manuscripts she called "Almanacks" (c. 1804-1855). Spanning over fifty years and one thousand pages, these documents feature characteristics of the spiritual diary, philosophical commonplace book, and epistolary essay and demonstrate the ways in which early American women adapted traditionally "masculine" genres and subject matter. The editors are collaborating with the director and staff of the Brown University Women Writers Project to publish a scholarly digital edition of the complete Almanacks in their subscription database, Women Writers Online.

Associated Products

“Let me do nothing smale”: Mary Moody Emerson and Women’s “Talking” Manuscripts (Article)
Title: “Let me do nothing smale”: Mary Moody Emerson and Women’s “Talking” Manuscripts
Author: Noelle Baker
Abstract: This essay argues that Mary Moody Emerson (1774–1863), the brilliant, self-educated writer and single aunt of American transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, should be considered along with such professional talkers as Margaret Fuller and Bronson Alcott in assessments of the role of transcendentalist conversation and literature of the portfolio in promoting individual self-culture. Neither salonnière, apt subject for a pious memoir, nor transcendentalist, Emerson nonetheless eagerly surveyed their diverse conversational cultures in her unpublished "Almanack" manuscripts (c. 1804-55), which she routinely circulated within literary circles. This broad-minded desire to acquire and disperse knowledge uniquely enabled Emerson to influence different communities, connecting the cultures of eighteenth-century transatlantic women's coteries, salons, and generic conventions with nineteenth-century feminist and transcendentalist pursuits. Her rich foreground in coterie writing and such dialogic genres as commonplace books and memoirs distinctively facilitated Emerson's connection with the female transcendentalists who would ultimately benefit from the gendered and feminist self-consciousness of Fuller's more prominent conversational experiments—for Emerson began practicing self-cultivation and sharing it with others over thirty years before Fuller established these practices as central pedagogical tools in her Boston Conversations. Acting as a bridge between generations and in advance of the more feminist Fuller, Emerson experimented with diverse conversational media in order to achieve mutual cultivation, enlightened truth, and even professional opportunity.
Year: 2011
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: A special issue of the journal ESQ, on A Female Genealogy of Transcendentalism
Access Model: Subscription
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance
Publisher: Washington State University, College of Liberal Arts, Department of English

"'Somthing more than material": Nonverbal Conversation in Mary Moody Emerson's Almanacks (Article)
Title: "'Somthing more than material": Nonverbal Conversation in Mary Moody Emerson's Almanacks
Author: Noelle A. Baker
Abstract: This essay argues that the "Almanacks" of Mary Moody Emerson (1774-1863) and her interest in them as material as well as cultural property demonstrate the significance of fascicle making, paper colors and creases, and graphic images in early American manuscripts, and the ways that they "speak" to nineteenth- and twenty-first-century readers. Emerson kept an unpublished series of folded sheets bound with thread into "fascicles," or booklets. For readers, the material features of these fascicles represent nonverbal but interactive "conversation," in which Emerson places Almanack covers, intertextual "parcels," and a recurring graphic sign in dialogue with verbal artistry. She thus shaped her manuscripts as "visual productions" for readers, gestures that scholars have primarily associated with the later and more richly performative writings of Emily Dickinson. The material features of the Almanacks reveal the self-consciously artistic aspects of Emerson's self-fashioning as a single woman, display the ways that they served their creator's incipient desire to engage with public history and culture, and evidence her belief in her own dialogic powers. In addition to being a foundational text for Transcendentalist and women's studies scholarship, these manuscripts bestow and extraordinary and largely unplumbed resource for book history and material culture studies.
Year: 2012
Access Model: Subscription only
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Resources for American Literary Study
Publisher: AMS Press

“Transcending ‘Aunt Mary’: Digital Scholarship and The Almanacks of Mary Moody Emerson.” (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: “Transcending ‘Aunt Mary’: Digital Scholarship and The Almanacks of Mary Moody Emerson.”
Author: Baker and Petrulionis
Abstract: The unique importance of Mary Moody Emerson has long been recognized, although her erstwhile reputation as Waldo’s “brilliant” “Aunt Mary” has generally overshadowed her robust participation in a transatlantic literary culture sustained by the reading and writing practices of other antebellum women writers. Such women and their writings’ gendered message of self-cultivation and civic engagement are currently transforming our understanding of the American Renaissance as a literary, social, and reformist phenomenon. Our subjects today are the digital tools that will enable established scholars and beginning students to gain access to and analyze previously neglected genres.
Date: 05/23/13
Conference Name: American Literature Association