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MS Am 1118.3

Dickinson, Emily, 1830-1886. Emily Dickinson poems, 1858-1872: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Emily Dickinson Room
Call No.: MS Am 1118.3
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Dickinson, Emily, 1830-1886.
Title: Emily Dickinson poems,
Date(s): 1858-1872.
Quantity: 1 collection (1.4 linear feet (7 boxes)
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English.
Abstract: Forty packets, or fascicles, and poems on loose sheets by the poet Emily Dickinson.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Purchased from Alfred Leete Hampson; with funds given by Gilbert H. Montague, class of 1901, in happy memory of Amy Montague; received: 1950 May.

Processing Information:

Processed by: William H. McCarthy, in the order as received from Alfred Leete Hampson. Updated by Leslie A. Morris, 2005.
All these sheets of paper were consecutively numbered by William McCarthy, in pencil on the lower left corner of the versos; these are the numbers in parentheses. The lower-case letters following the numbers merely indicate the order of the poems on a given sheet of paper, and do not actually appear on the manuscripts. These numbers correspond to Johnson's "H" numbers (e.g. MS Am 1118.3 (1) is the same as H 1).

Conditions Governing Access:

Access to the originals requires the permission of the curator.


For permission to quote from or reproduce from manuscript material of Dickinson, contact the Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts, Houghton Library. For permission to quote from published editions of Dickinson's work that are still in copyright (such as the Johnson and Franklin editions of the poems) and for all commercial uses of Emily Dickinson texts, write to the Permissions Department, Harvard University Press, 79 Garden St., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, 02138-1499 or use their online form (HUP does not accept permissions requests by email or fax): http://www.hup.harvard.edu/rights/permissions.html

Conditions Governing Use:

Images linked to this finding aid are intended for public access and educational use. This material is owned and/or held by the Houghton Library, and is provided solely for the purpose of teaching or individual research. Any other use, including commercial reuse, mounting on other systems, or other forms of redistribution requires the permission of the curator.

Existence and Location of Copies:

Readers are expected to use the facsimiles available.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Emily Dickinson Poems, 1858-1872 (MS Am 1118.3). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Biographical / Historical

Emily Dickinson was a poet of Amherst, Massachusetts.


References are to: J = Johnson, Thomas, ed.. The poems of Emily Dickinson : including variant readings critically compared with all known manuscripts. Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1955.Fr = Franklin, Ralph, ed. The poems of Emily Dickinson, variorum edition. Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998.Franklin Fascicle = Franklin, Ralph, ed. The manuscript books of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1981.


Arranged in two series:

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of 40 "packets," or fascicles, containing poems by Emily Dickinson. Dickinson used the manuscript books as a way of organizing her poetry, and copied into them poems composed on other sheets and scraps. For the most part, then, these poems are fair copies, not real working drafts. Some, however, do contain alterations, or alternative word choices; this is indicated in the finding aid.
The term "fascicle" refers to the sheets bound/sewn together by Dickinson; "set" is a term used by Ralph Franklin to indicate fascicle sheets never bound by Dickinson, which he has grouped together by similarity of paper and date. After Dickinson's death, the manuscripts were disbound; when received at Houghton Library, none of the packets were still sewn.
Other hands than that of the poet have written on these manuscripts, as detailed by Ralph Franklin in his "Introduction" to The manuscript books. Lavinia Dickinson, the poet's sister who found the manuscripts following Emily's death, turned them over to her sister-in- law, Susan Huntington Dickinson. Susan's letters D, F, L., N, P, S, and W occur at the head of poems in several fascicles (see, for example, item (69)). The letter H is probably also hers. The meaning of these letters is not absolutely clear, although they seem to indicate certain themes: D for a poem about death, for example. Susan's numbers 1, 2, and 3 also appear on the manuscripts (e.g. item (35)). The markings of crosses X, XX, XXX have been traditionally ascribed to Lavinia, but Franklin attributes them to Susan.
After about two years, when Susan had not finished work on the poems, Lavinia gave a box of them to Mabel Todd; and in 1890, turned a second box over to her. Todd numbered the manuscripts in blue pencil (1-38, 40, 80-85) and in lead pencil (86-95) and made two marks in blue pencil, an X on the last verso of the bound fascicles in her possession and an occasional mark i the upper right corner of the first recto of others. She also marked the manuscripts by crossing out words and wrote alternates; and sometimes wrote instructions to her copyist, Harriet Graves.
Lavinia and Mabel Todd quarrelled after Todd had published three books of Dickinson's poetry (1890, 1891, 1896). Lavinia retrieved most of the manuscripts, but some remained with Todd. Lavinia then turned to Mary Lee Hall for help in copying poems out. In determining which of the manuscript poems had been previously published, Hall wrote a 0 to indicate "not published"; a 1 to the left of a poem is also hers, indicating it was published in the first Todd collection. Hall returned the manuscripts to Lavinia shortly before Lavinia's death in August 1899. Additional marks were added by Lavinia's niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, who wrote "no" to indicate poems which were still unpublished.
The division of the manuscripts between the Dickinson and Todd families continued into the twentieth century, with each branch publishing selections. Lavinia left her manuscripts to her niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, who in turn left them to Alfred Leete Hampson, from whom Gilbert H. Montague purchased them to present to the Houghton Library in 1950. The Todd manuscripts came to rest at Amherst College.

Concordance of Johnson number, Franklin numbers, and Houghton call numbers

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