Part II Editorial Procedures

Editorial Procedures

Scope of the Edition

All of the documents appearing in Part II (1879-1886) are from the archives at the Edison National Historical Park (ENHP) in West Orange, New Jersey. Important documents for this time period also exist in other repositories and private collections in the United States and elsewhere. A selection of this material is available in the Outside Repositories edition on the Edison Papers website.

Not all of the documents appearing in Part II fit neatly within its chronological limits. Notebooks, account books, and other bound volumes that begin during the period 1879-1886 are presented in their entirety regardless of the date of the last entry. For example, there are several volumes in the Account Series that begin in the early 1880s and continue through the 1890s. Many of the documents in the eight-volume set of litigation records relating to Edison's patent infringement suit against William E. Sawyer and Albon Man (Edison Electric Light Company v. United States Electric Lighting Company) also date from the period after 1886. However, these volumes are included in Part II because the suit itself was initiated in 1885 and because the events detailed by the testimony all occurred prior to 1887.

Other groups of documents are also occasionally presented as a unit, even though they cut across the chronological boundaries of the edition. Included in the Special Collections Series, for example, are two extensive collections of the papers of Edison's principal associates, Charles Batchelor and Francis R. Upton. Although the majority of items in both collections date from the period 1878-1886, the documents span the years 1871-1918. In order to preserve the integrity of these important collections, all of the selected items are presented in Part II.

Selection of Documents                

General Principles. The edition as a whole will encompass approximately 10 percent of the total number of extant Edison‑related documents. In general, the edition includes: (1) documents that Edison generated or had prepared under his direction; (2) documents written by or sent to Edison's principal laboratory and business associates; (3) correspondence and other incoming documents containing substantial annotations by Edison; (4) other important documents that Edison probably saw or was influenced by; and (5) documents that contain significant information about Edison, his laboratory and business associates, and their activities. Documents not selected include: (1) routine financial documents such as bills, receipts, invoices, vouchers, checks, and orders; (2) most of the day‑to‑day business records of the Edison companies; and (3) unsolicited correspondence relating to matters outside the mainstream of Edison's inventive, business, and personal activities. In addition, dockets and endorsements entered onto the back of correspondence, reports, and other unbound documents are not selected unless they contain significant information not found in the document itself.

More specific selection information can be found in the series and subseries targets and on the targets immediately preceding each folder and bound volume in the digital edition.

Selection Principles for Part II. Part II contains approximately 50 percent of the total documentation at the ENHP archives for the period 1879-1886. All of Edison's important business correspondence and almost all of the laboratory notebooks are included. On the other hand, routine financial documents, routine business correspondence, and unsolicited letters to Edison generally were not selected. In addition, numerous documents were excluded because the information contained within them merely duplicated the information in other, selected documents. For example, the copies of claims for Edison's issued patents found in the three patent application casebooks in the Patent Series were not selected because the complete set of Edison's U.S. patents is already available. At the same time, the copies of the claims for abandoned and rejected patent applications were selected because this information cannot easily be found elsewhere.

The notebooks, account books, litigation records, and other bound volumes are generally presented in their entirety. However, routine business correspondence in the letterbooks was not selected, and overlapping and multipage clippings in the scrapbooks are presented in their entirety only when they relate directly to the affairs to Edison.

Organization and Arrangement of the Collections

General Principles. The digital edition is intended to provide researchers with the most important documents in the ENHP archives and with an entrée to those documents not selected. Accordingly, the documents are arranged in series that parallel existing record groups in the ENHP archives  The documents in many of the larger series, such as the Notebook Series, are further arranged within subseries. The Series Notes provide detailed descriptions of the contents of each series and subseries.

Because of the size and complexity of the ENHP archives, related documents can frequently be found in several series in the digital edition. For example, while most of Edison's incoming correspondence is filed in the Document File (Edison General File) Series, other letters addressed to him appear in the Company Records Series, Legal Series, Special Collections Series, and elsewhere. A more extensive discussion of the relationships among the various series can be found in the targets introducing each series in the digital edition.

Organization of Part II. The documents appear on the microfilm in eleven series: (1) Notebook Series, (2) Patent Series, (3) Litigation Series, (4) Document File Series, (5) Letterbook Series, (6) Legal Series, (7) Account Series, (8) Menlo Park Scrapbook Series, (9) Miscellaneous Scrapbook Series, (10) Special Collections Series, and (11) Company Records Series.

The standard‑size (6" x 9") books in the Notebook Series are grouped into four subseries according to their provenance: Menlo Park Notebooks, New York Notebooks, Fort Myers Notebooks, and Lamp Factory Notebooks. The 181 Menlo Park Notebooks are organized according to Edison's original numbering system, whereas the other groups of standard‑size notebooks are arranged in chronological order.

In the case of the letterbooks, a distinction has been made between the general series of books (General Letterbooks subseries) and more specialized letterbooks generated by the Edison Ore Milling Co., the Thomas A. Edison Construction Dept., and other companies (Miscellaneous Letterbooks subseries). The books in the Account Series are organized according to type (laboratory accounts, family accounts, etc.) and then suborganized into summary accounts, books of original entry, and cost accounts.

Descriptive Targets

Targets are editorial aids that appear on the microfilm to assist readers in using the materials in the collection. Targets introduce each series, each major subseries, and most of the individual volumes and folders. The series and subseries targets are essentially more detailed versions of the Series Notes in the guide. The target preceding each folder or volume provides information about authorship, inclusive dates, and number of pages (for bound volumes). Also included is a description of the character and contents of the folder or volume and, wherever appropriate, cross‑references to related materials. In addition, each target provides a brief characterization of any material in the folder or volume that is not selected The targets preceding the notebooks, account books, and most other bound volumes also contain an enumeration of missing page numbers and of blank pages not filmed.

Occasionally, targets also accompany individual documents in order to: (1) explain relationships among documents (for example, the targets "ENCLOSURE" and "ATTACHMENT"), (2) describe multiple versions of a document (for example, the targets "TRANSLATION FOLLOWS" and "TRANSLATION"), (3) supply missing information (for example, the date or author of a letter), and (4) indicate missing information (the target "INCOMPLETE").

The editors have tried to keep the targets as concise as possible and to avoid including speculative and subjective judgments about the contents of laboratory notebooks and other complicated technical documents. References to specific technologies in the targets have necessarily resulted in a certain amount of oversimplification because many of the technologies are interrelated. The specific technologies mentioned in each target should not, therefore, be regarded as all‑inclusive.

Because of the large number of items in the edition and the difficulty of anticipating the legibility of a document on the microfilm, targets are not generally used to identify individual documents that are faint, discolored, water‑damaged, or otherwise difficult to read in the original. In cases where a particular folder or volume contains a large number of such documents, the problem is noted in the target introducing that folder or volume. In the case of Edison's letterbooks, all of which contain a substantial number of marginally legible documents, the problem is also discussed in the target introducing the series.

Identification Numbers and Other Archival Inscriptions

Over the years the archivists and curators responsible for the Edison collections have used a variety of identification systems for the documents. One of the earliest was the N‑number, which was assigned to most of the standard‑size laboratory notebooks generated between 1878 and 1934. This six‑digit number, prefixed by the letter "N," corresponds to the first dated entry in the notebook. For example, a notebook whose first dated entry is for November 9, 1878 is classified as N‑78‑11‑09. A similar number, with the prefix "PN," identifies each pocket notebook. Readers should be aware, however, that this number is not always a reliable indicator of the date when a book was first put to use. Many books were in use for a long period of time before any entry was dated. Moreover, hundreds of books contain no date, and subsequent research has indicated that many of the dates conjectured for such books are erroneous. For more information regarding N-numbers and other numbering systems used for Edison's notebooks, see the editorial note, "Numbering Systems for Edison's Notebooks."

Until 1971 the documents processed into the archives were often assigned a sequential accession number prefixed by the letter "E." These E‑numbers appear most often on notebooks, scrapbooks, and other bound items, but they were also used occasionally for collections of unbound documents and even individual items. After the National Park Service assumed ownership of the archives in 1957, many of the documents were re‑cataloged and assigned NPS catalog numbers. Since that system is still in use at the ENHP, all documents with NPS catalog numbers are identified in the microfilm edition by that number. E‑numbers are indicated only in cases of documents lacking any other identifying number.

Moreover, the early archivists and curators of the Edison collections possessed no formal training in the principles of archival management. Some of them did not consider it inappropriate to record on the manuscripts their own observations about the people, events, and issues discussed in the documents. Such comments sometimes appear in the margins of the documents and, at other times, within the text itself. Occasionally they are contained within brackets or parentheses, but more often they appear without any distinguishing punctuation. Many of the longer and more discursive remarks are followed by the initials "N.R.S." (Norman R. Speiden). In most cases, a reader who is aware of this problem can easily distinguish between these comments and the actual text of the document.