Scope and arrangement
The Berg Collection's manuscript holdings by Henry David Thoreau are varied. They include approximately thirty-five manuscripts and manuscript fragments, journals and a common place book. In addition, there are thirty-two letters to numerous recipients as well as in-coming pieces from over fifty correspondents.
Highlights of the collection include an important portion of the "Ktaadn" section of The Maine Woods; "Nature and Bird Notes," a journal kept by Henry, John and Sophia Thoreau with leaves, grass and wild flowers laid in; and Thoreau's famous letter to his brother addressed to Sachem Hopeful of Hopewell and signed Tahatawan. The Berg also has a daguerreotype of Thoreau ("my friends think [it] is pretty good though better looking than I"), a pencil made by him (his father's company manufactured them), and an original pencil map of Walden Pond.
The Faith in a Seed manuscript, part of the Berg Collection's holdings, has been published in its entirety as Faith in a Seed: The Dispersion of Seeds and Other Late Natural History Writings, edited by Bradley P. Dean (Washington, D.C. & Covelo, CA: Island Press/Shearwater Books, 1993). More recently, Mr. Dean edited Wild Fruits(New York & London: W. W. Norton, 2000), the publication of Thoreau's rediscovered last manuscript which is in the Berg Collection cataloged under "Notes on Fruits."
In addition, The Windhover Press of The University of Iowa and The New York Public Library published Huckleberries(1970), a limited edition publication that draws from Dispersion of Seed and Wild Fruits, two manuscripts at the Berg. One of the editors, Alexander C. Kern, explains in the preface, "Though Thoreau had made no fair copy, he worked out the sequence of his projected text from version to version with carets, numbers, interlineations, marginal notes, and cancel line. Thus despite leaps in the pagination (not Thoreau's own) of the manuscript, there is usually direct evidence for Thoreau's intended sequence…Thus we have an essay entirely in Thoreau's words and almost exactly in the sequence he had planned."
In addition to the Berg Collection, several other repositories hold major collections of Henry David Thoreau's manuscripts. One of them is the Manuscript & Archives Division of The New York Public Library. A list of their holdings follows, with location information given in brackets.
- Autograph manuscript, from "Cape Cod: V The Wellfleet Oysterman," 2 p. on 1 l. [Removed from: The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, Manuscript Edition (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1906), 8-NBG]
- Autograph manuscript poem, "I will obey the strictest law of love," 2 p. on 1 1. [Recto page numbered 387 from Thoreau's journal of 1848-1850]
- Autograph manuscript, "...make nothing of it. This...," from "Night Sights and Night Sounds," 2 p. on 1 l.
- Autograph manuscript, title page of "The Moon," a later version of Thoreau's lecture "Moonlight." 8 p. on 4 l. [Harkness Collection #21]
- Thoreau, Henry David. ALS to E. A. Duyckinck. Concord, May 28, 1847 . 2 p. [Duyckinck Collection]
- Thoreau, Henry David. ALS to [E. A. Duyckinck]. Concord, July 3, 1847 . 1 p. [Duyckinck Collection]
- Thoreau, Henry David. ALS to Horace Greeley. Concord, September 29, 1860 . 1 p. [Horace Greeley Papers].
- Thoreau, Henry David. ALS to William H. Sweetser. Charlestown, Mass, July 26, 185[3?] . 1 p. [Personal (Miscellaneous)]
- Thoreau, Henry David. Envelope (front only) addressed to C. M. Tracy, Lynn, Mass. 1 p. [Personal (Miscellaneous)]
Other repositories that hold major collections of Thoreau include the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York City; Houghton Library at Harvard University; the Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA; the C. Waller Barrett Library at the University of Virginia; the Abernethy Library at Middlebury College; and the Concord Free Public Library. For more information, see The Literary Manuscripts of Henry David Thoreau by William L. Howarth (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1974).
- Howarth, William. The Literary Manuscripts of Henry David Thoreau. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1974.
- Moldenhauer, Joseph J. The Maine Woods. In The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972.
- Stephen Adams. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 183: American Travel Writers, 1776-1864. Detroit: Gale Research, 1997.
- Walter Harding.Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 1: The American Renaissance in New England. Detroit: Gale Research, 1978.
The Henry David Thoreau Collection, 1837-1917 (Bulk 1837-1860) is arranged in six series: