528 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 halftones, 1 map, 1 chart, appends., bibl., index
Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia
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, Kevin Joel Berland's landmark 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 his analysis, Berland demonstrates the need for a new category to assess early modern history writing: the hybrid, accretional narrative.
"Berland has not only offered the finest and most detail contextualization of Byrd's travels and their narratives, but he has also helped recover their author as a complicated man of letters."
“This scholarly apparatus locates the literary sources for some of Byrd’s anecdotes and language, traces minor characters through the neglected local records of these borderlands, and contextualizes many of the broader concerns of early eighteenth century colonial elites. Because of Berland’s comprehensive genealogy of Byrd’s textual influences, other scholars can now make full use of the dividing line histories to imagine the intellectual and literary world of learned colonists.”
--William and Mary Quarterly
"Byrd’s expedition in 1728 aimed to settle a border dispute. His two accounts have been recognized as crucial documents in colonial history, as well as early classics of American literature. Berland’s superbly documented edition crosses many disciplinary boundaries to establish the best text of each narrative and the fullest analysis of their cultural import."
--Pat Rogers, University of South Florida
"Berland's edition offers useful contextual material, extensive scholarly annotation, and theoretical sophistication. His characterization of Byrd's texts as a hybrid, accretional narrative is genuinely groundbreaking and will transform scholarship on early American historiography."
--Susan Castillo, King's College London
"Meticulously transcribed and graced with a deeply insightful introduction that smoothly integrates the perspectives and concerns of historians and literary scholars, this is by far the best edition yet of Byrd’s twin classics of early American literature."
--James Rice, State University of New York at Plattsburgh
"A landmark edition . . . a model of editorial innovation and integrity. [Berland]. . . documents in amazing detail the way in which colonial authors participated in a transatlantic culture of letters that was as rich as it was dynamic."
--Martin Brückner, University of Delaware
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