Copyright © 2000. Douglass Papers Project. All rights reserved.

Purpose of This Mini-Edition

This mini-edition reproduces Chapter 10 of Frederick Douglass's first and best-known autobiography, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, first published in 1845.  The selected chapter illustrates the dichotomy of Douglass's autobiography as both an historical and a literary document. In it, Douglass describes how he was reduced to a near brute under the physical and psychological abuse of Edward Covey, a slave-breaker, and how he transformed himself into a man through an heroic and victorious battle against Covey. Fraught with symbolism, this excerpt not only recounts events in Douglass's life but also demonstrates the literary prowess of a man only seven years away from his enslavement.

The purpose of this mini-edition is to demonstrate that it has become possible to present documents to readers over the internet with approximately the same high standards of historical and literary editing as done in conventional hardcopy published editions.  In our project's published edition of the Narrative, the editors adhered to the textual editing principles of the Modern language Association's Committee on Scholarly Editions and were awarded that group's emblem for our text.  Translating an excerpt of that volume to an electronic format without sacrificing textual editing principles has been one of the challenges of The Model Editions Partnership.  As described in our "Aids to Reading the Documents," we have found that the internet allows the project to present Douglass's text and accompanying apparatus in a variety of formats simultaneously-a capacity not possible in a conventionally edited work. The reader can choose to view a clear text or click to see a version indicating every authorial emendation and providing detailed historical annotations. The reader also now has the ability to search the document and our apparatus for words, phrases, or topics with a speed and thoroughness no conventional index could provide.

In addition to the text and apparatus for the excerpted chapter, the mini-edition also has reproduced the project?s textual introduction to provide the reader with a publication history of the Narrative, a selection of maps and illustrations relevant to the volume, and a sampling of the original critical reception of Douglass?s autobiography.  The Douglass editors and The Model Editions Partnership believe that providing the broad public with internet access this portion of our published volume will increase their desire for a wide range of historical documents, prepared according to strict editing principles, in both the printed and electronic format.

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