A textual study of Thoreau's ``Dispersion of Seeds'' manuscripts

Date of Completion

January 1993


Biology, Botany|Agriculture, Forestry and Wildlife|Literature, American




When Thoreau died in May 1862, he was working on several apparently interrelated projects. The most complete of these projects, and the last one he worked on, was The Dispersion of Seeds, which remained in manuscript until the publication of Faith in a Seed, a trade edition edited by Bradley P. Dean, published by Island Press in April 1993, and featuring the complete text of The Dispersion of Seeds, as well as selections from other of Thoreau's late natural-history projects. This dissertation is an editorial supplement to the trade edition of The Dispersion Seeds. It presents the complete text of the trade edition with full editorial notes, as well as discussions of Thoreau's work on The Dispersion of Seeds, the descent and a description of the manuscripts, the evolution of the project that led to their publication, and the editorial principles and procedures used to generate the trade-edition text.^ The publication of The Dispersion of Seeds was an important event for many reasons, the most obvious of which is that it was the last book-length project Thoreau worked on. Also, the book seriously challenges the assertions of some critics that Thoreau's productivity waned after he published Walden in 1854. Moreover, The Dispersion of Seeds shows Thoreau to have been an ardent apologist for Charles Darwin; and the book itself, had Thoreau lived to publish it, would have been an important supplement to Darwin's great synthesis, On the Origin of Species, published just nine months before Thoreau began working on The Dispersion of Seeds.^ As some recent critics have argued, Thoreau's post-Walden writings--both published and unpublished--show him to have had a surprising breadth of interests and depth of insight. By substantiating that view, The Dispersion of Seeds is critical to our continuing exploration of Thoreau's interests and insights. ^