providing historical context; annotationsclariying the signicance and meaning o particular items; and extensive indexes oreach volume and or entire series.The papers themselves are drawn romoriginals and copies o originals located in theNational Archives, the Library o Congress,and in literally hundreds o archives, publicand private, across the United States andaround the world.Once copies had been assembled andarranged in chronological order, editorialteams began the task o deciphering,interpreting, and transcribing handwrittendocuments. Every transcription is veriedagainst the original, in the words o oneeditor, “line by line, word by word, letter by letter.” This attention to accuracy ensuresthat nal transcriptions refect the mostveriable versions o the originals.The next stage in the process isannotation—identiying the signicantcorrespondents, the subjects and eventsunder discussion, and reerences to otherpeople, documents, and publications within the project and elsewhere. Annotation is requently the most time-consuming part o the process, and it plays Any biographer o George Washingtonmust stand in awe o the scholarly eat accomplished by the eminentteam o editors at
Papers of George Washington
project, which operatesout o the University o Virginia atCharlottesville. By gathering 130,000relevant documents rom around theglobe, they have produced a modernedition o Washington’s papers thateclipses the ar more modest editionpublished by John C. Fitzpatrick back in the 1930s and early 1940s. WhereasFitzpatrick, in his thirty-nine volumes,limited himsel to the letters written by Washington, the new edition—sixty volumes o letters and diaries and stillcounting—includes letters written tohim as well as excerpts o contemporary letters, diaries, and newspapers. Expertcommentary appears at every stepalong the way. Strange as it may seem,George Washington’s lie has now beenso minutely documented that we know ar more about him than did his ownriends, amily, and contemporaries.George Washington is but one o theFounding Fathers whose lie has been sominutely documented. An editorial teamat the University o Virginia is also workingon a comprehensive edition o
The Papers of James Madison
, although the rst 10volumes were edited at the University o Chicago.
The John Adams Papers
arecurrently being published by Harvard University Presswith editorial work atthe Massachusetts Historical Society.Princeton University is the home tomost o
The Papers of Thomas Jefferson
,and in 1999, the Thomas JeersonFoundation at Monticello took on parto the job and began
Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series. The Papers of Benjamin Franklin
was established in 1954under the joint auspices o Yale University and the American Philosophical Society.Between 1961 and 1987, ColumbiaUniversity Press published the complete27-volume edition o
The Papers of Alexander Hamilton
. All told, there are 236 volumes o these documentary editions in print,and each volume contains hundreds o documents sent to and rom the statesmen,including letters, diary and journal entries,publications (such as
The Federalist Papers
in the Hamilton edition); editorial essaysintroducing the selection o documents and
James MadisonBarry Faulkner’s mural in the Rotunda for the National Archives features some of the Founding Fathers.