Emily Dickinson’s Poems: as she preserved them

Emily Dickinson’s Poems:
As She Preserved Them

edited by Cristanne Miller
6.125 x 9.25 in., 864 pp., 8 b&w illus.
Harvard University Press, 2016

Emily Dickinson’s nearly 1,800 poems were to be presented in a new definitive reading edition by Harvard University Press. The editor chose to sequence the poems according to the handmade notebooks (“fascicles”) in which the poet had written out fair copies, accompanied by the extensive variant words and phrases also marked by the poet in those documents. 

A complex typographic system was required to present an attractive and legible version of each poem while also indicating the position and content of the variations. Dates and distribution details provided additional layers of information; annotated comments on the poems were provided as endnotes. Extensive back matter included a compendium of alternate numbering systems, correspondences to previous editions, and indices. 

The cover for the trade edition was designed in-house by the publisher. For my own distribution of this volume to friends and family I developed a custom jacket design featuring a contemporaneous photograph of a floral arrangement by Adolphe Braun. Struck by how frequently Dickinson’s distribution of poems had been accompanied by blooms from her own garden, as well as by myriad references to the qualities of flowers in her poems, this image seemed an apt wrap for the complete oeuvre.