Ralph Waldo Emerson Bibliography


Works by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The best editions of Emerson’s works are the volumes available from the Library of America. There are four hardcover books, one of Emerson’s published essays, another of his poems, and two of Emerson’s journals; there are also two paperbacks with selections of his works. While these books are more expensive than paperbacks, their price is actually quite fair, with a list price of $35-40 for each volume of around 1,000 pages. I strongly recommend the hardcover Library of America books for any serious reader of Emerson.

Essays and Lectures
This volume contains the following Nature: Addresses and Lectures; Essays: First and Second Series; Representative Men; English Traits.
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Collected Poems and Translations
All of Emerson’s published poems, along with some that were never published, and some translations of poetry.
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Selected Journals 1820-1842
The Library of America editions of the journals are the longest abridgments available. The two volumes, totaling around 2,000 pages, present about one-sixth of the complete journals. This is the first of two volumes of selections from the journals.
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Selected Journals 1841-1877
The second volume of selections from the journals.
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Essays and Poems
A good paperback edition of selections of Emerson’s works from the Library of America editions.
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Essays: First and Second Series
Emerson’s two books of Essays, in a Library of America paperback edition.
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The Annotated Emerson
A fine collection of Emerson’s best-known works with annotations that situate them in their context. See my full review of the book.
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Other editions of Emerson’s works

Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks
Should you become a serious Emersonian, you’ll undoubtedly want to get the full 16-volume edition of the Journals published by Harvard University Press. This is a link to volume 1. These are expensive books, but the full content of Emerson’s private writings is in these books, and you can also compare some of the journal entries to the later published essays or collected lectures.
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The Portable Emerson
A venerable anthology of Emerson’s works made by Carl Bode in the 1940s.
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Nature and Selected Essays
A Penguin paperback of many of Emerson’s essays, including Nature.
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Emerson in His Journals, Joel Porte, ed.
A selection of texts from Emerson’s journals. This book contains much less than the Library of America editions, but is an interesting selection in its own right.
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The Selected Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Joel Myerson, ed.
A nice selection of Emerson’s letters.
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The Selected Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ronald A. Bosco, Joel Myerson, eds.
A selection of Emerson’s lectures that have not been published in non-scholarly (ie, expensive) editions. Emerson’s lectures offer a number of interesting insights that he did not include in his essays. After all, he wrote more than a hundred lectures, but only published a few dozen essays.
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The Later Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1843-1871, Vol. 1: 1843-1854, Ronald A. Bosco, Joel Myerson, eds.
The first of two volumes of Emerson’s later lectures, those given after 1843, or roughly the time when he wrote his Essays: Second Series.
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The Later Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1843-1871, Vol. 2: 1855-1871, Ronald A. Bosco, Joel Myerson, eds.
The second of two volumes of Emerson’s later lectures, those given after 1855.
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Ebook of Emerson’s Complete Works
Download an epub file of Emerson’s complete works that I have prepared. See this blog post.


About Ralph Waldo Emerson, his life and his works

Emerson: The Mind on Fire, Robert Richardson
The now standard biography of Emerson. This is an intellectual biography, and focuses on what Emerson’s thoughts were and how he formulated them. As such, it doesn’t look at his early life at all, beginning with his time at Harvard. It leaves out quite a lot, but it is the best book to understand Emerson’s though and writing.
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Emerson, Lawrence Buell
A very interesting discussion of Emerson’s life and works. Not a biography, not an analysis of his works, this book combines both of these subjects to provide an excellent up-to-date portrait of Emerson.
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Emerson among the Eccentrics: A Group Portrait, Carlos Baker
This unfinished work (the author died before completing it), provides a portrait of Emerson and the many people around him, the “eccentrics,” who influenced him, and who he influenced. Out of print, used copies are widely available.
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A Historical Guide to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Joel Myerson, ed.
A collection of essays about Emerson’s life and works. While designed for undergraduates, this collection is fine for the casual reader who wants to know more about Emerson. A fairy long biographical essay is followed by articles about Emerson and natural science, religion, antislavery, and more.
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The Cambridge Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Joel Porte, Saundra Morris, eds.
Similar to the above title, this collection of essays looks at a variety of aspects of Emerson’s life and works. There is no long biographical essay, but a number of articles look at Emerson as lecturer, radical, examine some of his works, and discuss Transcendentalism.
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First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process, Robert D. Richardson
Emerson didn’t write much about writing, but Robert Richardson, the author of the standard biography of Emerson, has selected a number of excerpts from Emerson’s work and written an essay about creative writing (and reading). A very interesting little book of “applied Emersonianism.”
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Emerson and the Art of the Diary, Lawrence Rosenwald
A brief, but very interesting book about Emerson’s journals, how he wrote them, and what they mean by the editor of the Library of America edition of the journals. Unfortunately, it is excessively expensive, but it offers many insights into Emerson’s approach in writing the journals.
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Virtue’s Hero: Emerson, Antislavery, and Reform, Len Gougeon
Emerson took a while to take public stand against slavery, and not enough has been written about his abolitionist writings and lectures. This book looks at the history of Emerson – and those around him – and the abolitionist movement. A companion volume to this book, Emerson’s Antislavery Writings, collects a number of texts and lectures by Emerson on the subject.
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Books about Transcendentalism

The Oxford Handbook of Transcendentalism, Joel Myerson, Sandra Harbert Petrulionis, Laura Dassow Wells, eds.
A big book that, in some 800, large, dense pages, examines the whole of the history of Transcendentalism. Overkill for many, those seriously interested in this movement will find much of interest here.
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The Transcendentalists, Barbara L. Packer
A narrative history of Transcendentalism, which stops abruptly in the 1860s, shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation. (See my review on Amazon.com.) Well written, interesting, but limited in scope.
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American Transcendentalism: A History, Philip F. Gura
A history of Transcendentalism, which gets bogged down in the minutiae of biblical controversy and philosophical details. The characters seen through the lens of Gura’s book don’t seem to be alive, and there is no feeling of the actual energy involved in this movement. Gura treats this more as an intellectual war among different groups of biblical scholars, and doesn’t pay much attention to the more social-oriented aspects of the movement.
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Transcendentalism: A Reader, Joel Myerson, ed.
A large collection of texts by the various players in the Transcendentalist movement. One of several such anthologies, each of which reproduces many of the same texts, but which all have a fair amount of variation. Others are listed below.
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The American Transcendentalists, Lawrence Buell, ed.
Another collection of Transcendentalist texts.
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The Essential Transcendentalists, Richard Geldard, ed.
Another collection of Transcendentalist texts.
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The Transcendentalists: An Anthology, Perry Miller, ed.
Another collection of Transcendentalist texts.
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Books about Transcendentalists and related topics

Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind, Robert Richardson
You can’t appreciate Emerson without also appreciating Thoreau, his “disciple,” in some ways, but one who certainly marched to the beat of his own drummer. Richardson’s biography of Thoreau is as definitive as his Emerson volume. It focuses on Thoreau’s intellectual life. (Note that Richardson has also written a fine bio of another thinker I have great appreciation for, William James.)
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Brook Farm: The Dark Side of Utopia, Sterling F. Delano
Brook Farm was the first Transcendental utopia, located in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Founded in 1841, it notably housed Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the Alcott family, for a short time. It did not last long, but served as an example of how such a utopia could and could not work. It goes into a bit too much detail at time, but gives an admirable account of this interesting experiment.
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Fruitlands: The Alcott Family and Their Search for Utopia, Richard Francis
In 1843, after leaving Brook Farm, Bronson Alcott set out to create his own utopia, Fruitlands, which was both small and short-lived. But Alcott’s practical experiment did bear fruit in many ways, showing, again, that poor Bronson’s ideas, while interesting, were not always applicable.
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American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman, F. O. Matthiessen
A classic analysis of the literature of the “American Renaissance,” looking at Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Whitman and Hawthorne. While not a book about Transcendentalism as such, it covers the literature of the time and makes links among these essential authors. Naturally, they all had one thing in common: some sort of link to Emerson, whether directly (Thoreau), whether they claimed this influence publicly (Whitman), or whether they tried to distance themselves from it (Melville).
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Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville, David S. Reynolds
An alternate look at the “American Renaissance,” focusing on the popular forms of literature and how they influenced the better-known authors of the times. While Reynolds, at times, seems to give a lot of credence to these many unknown authors of sensationalist texts, it is obvious that the society that we see through the writings of Emerson, Thoreau and others is different from the everyday world of pre-Civil War America. An essential book for understanding this period.
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Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography, David S. Reynolds
In some ways an offshoot of Reynold’s approach in Beneath the American Renaissance, this biography of Whitman puts the author and his work in context, and helps understand how Whitman’s work was both radical and a natural result of his times. (Reynolds has also written an intersting biography of John Brown, continuing his approach of looking at the “underside” of America. While this book is a bit too hagiographic, it does show the complexities of Brown.)
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Posted on September 6, 2010 | Comments Off
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