Sermons Series (Volumes 1-4), 1725-1798, 1844, 1968-1988 and undated

27 boxes
Scope and content:

The first series in the collection, Sermons is also its largest. It may also provide the fullest and most detailed record of the editorial process and scholarly debate behind the production of these volumes. It documents almost twenty years of work by two men often regarded as the leading Wesleyan scholars of their generation, Albert Outler and Frank Baker, to research, compile, and edit the first four volumes of the Bicentennial Edition, which contain authoritative critical texts of 151 of John Wesley's sermons. Since most of these sermons appeared in several editions during Wesley's lifetime, many of these printings included not only Wesley's intended revisions over time, but also incorporated a host of printers' errors over the course of several decades. Many of individual sermons contain copies of ten or more editions photocopied here, and some contain over thirty. Untangling this history to arrive at Wesley's intended text was the task of Outler as unit editor for the Sermons, in tandem with Baker as Textual Editor and Editor-in-Chief. Their correspondence documents not only their ongoing partnership, but also their sometimes heated exchanges over the exact reading and presentation of texts that lie at the foundation and perhaps the heart of Methodist history, doctrine, and belief.

Early dates reflect photocopies, not original materials. The Sermons series begins with the General Planning Subseries, highlighted by correspondence between Frank Baker, Albert Outler, Richard Heitzenrater, and other editors; and by a typescript of an early version of the general introduction. Following this is the Stemmata Subseries, composed of hundreds of photocopies of editions of Wesley's sermons as they were published by various 18th-century publishers, in the Arminian Magazine, and in various editions of the Sermons on Several Occasions. These photocopies document Frank Baker's work to derive the stemma in order to arrive at the most authentic text possible.

The next step in this process is documented in the Texts Subseries, which is roughly divided into two folders groups of "preliminary texts" and "styled preliminary texts." These latter represent a later stage in the editing process, where decisions are made about spelling, punctuation, style, and other concerns to render a text that is both true to the 18th century originals and cognizant of modern readers.

The remaining four subseries, Sermons I, II, III, and IV, document the completion of this unit as the four volumes approached publication, one at a time, in the 1980s. Each subseries contains many versions of typescripts and proofs, many of them heavily edited by Baker and by various editors at Oxford University Press and Abingdon Press. All four volumes of the Sermons have been published, one each year from 1984-1987; the unit editor was Albert C. Outler.


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The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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