Charles Richard Sanders of Duke University began the edition of the Carlyle Letters during the 1950s with a wide-ranging search for surviving manuscript letters, the number of which now exceeds 10,000.
The search went from the National Library of Scotland (which holds the world’s largest collection of Carlyle manuscripts) to the many other major libraries with substantial Carlyle holdings.
K. J. Fielding, Saintsbury Professor of English, Edinburgh University, and Clyde de L. Ryals, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, were the senior editors for many years. Ian Campbell, Aileen Christianson and David Sorensen have been the senior editors since volume 36.
The editors in Edinburgh are Jane Roberts, Liz Sutherland and Jonathan Wild; Sheila McIntosh was also an Edinburgh editor, volumes 29-35. Brent Kinser in the United States is an editor; Hilary Smith was also an editor, volume 27.
Publication of the volumes
Since the publication of the first four volumes in 1970 the edition has produced fully-edited, annotated and indexed volumes to the highest standards.
Since volume 25 (covering 1850; published 1997), these have been issued annually, the most recent being volume 40 (January-August 1864) which came out in November 2012. Volume 41 (September 1864 - April 1865) will appear in Oct. 2013. There will be a further two volumes to complete publication of Jane Welsh Carlyle’s letters (d. 1866) and a further six to complete Thomas Carlyle’s (d. 1881).
The scale of the edition is formidable, but so is the richness of the material. Both Carlyles were very gifted and prolific letter-writers; they had a wide circle of friends, family and acquaintance in Scotland, England, Europe and North America; through their letters they interacted with many of the outstanding writers, thinkers and political figures of their time.
As the edition progresses, more and more material is coming to light which is being incorporated in The Carlyle Letters Online.
The Duke-Edinburgh print edition has been supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy in the UK and by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation in the US. It has been honoured and recognised both for its editing and its re-establishment of the Carlyles as pivotal figures in our understanding of the 19th century.