The Most Valuable Five Pages I Ever Wrote


This week a random thought led me to look on Amazon for a four volume reference book to which I contributed a biographical entry in 2005. The Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers, published by Thoemmes Press in Bristol, England, contains 2698 pages of which my entry on Helena Blavatsky occupies just under five. It was extremely encouraging to be invited to contribute in such august company, as almost all the 500+ contributors were academicians. But the official price for a new copy from Bloomsbury Publishing (which succeeds Thoemmes in a merger) is $1620.00, while the 2010 online edition, published after Bloomsbury was included under the Oxford University Press online imprimatur, is $975.99.

Just knowing I’d contributed one among 1086 entries made me want to see the physical book or the electronic version someday but the prices were well beyond anything I’d consider. However, I found a used copy for $58 and ordered it as a resource for the final annotations to the Letters to the Sage volume 2, written by Alexander Wilder. Wilder does not appear in the entries, but seven people of major interest in the forthcoming Wilder collection do: Bronson Alcott, Borden P. Bowne, Moncure Conway (of special interest to me as the only Transcendentalist Virginian of note), Mary Baker Eddy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Torrey Harris, and William James.

I expected it to be a USED copy but it was totally pristine and unused so it is especially pleasant to handle while checking for details to add to the footnotes of the Wilder letters about people he mentions. All of his acquaintances mentioned in the letters fall into the 1860-1960 time frame of the Dictionary and many were “modern American philosophers” so it could be a gold mine of information for a lot of minor characters. I will be writing future blog entries about some of the seven figures of special interest, but for a month will be diving into this treasure trove for background on our entire cast of correspondents.