Focus on Documentary Editing: The Papers of John Marshall

It has been fifteen years since the publication of the 12th and final  volume of The Papers of John Marshall (published by the Omohundro Institute with partner the University of North Carolina Press). Revolutionary officer, congressman, and secretary of state before his appointment to the Supreme Court, Marshall served as the Court’s fourth Chief Justice. In this capacity, he helped define the role of the Court and elevate its status, as he interpreted the Constitution from the bench.

The Papers of John Marshall collects the Justice’s correspondence, papers, and legal documents–including selected judicial opinions. The work of many years and several editors, the twelve volumes include introductory material and notes, and shed light not only on Marshall’s life and thought but on the evolution of American jurisprudence as well.

But how did the editors decide what to include and what to leave out? How did they go about answering questions the archive posed to them in terms of both items found and items missing? The Papers of John Marshall is a prized example of documentary editing but what exactly do documentary editors do–and how do they do it? Join us for a conversation between OI editor emeritus Charles Hobson and Sara Georgini, series editor for The Papers of John Adams at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

This event is co-sponsored by the Omohundro Institute and the John Marshall Center for Constitutional History & Civics.

About the speakers

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Sara Georgini earned her doctorate in history from Boston University in 2016. For over a decade, she has worked for the Adams Papers editorial project at the Massachusetts Historical Society, where she is series editor for The Papers of John Adams. Committed to the preservation of and access to rare primary sources, Sara has worked on the selection, annotation, indexing, and team production of more than a dozen scholarly editions drawn from the Adams Papers (Harvard Univ. Press, 2009– ), covering the history of American political life in the era from the Declaration to disunion. As a historical editor, she publishes authoritative editions of the founders’ words; leads student and teacher workshops; curates manuscripts and artifacts in thematic exhibits; and brings Adams expertise (spanning three centuries) to the broad audiences of groups like National History Day. Thanks to the Historical Society’s trove of Adams and Jefferson manuscripts, she teaches frequently on constitutionalism, founding-era thought, and the course of Anglo-American empire. Sara is the author of Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams Family (Oxford Univ. Press, 2019), and she writes about early American history for Smithsonian.

Charles F. Hobson is a retired historian and documentary editor, affiliated for many years with the Omohundro Institute at William & Mary. He also served as resident scholar at the William & Mary School of Law. From 1979 to 2006, he was principal editor of The Papers of John Marshall, a twelve-volume edition of Marshall’s correspondence, papers, and selected judicial opinions. His one-volume edition, John Marshall: Writings, was published by the Library of America in 2010. After the Marshall project, he prepared an annotated edition of St. George Tucker’s Law Reports, published by the OI (with partner University of North Carolina Press) in 2013. Hobson is the author of The Great Chief Justice: John Marshall and the Rule of Law (1996) and The Great Yazoo Lands Sale: The Case of Fletcher v. Peck (2016).  




The portrait of John Marshall was painted by Henry Inman in 1832.

Workshop: Institute & Society Publishing in the 2020s

Institute and society publishing in the 2020s: what can historians do for themselves?

A joint event from the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, and the Omohundro Institute. With additional contributions from the American Historical Association, African American Intellectual History Society, and Sussex Humanities Lab.




All welcome

This event is free, but booking is required. It will be held online with details about how to join the virtual event being circulated via email to registered attendees 24 hours in advance.

The event will begin at 11:00 am – 12:30 pm EDT/4:00 – 5:30 pm BST, but you will be able to join the event’s online waiting room from 10:30 am EDT/3:30 pm BST, with admittance to the event from 10:45 am EDT/3:45 pm BST.

  • Karin Wulf, Executive Director of the Omohundro Institute and Professor of History, William & Mary
  • Philip Carter, Director of Digital and Publishing, Institute of Historical Research, University of London
  • Catherine E. Kelly, Editor of Books, Omohundro Institute, and Affiliated Professor of History, William & Mary
  • Tyler D. Parry, Senior Editor of Black Perspectives, the blog of the African American Intellectual History Society, and Assistant Professor of History at University of Nevada Las Vegas
  • James Grossman, Executive Director of the American Historical Association
  • James Baker, Senior Lecturer in Digital History and Archives (University of Sussex and Sussex Humanities Lab), and Director of ProgHist Ltd (chair)

This event brings together two of the leading historical research centers in the US and UK: the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture (OI) and the Institute of Historical Research (IHR).

Both the IHR and the Omohundro Institute perform a wide range of activities, including research, training, events, libraries, fellowships and advocacy.

Both too are well-known scholarly publishers responsible for an academic journal (respectively, the William & Mary Quarterly and Historical Research) and highly-respected book series. They are also small-scale publishing enterprises that look to digital opportunities to extend reach, raise their profile, and fulfill a commitment to experimentation regarding research and its communication.

This event showcases two recent digital initiatives that combine the traditional values of scholarly publishing with new forms of content creation and communication: the Omohundro’s OI Reader platform, and the IHR’s Digital Humanities Library project as a home for its ‘New Historical Perspectives’ book series with the Royal Historical Society.

Both are simple and relatively low-cost solutions to the OI and the IHR’s publishing ambitions for the 2020s. Short presentations present these new resources as a means of addressing broader questions:

  • what (at this time more than ever) can historians do for ourselves to create and communicate high-quality history as widely as possible?
  • should digital always be scalable?
  • what are the smaller scale digital innovations that institutes and societies can undertake?
  • what considerations do we need to take when designing new resources?
  • what’s the relationship between digital publishing and new forms of historical research and writing?
  • how do we best intersect the rigors of scholarly publishing with digital tools?
  • what do we learn from innovations like these; what are the positives, and the frustrations, of working digitally at a smaller scale?

The event includes short contributions from publishers at the OI and the IHR, as well as commentaries and observations from several other UK and US innovators, working digitally in history publishing within the university and (small-scale) publishing sectors. These include the American Historical Association, African American Intellectual History Society and Sussex Humanities Lab, UK.

‘Institute and society publishing in the 2020s’ is the first in a series of Anglo-American partnership events between the IHR and the Omohundro Institute to run in 2020-21. This programme is in response to the immediate challenges historians, and especially Early Career Researchers, face as a consequence of the COVID pandemic.