Born into slavery, Booker T. Washington is freed when he is nine years old. To help support his family, he then works as a salt packer, coal miner, and house servant. All the while, he longs to become educated and to educate others. Poverty, racism, and other obstacles stand in his way. Will he overcome them all, or will the many barriers prove stronger than his unwavering determination?
Townsend Library editors approach every book entirely on its own merits, guided constantly by these questions:
• “What will get in the way of a reader’s enjoyment of this wonderful story?”
• “How can the story be made more readable while preserving the integrity of the original book?”
Here are examples of editing choices made for two TL titles:
• Dracula—This story was written for people who were familiar with 19th century European geography, and the original contains countless pages of detail about cities, towns, rivers, ports, and travel routes that would make many 21st century readers’ eyes glaze over. Such detail, not at all integral to the story, has been reduced. Another example: Stoker was very excited about the new technologies of his day—such as shorthand writing and Thomas Edison’s “dictaphone” machine, which recorded the human voice on wax cylinders—and in the original Dracula, he goes on for many pages about these “modern” inventions. We minimized the number of details about these outdated inventions in order to get on with the story. We also replaced words that might be unfamiliar or confusing to today’s readers: for instance, the old French word “diligence” is changed to “stagecoach”; the phrase “toilet glass” is changed to “shaving mirror.”
• Jane Eyre—Revising Jane Eyre was mostly a matter of slightly simplifying complex sentences and deleting or explaining unfamiliar 19th-century English terms. For instance, a reference to the valuable "plate" in a house is changed to "silver"; the phrase "a false front of French curls" is changed to "a wig of French curls"; the word "benefactress" is changed to "guardian." The original sentence, "Or was the vault under the chancel of Gateshead Church an inviting bourne?" is changed in the TL version to, "Did I really think that the cemetery at Gateshead Church would be an inviting home?"
A COMMENT FROM A TEACHER
“I can tell how the editors love reading and love these books. I have taught for many years and have long been disappointed with ‘abridged’ books. But I compared books in the Townsend Library to the original source text, and in each case I have been amazed at the sensitive and precise treatment of Townsend’s editors. They have preserved the tension and magic of the original stories. Nothing is lost except those things which would be obstacles to today’s students.
~ Daphne Bell, College of DuPage, Illinois.