Editing The Young Idea

The Young Idea: A Naval Journal Edited on Board the H.M.S. Chesapeake in 1857, 1858 & 1859 is a weekly paper edited by A.D. McArthur (a clerk aboard the Chesapeake), circulated in manuscript to shipboard subscribers, and printed lithographically in London in 1867. I am preparing a scholarly edition of the entire run (58 issues) of this Victorian shipboard periodical (GitHub repository at this link).

Collaborating with Undergraduates

Undergraduate students at the University of New Haven have been integral to the early stages of this project. Two English majors, Teresa Navarro and Katelyn Sahagian, worked on the project as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program in 2015, and their transcription and encoding work contributed directly to “Extracts from The Young Idea,” published with Scholarly Editing, the peer-reviewed annual of the Association for Documentary Editing. Another English major, Anna Kroon, joined the project and transcribed/encoded articles and advertisements from The Young Idea and other shipboard newspapers related to the history of shipboard theatricals. Her contributions are best viewed through the GitHub workflow we established together, and her input prompted many refinements to the encoding strategies now used on the project.

The manuscript pages of The Young Idea are not extant, but we do have transcriptions from them in the diary of the ship’s chaplain, J.W.L. Bampfield, and the lithograph edition of the complete run, published in London in 1867. It is important to remember that the lithograph edition offers only the illusion of an exact copy. My introduction to the edition will detail how the witnesses have been analyzed to devise a theory of how the manuscript pages circulated aboard the ship, and a plectogram table of contents (building on David Birnbaum’s work, accessible here) will illustrate how the two witnesses correspond.


  • Isbell, Mary. “Diplomatic Editions of a Handwritten Shipboard Newspaper.” Accepted for publication in Handwritten Newspapers as an Alternative Medium during the Early Modern and Modern Periods. Studia Fennica Folkloristica series. London: Ubiquity Press. Forthcoming in 2019 (in production).
  • Isbell, Mary. Extracts from The Young Idea” (Editor). Scholarly Editing 37 (2016). Online. http://scholarlyediting.org/2016/editions/intro.youngidea.html