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The Journal 1837–1861

The Journal 1837–1861

by Henry David Thoreau, edited by Damion Searls, preface by John R. Stilgoe

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Henry David Thoreau’s Journal was his life’s work: the daily practice of writing that accompanied his daily walks, the workshop where he developed his books and essays, and a project in its own right—one of the most intensive explorations ever made of the everyday environment, the revolving seasons, and the changing self. It is a treasure trove of some of the finest prose in English and, for those acquainted with it, its prismatic pages exercise a hypnotic fascination. Yet at roughly seven thousand pages, or two million words, it remains Thoreau’s least-known work.

This reader’s edition, the largest one-volume edition of Thoreau’s Journal ever published, is the first to capture the scope, rhythms, and variety of the work as a whole. Ranging freely over the world at large, the Journal is no less devoted to the life within. As Thoreau says, “It is in vain to write on the seasons unless you have the seasons in you.” by Henry David Thoreau, edited by Damion Searls, preface by John R. Stilgoe

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781590173213
Pages: 704
Publication Date:


[Searls's selection] admirably preserves the feel of the 7,000-page original. This lightweight, sturdy edition ... practically begs to be read outside.
—Thomas Meaney, Times Literary Supplement

...we are richer now that Damion Searls has unearthed new Thoreauvian treasures for the rest of us—a 10th of the two-million-word journal, far more than ever before available in a single volume. Here, in some of the most vigorous and original prose in English, we find the origins of Walden and the other books, but we also find that the journal was a work of art in itself.
— Michael Sims, The Washington Post

Writer, editor, and translator Searls selected passages from this vast sea of words to create the largest and most cohesive one-volume reader’s edition ever published...This is a superb and uniquely accessible edition of an essential American masterpiece.

Damion Searls has found and freed the lean, shapely and modern American classic inside the very definition of a 'baggy monster.'
—Christopher Lydon, Open Source Radio

More than any previous version, it allows a direct encounter with this great work and approximates the experience of reading the whole. In fact, by clearing away some of the underbrush in the fourteen volumes, it highlights the better-known passages and uncovers hidden gems and significant connections.
—Geoff Wisner, The Quarterly Conversation

Reading Thoreau's Journal I discover any idea I've ever had worth its salt.
—John Cage

Thoreau could lift a fish out of the stream with his hands; he could charm a wild squirrel to nestle in his coat; he could sit so still that the animals went on with their play round him. [In the Journal] we have a chance of getting to know Thoreau as few people are known, even by their friends.
— Virginia Woolf

It is the unflagging beauty of the writing, day after day, that confirms its greatness among writers' journals.
—Alfred Kazin

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