Ronald M. Gephart and Paul H. Smith, retired Library of Congress Manuscript Division historians, are the recipients of the H.W. Wilson Award for Excellence in Indexing for their cumulative index of Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, published by the Library in 2000. Mr. Gephart accepted the award on June 3 at the 33rd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Indexers in Boston. Evelyn Sinclair accepted a special citation on behalf of the Library's Publishing Office for its role in the publication.
Mr. Smith and Mr. Gephart devoted most of their careers in the Manuscript Division to finding, transcribing, editing, indexing and publishing the first 25 volumes of all the known correspondence of 344 delegates who served in the Continental Congress from August 1774 through July 1789, their speeches, notes of debate and other unofficial documents. With a generous grant from the Ford Foundation, the first volume of the edition was published in 1976 for the nation's bicentennial. With the help of professional indexers Victoria Agee and Gale Rhoades, the cumulative index (volume 26) was completed in 2000 to coincide with the Library's Bicentennial.
In an Ohio History book review, the Letters of Delegates to Congress was described as "one of the most noteworthy and useful series to have appeared in the past 100 years of historical editing and publishing in America." Michael Hill, a research assistant for historian David McCullough, said the first five volumes of Letters were "hugely helpful" in preparation of Mr. McCullough's best-selling biography John Adams.
The 805-page cumulative index, a 3.5 million-byte file in electronic form, contains more than 20,000 main entries, from John Abail, a Seneca Indian chief, to John Zubly, a Georgia delegate, with an additional 30,000 subentries and more than 250,000 page references. It sheds light on congressional involvement in military and diplomatic affairs, the work of hundreds of congressional committees, the affairs of congressional departments such as War and Treasury and the contests over the location of the federal capital.
The overall alphabetical arrangement allows the reader to scan lengthy main entries such as "Congress"; "Continental Army"; "Washington, George"; and individual countries and states in the order in which events unfolded.
The reader can also follow the legislative careers of such notables as John Adams and James Madison, as well as congressional stalwarts such as Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Thomas McKean of Delaware and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts.
Volume 26 of Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789 is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, New Orders, PO Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. Telephone orders may be placed by calling (202) 512-1800 to charge copies to Visa or MasterCard, or by sending a fax to (202) 512-2250. The 805-page work sells for $49 (cite stock number 030-000-00285-7 when ordering by mail or by telephone). Previous volumes, at various prices, may still be obtained from the Superintendent of Documents.
A digital version of volumes 1-25 is available on CD-ROM from Historical Database. It may be ordered for $325 from Historical Database, 6387 Southeast Highway No. 42, Summerfield, FL 34491 or by calling (800) 347-3094. More information may be obtained on the company's Web site (www.historicaldatabase.com). Plans are under way to make the series accessible on the Library of Congress American Memory Web site (www.loc.gov). A number of related materials, such as the Library's 34-volume Journals of the Continental Congress, are already accessible on the Century of Lawmaking home page (memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw).
The ASI/Wilson Award was established in 1978 to recognize the indexers and publishers who provide high-quality indexes to serve their readers. The American Society of Indexers is a national association founded in 1968 to promote excellence in indexing and to increase awareness of the importance of quality in book indexing. Further information is available on the organization's Web site at www.asindexing.org.