A Concordance to the Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Professor Eugene Irey's retirement project, and his dream, was to produce a concordance to the entire works of Emerson. Gene started producing it by hand; he was not satisfied with the functionality of computer-generated concordances. In particular, he insisted that the context for each word be adequate to show how Emerson used that word. Computer concordances typically include a fixed amount of text around each word, or the sentence or line in which the word appears, not always sufficient to identify clearly how the word is used. Gene also wanted to assign the proper part of speech to every word, a difficult task for a computer.

The Center for Computer Research in the Humanities (CCRH) developed software to help Gene make the concordance. This software interactively displayed each word in the text, with a substantial amount of context. Gene edited the context and assigned the part of speech to each word. The computer then sorted and formatted the concordance.

Gene did this work in the 1970s and early 1980s. He completed the editing of the concordance, but was struck down by a heart attack in 1986 before he could finish proofing the work. Gene had discovered that, when he edited the occurrence of a word near the beginning of the text and then, years later, edited another occurrence of the same word near the end of the text, he had not been exactly consistent in the way that he treated the words. He was also proofreading for typographical errors, etc.

Since 1986, CCRH has not had the resources to complete Gene's work. Nevertheless, it is important to make this remarkable work available to Emerson researchers. The staggering amount of work put into the project makes this work unique; computer-generated concordances still pale in comparison.

The Concordance

The size of the Emerson concordance is daunting. Even formatted in two columns, the concordance occupies 5,372 pages. A list of the words in the concordance, with their frequencies, formatted in three columns, occupies another 139 pages. The concordance is broken down into letter sections; each letter begins a new page.

The following is a sample page of the Emerson Concordance. The entire concordance is available as PDF and Postscript files below. The formatting is similar to what you see here.


A, n. (1)

a priori. (1)

a priori, adj. (1)

Aaron, n. (1)

abandon, v. (3)

abandoned, v. (8)

abandonment, n. (15)

abandonments, n. (1)

abandons, v. (4)

abate, v. (6)

abated, v. (3)

abatement, n. (4)

abbe, n. (1)

Abbe, n. (1)

abbess, n. (3)

Abbey, Fonthill, England, n (1)

Abbey, Fountains, England, (1)

The Concordance Files

The table below lists the files that make up the concordance. The concordance is presented as PDF files and as Postscript files compressed by the WinZip utility. You may view and print the the PDF files using Adobe's free Acrobat Reader, or decompress the Postscript files and send them to a Postscript printer. The Zip files are self-extracting archives; if you download and open these files, they will extract the compressed files even if you don't have the Zip utility on your machine. The concordance file contains bookmarks to locate each letter in the concordance.

Concordance Files

File PDF File Postscript File
Concordance concordance-pdf.exe (37.3 megabytes) concordance-ps.exe (29.4 megabytes)
Head Words head-words-pdf.exe head-words-ps.exe

Please send comments to preston@spot.colorado.edu.