Foliation, Leaves, And Leaf Images

In the digital editing of the Billy Budd manuscript, MEL distinguishes between leaf numbers (appearing physically on the manuscript recto page) and leaf image numbers (representing both sides of a leaf as well as of “clips” attached to a leaf). For their 1962 edition, Hayford and Sealts established the standard foliation for the Billy Budd manuscript leaves, which were applied by the Houghton Library in pencil to the lower left corner of each recto page. In digitizing the manuscript, the library also issued different leaf image numbers to the front and back of leaves. As a consequence, each leaf number (whether the leaf has text on it or is blank) corresponds to a different leaf image number. Because the digital leaf image numbers are crucial identifiers used to link TextLab transcriptions to leaves, each leaf has both a digital and manuscript number. For instance, leaf 7 is represented by leaf image 17.

In addition, most of the 361 leaves of the Billy Budd manuscript were numbered and renumbered in Melville’s own hand during the process of composition. The renumbering on numerous leaves, inscribed in different colors, are clues to sequential stages of composition. Foliations in different hands also appear: In addition to Houghton Library’s numbers in the lower left corner are Raymond Weaver’s page numbers in the upper right-hand corner of most leaves.


Hayford and Sealts provide a detailed explanation of Melville’s foliation, in different crayon colors and in pencil, which, depending on the stage of composition, appear in the upper corners, the top middle margin, and the left and right margins. Some of these numbers are themselves sub-numbered. For instance, the four-leaf expansion of text occurring after the leaf Melville originally designated “7” (leaf image 27) was foliated with an “8” plus a circled 1, 2, 3, and 4 (see leaf images 29, 31, 33, 35 in TextLab), for each numbered leaf inserted after leaf 7. These leaves—inscribed in the top left corner in green as 7, 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4—would later receive new leaf numbers in red in the right corner: 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. Sets of colored numbers appearing on single leaves enabled scholars to designate eight stages of composition, which brought Melville’s text from his initial ballad and headnote to the thirty-chapter novella with its concluding ballad.

In transcribing the manuscript, MEL editors use TEI’s <metamark> element to code all folios and their colors on each leaf and the <change> element to associate the stages and sub-stages associated with each colored number. In the HS configuration, a sub-stage may indicate the physical leaf (piece of paper) on which text is inscribed, or the inscription itself, or revisions in pencil or ink included with the inscription. The sub-stages of all inscriptions and revision texts are also coded.

Our goal in coding Melville’s foliation and the HS stage and sub-stage designations is to provide data for anyone wishing to test, correct, or augment this monumental and indispensable work of textual scholarship. Future scholars will also be able to search MEL’s database by sub-stage to discern patterns of revision. A proposed project, titled How Billy Grew, will use this data to integrate the micro-revisions recorded in our TextLab transcriptions of each manuscript leaf into an animated, macro-revision visualization of the manuscript’s growth, stage by stage.

Manuscript Leaves.

In his analysis of the manuscript in preparing his 1924 edition of Billy Budd, Foretopman, Raymond Weaver foliated most leaves, typically with circled whole numbers in pencil, in the upper right-hand corner of each leaf he foliated. In their later analysis, Hayford and Sealts provided folio numbers that supersede Weavers, and Houghton Library staff registered those HS numbers in pencil in the lower left hand corner of each leaf.

Many leaves also include one, two, or three cut-and-paste slips of paper originally straight-pinned to each other or to a single larger leaf that may or may not have text on it as well. In conserving the manuscript, Houghton removed all straight pins and re-attached each slip of paper to the main leaf with thin strips of adhesive gauze to the left edge of the main leaf, permitting readers to turn the previously straight-pinned slips to the left to read the formerly obscured text on the underlying paper and to inspect any text on the verso of the clip.

Numerous inscribed versos of Melville’s clips indicate that Melville routinely recycled salvageable paper that he had discarded in composing Billy Budd or other works, such as poems from Timoleon and Weeds & Wildings. Typically, these discarded leaves had been heavily revised beyond readability and their texts freshly copied onto other leaves, but since the versos were blank, Melville retained them. Drawing from his stack of used paper, he would select a sheet, turn it over and usually upside down, and compose or copy Billy Budd text on this other side. He would then scissor the written portion and attach that slip of paper with a pin at the place on a full leaf where he wanted the clipped text to be read. Melville also scissored away desired text from previously inscribed leaves for a cut-and-paste collaging of a full leaf. The rectos of these clips bearing Billy Budd revision texts and their versos bearing discarded versions of other texts were not assigned independent leaf numbers (by either Weaver, Hayford and Sealts, or Houghton). Instead, in the Hayford-Sealts numbering system, symbols (a dagger or asterisk) are used to associate them with the leaf number to which they are attached.

Leaf and Leaf Image Numbers.

In digitizing the Billy Budd manuscript, Houghton Library created 831 images. This more than doubling of the number of leaf images in relation to the 361 manuscript leaves in the Hayford-Sealts foliation system has largely to do with the fact that the library correctly digitized the versos of all leaves and clips, whether or not they contained text. Houghton also digitized multiple views of leaves to which multiple clips are attached. A single-numbered leaf with three attached clips, some including verso text, may therefore yield at least five leaf images: one for each clip, one for all three together, and one for the main leaf’s verso. Images of the versos of clips were also digitized. Each clip and leaf, front and back, has a unique leaf image number. MEL uses the Houghton leaf image numbers to identify leaf transcriptions in TextLab, which encode the corresponding leaf numbers assigned by Hayford and Sealts (and also adopted by Houghton). In short, each leaf has two numbers.

In the table of contents of the reading text in Versions of Billy Budd, we have placed Blank Versos and Inscribed Versos in separate folders. Folders for each of the novella’s thirty chapters contain the leaf images associated with the designated chapter. Because the Houghton / MEL leaf image numbers do not represent revision sequencing, some images for a leaf may appear out of order. Other folders contain leaf images for drafts of sections Melville removed from Billy Budd: a title page, preface, and chapter on “Lawyers, Experts, Clergy.”

What is the text of Billy Budd