The letters by and to Melville in this volume extend from letters he wrote at the age of nine in 1828 to ones he sent and received during the year before his death at seventy-two in 1891. To fill the gaps within the correspondence, 542 editorial entries are chronologically interspersed for letters both by and to Melville for which no full text has been located but for which some evidence survives.
This scholarly edition presents a text as close to the author's intention as his difficult handwriting or other surviving evidence permits. Fifty-two newly discovered letters by Melville, more than half of which are presented here for the first time, are added to those printed in the 1960 edition. This text is an Approved Text of the Center for Editions of American Authors (Modern Language Association of America).