One of the best parts of working as an RA on the Burns C21 project is the opportunity to engage in really thorough and sustained textual archaeology. The production of a modern edition demands a comprehensive revision of the field, which in an area as diverse and extensive as Burns studies is no inconsiderable task.
A recent assignment of mine has been to produce a full catalogue of materials related to George Thomson held in the National Library of Scotland. The library, of course, has a long history from the Faculty of Advocates’ collection, leading up to the creation of the NLS in 1925 and beyond; while the origins of Thomson’s project lie in the 1790s. Items relevant to Thomson have been accumulating, then, in sporadic accessions for well over two centuries, making this a relatively complicated task involving cross-referencing different historical indexes. Once the material has been located, there is a further stage of sifting through it, to differentiate sources which speak to Thomson’s song project among his other papers. A meticulous man who was in regular contact with a large number of correspondents, Thomson has left us a substantial record, much of which is held in the NLS, with other significant collections in the British Library and elsewhere. Getting a proper grasp on this material is a crucial step in delivering a contemporary interpretation of his collaboration with Burns for the Oxford edition.