LINCOLN, Neb. — About half of the more than 3,000 known letters penned by Pulitzer-winning novelist Willa Cather have been compiled, digitized and annotated. And soon, they'll be available online.
"The Complete Letters of Willa Cather" will be available Jan. 16 through the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.
Cather graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1895. Her novels told of Great Plains frontier life, and she was awarded a Pulitzer in 1923 for her book "One of Ours." She died in 1947.
In the letters to friends, family and colleagues, Cather describes her process and inspirations while also expressing frustrations and doubts.
"Through the letters, there are thousands and thousands of details no one knew before," said Andrew Jewell, the archive's editor.
The journey to use Cather's unpublished and private papers to add context to her published works began three years ago. The process was aided by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and in cooperation with the Willa Cather Foundation in Red Cloud, a Nebraska town that served as a backdrop to Cather's work.
Researchers began collecting Cather's letters, which were held at Harvard College, private collections in Vermont and elsewhere across the U.S. A team of about 14 editors and contributors made digital copies of the letters, then transcribed and annotated the pieces. The process involved carefully examining Cather's handwriting and deciphering her use of nicknames.
"That was a big learning curve," said Emily Rau, a graduate student and an assistant editor at the archive.
The team then created an encyclopedia of short biographies about the people, places and works Cather referenced in the letters.
New letters will be periodically added to the database over the next few years, Jewell said.