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University Libraries - News, Events & Exhibits

The Simms Initiatives site is now live

Nov 15, 2011 1:19 AM

A digital project featuring the writing of a South Carolina native will be launched Tuesday, November 15.

The works of a forgotten Southern writer whom Edgar Allen Poe dubbed “the best novelist which this country has, on the whole, produced" will be accessible to scholars around the world thanks to a digitization project at the USC Libraries.

Called the Simms Initiatives, the new web site will feature more than 130 books and thousands of other works by South Carolina native William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870), a leading literary figure of his day.

The site, (http://simms.library.sc.edu) which went live November 15, is growing into one of the world’s largest single-author digital repositories.  

“Our goal is to produce a comprehensive bibliographic database that will be a resource for scholars studying the works of a man who was at the nexus of American literary culture,” said David Moltke-Hansen, director of the Simms Initiatives.

Funded by the Watson-Brown Foundation of Thomson, Georgia, the initiative and the digitized materials draw heavily from the University’s South Caroliniana Library, home of the largest holdings of Simms manuscripts and publications.

Born in Charleston, Simms was a short-story writer, novelist, essayist, and speaker. In the decades surrounding the 1840s, Simms also was the South's most influential editor of cultural journals and the region’s most prolific critic and poet, publishing an average of one book review and poem each week for 45 years.

“No mid-nineteenth-century writer and editor did more than William Gilmore Simms to frame white Southern self-identity and nationalism, shape Southern historical consciousness, or foster the South's participation and recognition in the broader American literary culture,” Moltke-Hansen said.

He was a leading literary figure whose contemporaries and colleagues included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Washington Irving, Henry Wordsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne and James Fenimore Cooper.

“Simms was definitely one of the most significant figures in antebellum Southern literature,” said Todd Hagstette, curator of the Simms Initiatives. “He was heavily plugged into the literary culture of the South, as well as the New York and Philadelphia literary circles. He had vast correspondence with many major writers and intellectuals of his day.”

Moltke-Hansen said the site will appeal to anyone interested in 19th-century American culture, the development of American literature, the literary elite of the mid-19th century, and other topics related to the era, from the Civil War to the westward movement. In addition to full text online versions of Simms’s books and other works, the site will include biographical material and a bibliography of all Simms’s published writings.

Future additions to the Initiatives will include education-directed materials for teachers and students, visual and cartographic resources, and a growing array of links to other related, digitally available materials. USC Press will issue 62 books of Simms's works in paperback, print-on-demand editions by the end of 2013.