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The text reprinted in this volume is based on an examination of the five printed versions of The American (first published in 1877) which appeared in James's lifetime, and it is preceded by his "Preface to the New York Edition" (1907).
The textual history of the novel is traced in A Note on the Text; a list of substantive variants and emendations; a facsimile manuscript page showing James's method of revision; and a list of the installments of the novel as they appeared in The Atlantic.
"Backgrounds and Sources" includes relevant extracts from correspondence, reviews, and articles by James and others, and from his Notebooks and Hawthorne.
"Contemporary Reception" of the novel is illustrated by twenty-one American and English reviews.
"Twentieth-Century Criticism" is represented in essays by Leon Edel, Oscar Cargill, Irving Howe, Richard Poirier, Royal A. Gettmann, and James W. Tuttleton.
A Selected Bibliography is included for further study.