The primary goal of this edition of the journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition is to present users with a reliable text that is largely uncluttered with editorial interference. The editorial procedures designed to provide such an authentic text have necessitated certain modifications in the original text due to the demands of modern typography and the inconsistent usage of the journalists, but every effort has been made to furnish a transcription that is true to the original. Difficulties that have worked against producing a printed transcript that nearly duplicates handwritten words have also prevented establishing foolproof and unchanging principles of editing. Readers have been advised when deviations from the following procedures occur.
There are usually two parts to each journal entry by Lewis or Clark. One is a narrative text describing the day's events; the other gives the course of travel and distance covered for the day, which the captains usually called "courses, distances, and references." These two sections are here called "text" and "course." The format for the text and course has been somewhat normalized. The course has been set in smaller type than the text in keeping with Lewis's and Clark's practice of writing in a smaller hand for this portion of the journal. The course has been printed in closely aligned columns, one for courses, one for distances, and one for references, after Clark's usual ordering. Lewis's style is somewhat different at the beginning so adjustments have been made in those instances. When the course material is run as a continuous line, as Clark occasionally wrote it in his Field Notes, it has been converted to columns for clarity. In the captains' entries the text sometimes precedes the course and sometimes follows it. Here the order of the text and course follows the journalists' changing arrangement. Where confusion might exist, a date has been given in brackets. The dateline has been set to the right margin whenever it appears on the line above the entry to allow the name of the journalist to be placed consistently on the left margin above the entry. Repeated dates above sections within an entry are placed as they appear on the original.
Grammatical consistency is a vexing problem to any historical editor but particularly to an editor of Lewis and Clark materials. The men's erratic, but delightful and ingenious, manner of spelling and capitalizing creates the most perplexing difficulties of all. "This is expecially true of Clark," one investigator noted, "who was not only the master misspeller of them all, but also displayed dazzling virtuosity in his approach to punctuation, capitalization, and simple sentence structure."  In this edition the spelling and capitalization have been retained as nearly as possible, but some conventionalizing has been necessary. Uncrossed t's and undotted i's and the like have been silently corrected. Misspelled words have been corrected in brackets when necessary for clarity. When letters or words defy comprehension, conjectural readings have been given in brackets with a question mark signifying the editor's uncertainty. With ambiguous spelling, the journalist's typical spelling has been taken as a guide, or the modern spelling has been adopted in disputed cases. With Clark that is nearly impossible. One researcher discovered that Clark spelled the word Sioux "no less than twenty-seven different ways."  Little can be promised in the way of consistency, for no rule can stand against Clark's inimitable style.
For capitalization some consistencies of the writers have been discovered; otherwise, individual letters have been judged against their rise along the line of writing and compared to the writer's normal usage. This procedure has generated a great number of capital letters. Clark again has confounded any system. One historian who struggled with his handwriting wrote: "In the matter of capitalization, one man has utterly bested me. William Clark, a creative speller, is also a versatile capitalizer—especially in handling words beginning with s. After many attempts to work out a sane norm I have retired in confusion. Clark uses four kinds of initial s and each can be interpreted as a capital." 
Several alterations from the original punctuation occur in the text. Periods have been retained mostly in their currently accepted context. Incidental and random periods, which may be pen rests, have been dropped. Spaced periods (leaders), used frequently in the course material, have also been discarded. Periods at the end of lines have been retained. When periods have not been supplied by the writer at the end of a sentence, none have been added. Rather, extra spacing has been used at the end of a sentence where no punctuation appears. If some other punctuation occurs at the end of a sentence (such as a comma or a semicolon), it has been retained and normal spacing follows. Random lines and dashes, occasionally used to separate entries, have been omitted. Multiple or lengthy dashes have been shown as a single dash. Underscoring has been retained, but occasional pen marks that are questionable underlining have been dropped. Multiple underscoring has been dropped except where double underlining has been used with a figure that represents a total from a column of figures, such as in the mileage column of a day's course. Quotation marks have been discarded when they appear before every line; only beginning and ending marks have been used. When beginning or ending quotation marks are missing, they have been supplied in brackets at the most logical place.
Paragraphing follows the writer's usage, except that when a paragraph ends and a new one begins without indentation, the new line has been silently indented. When words and phrases are scattered across a page with no apparent order (as in Clark's Field Notes), the text has been printed in the most logical fashion. Otherwise, items have been printed as they appear from left to right and from top to bottom on the page. Signs, symbols, and abbreviations have been handled in this fashion. Signs and symbols found on a modern typewriter have been retained, and unidentified symbols have been dropped. Superscript letters have been brought down to the line of type. Lewis and Clark used a variety of marks under the superscript letters st, th, and nd of their ordinal numbers. Those have been lowered, marks beneath the letters have been discarded, and no punctuation has been added. Abbreviated and contracted words have been spelled out within brackets only if it seems that the word might not be understood. Most often they are unaltered. Scored-out, torn, and blotted passages have been handled in this way. Where words have been crossed out by the author for the apparent purpose of word choice, with no significant change in the text, the words have been silently omitted. Where words scored out by the author add new meaning, or convey a different sense to the passage, the deleted words have been placed between angle brackets. If it appears that someone other than the author has crossed out words, the affected passage has been restored and the action noted in the annotation. When a passage is unclear due to the condition of the paper, or because the writer has disfigured the page, a conjectural reading followed by a question mark has been given in brackets; otherwise, a note on the condition of the paper appears between brackets with the words italicized, such as [torn], [blotted], [erased], or [unable to read].
Over the years, persons besides the original authors have written on the pages of the journals. Nicholas Biddle was the first, about 1810, as he prepared a paraphrase of the journals. Some of Biddle's emendations were made for his own purposes and some perhaps were made on the advice of Clark, with whom Biddle occasionally collaborated during his labors. During the collaboration, Clark may have added his own postexpeditionary interlineations. Elliott Coues worked with the manuscripts at his Washington home in December 1892 and made numerous and long interlinear notations upon the pages. Perhaps one other, unknown person has also added words here and there in the journals. Those emendations and interlineations have been retained and have been handled in this way. Interlineations by the original author have been added to the line of type without editorial comment. Writings by Lewis or Clark that are interjections in one another's journals or perhaps later writings (usually in ink of a different shade), by Biddle (usually in red ink), by Coues, and by the unknown person have been placed in the text between brackets, with the emended words italicized and with the author's initials placed ahead of the words, such as: [WC: ], [ML: ], [NB: ], [EC: ], and [X: ]. The letter X stands for the unknown or any unidentified person. Extremely complex or lengthy emendations have been explained in the annotation. Bracketed material without identifying initials and in italics is that of the editor. Where confusion might exist the following scheme has been used to identify the editor's remarks: [Ed: ].
The format follows the plan adopted by Thwaites in the first edition of the journals. Thwaites printed Lewis's and Clark's entries together but separated the remaining diaries. When the writing of the enlisted men significantly alters or adds to information provided by Lewis and Clark, it has been abstracted and placed in footnotes to the captains' entries. This procedure should reduce annotation in later volumes by combining editorial work under a single entry or two rather than across several volumes. Under this plan the subordinates' journals will not be as heavily annotated and some comparison of volumes may be necessary. Readers have traditionally turned to the words of Lewis and Clark first and used the enlisted men's diaries as supplements—this plan will facilitate such practice. A comprehensive, synoptic index that coordinates all journal entries will be placed in the final journal volume. In the footnotes, subordinates' journals have been noted by dates of entry rather than by their published sources, thus anticipating their eventual publication in this series.
The chapter divisions used in Biddle's edition and maintained by Thwaites and Osgood have also been employed with only minor changes. Thwaites's remarks for this decision are appropriate: "They are convenient chronological and geographical divisions; they are familiar to scholars, and thus have acquired a certain historical and bibliographical standing; moreover, comparisons between the Biddle paraphrase and the Original Journals will be facilitated by their retention."  Comparisons between the new edition and Thwaites's volumes will also be facilitated by the retention of the chapter divisions.
Annotation in the new edition will be full but not discursive. Although footnotes will be kept within bounds, it is not the intention to produce a barebones transcription with little or no analysis. The explication of the journals is basic to the purpose of this edition, but the work is primarily the preparation of source material, meant to be borrowed from and enlarged upon by other scholars; there is no mandate to compose essays as footnotes. In general, the amount of information included in the annotations depends upon the importance placed on the subject by Lewis and Clark, or upon the significance of the subject to the expedition. In some cases where the information is controversial, conjectural, or confusing, the length of annotation may be disproportionate to the item's relevance to the expedition.
The design for annotation in this edition is similar to the method used in editions of letters, where footnotes are placed at the end of each letter rather than at the bottom of a page. Here the annotation follows each dated entry, and the numbers run consecutively within an entry. Since Lewis's and Clark's entries have been placed together, the annotation comes after the final entry for a day, regardless of the number of journal versions for that day. Lewis's entries, when available, always precede Clark's, and the author's name is given in brackets at the head of each entry. The text material takes priority over the course material for annotation, whatever its order in an entry. If items have been annotated in the text, similar matter has been ignored for annotation in the course. If items have been annotated from Lewis's entry and Clark has much the same material in his entry for that day, Clark's points have not been noted. The same is true if either writer has more than one version for a day's entry. The versions have been placed in the apparent order of their preparation. Annotation is to the first mention of a point and usually only to that mention. References to previous or later notes in this edition are to dated journal entries rather than volume, chapter, and note numbers.
Words defined in modern standard college dictionaries are not annotated, although archaic, regional, unusual, and misleading usages are noted. Variant or incorrect spellings that could mislead the reader sometimes need annotation. I have supplied definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary in such cases, but I have not cited it in the notes. Common or well-known places or things are not annotated unless their status in Lewis and Clark's time is significant.
Geographic features mentioned by the explorers are annotated in the journals, except in cases where such notations are too obscure to allow proper identification. Their trail, still doubtful in some areas, has been laid out as accurately as possible and campsites have been identified. The status and signficance of places and the state of geographical knowledge in Lewis and Clark's time are important considerations in the annotations.
Scientific information gained by the expedition—in botany, zoology, geology, medicine, and ethnology—all receive fuller treatment in this edition. Plants and animals are identified by their popular labels and scientific names, with questionable species so noted. Sources cited are primarily the most up-to-date scientific references available; earlier historical sources such as Coues, Gilmore, Criswell, or Cutright are also cited secondarily in some instances.
American Indian groups are identified by tribal names and linguistic affiliations; the latter can demonstrate patterns of historical connections between groups that sometimes cannot be learned either from tribal traditions or from historical records. Information on the location of tribes at the time of Lewis and Clark's visit, the basis of their economy, archaeological sites, other relevant points, and further references are provided in the notes. Significant Indian personalities are portrayed as fully as possible.
Members of the expedition have received the fullest biographical treatment possible within the limits of available information in the notes and in Appendix A. General biographical dictionaries have not been cited in the annotations. Although scholars and enthusiasts will be disappointed to learn that some persons still remain unidentified, persons, places, or things for which research has failed to provide an identification have not been annotated. Exceptions involve cases where the lack of information is itself significant or creates problems, such as the identity of the expedition member La Liberté.
The most important considerations in the annotations have been to substantiate statements in the text and to provide additional information immediately relevant to the expedition. In many areas the editorial staff has turned to the vast literature on the expedition and to numerous scholars and lay people who have graciously offered their assistance in their respective areas of expertise. Our hope is that the new edition will offer the same service to future students of the Lewis and Clark expedition.