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Decades after her death, Nature Study movement leader Anna Botsford Comstock is finding her true voice. The original 1953 publication of her autobiography, “The Comstocks of Cornell,” has long been considered the definitive account of her life and that of her husband, entomologist John Henry Comstock, but it was, in fact, heavily edited—with important parts omitted and with several discrepancies from the original memoirs.
Academic writer and book reviewer, Karen Penders St. Clair has restored Comstock’s voice in her edited “The Comstocks of Cornell: The Definitive Autobiography” (Cornell University Press, 2020), which includes previously missing sections of Comstock’s descriptions of Cornell’s early days and her and her husband’s life and work. In this Chats in the Stacks book talk presented in October 2020, St. Clair—who received her doctoral degree from the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell—discusses the process of editing the book and her painstaking research into Comstock’s papers in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections.