The Pioneers or the Sources of the Susquehanna

A Descriptive Tale

By James Fenimore Cooper
Introduction by James Franklin Beard
Notes by James Franklin Beard
Text by Lance Schachterle & Kenneth M. Andersen Jr.

Subjects: Fiction
Series: The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper
Paperback : 9780873954235, 460 pages, June 1980
Hardcover : 9780873953597, 460 pages, June 1980

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Table of contents


Historical Introduction
Preface [1823]
Introduction [1832]
Interpolation in 1832 Introduction [1851]
The Pioneers
Explanatory Notes
Textual Commentary
Textual Notes
Rejected Readings


Written in 1821-22 at a crucial point in Cooper's life and based on some of his most cherished youthful memories, The Pioneers today evokes the American pioneering experience with astonishing vibrance of authentic detail and a largeness of philosophic grasp seldom if ever equaled in our fiction.

The circumstances behind the composition and publication of the book are here explained for the first time; and the text, originally set without competent supervision in the midst of the yellow fever epidemic in New York in 1822, is presented with the cumulative improvements of Cooper's "strenuous pen" in five subsequent revisions, without the customary accumulation of compositorial errors.

Quite possibly America's first bestseller (3,500 copies were sold within hours of publication), The Pioneers became the first of the world-famous Leatherstocking Tales. Its verbal pictures "excited a sensation among the artists, altogether unprecedented in the history of our domestic literature" and helped establish the style of the Hudson River School, our first group of landscape painters. Translated early into all the major languages of Europe, The Pioneers was one of the first American novels to carry distinctive, authoritative American experience to the world.