The Story of Editorial Assistance for The Desire Of Ages

No human in this world is perfect and Ellen G White was no exception. While there’s no doubt that she was full of inspiration, she never achieved perfection in her writing. What she wrote was not precise in terms of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and the construction of sentences or paragraphs. She was aware of this shortcoming throughout her life and had also spoken about it. 

In 1873, she had expressed her sadness of not being a scholar and a grammarian. She had again lamented her inadequacy almost twenty years later. At that time, she admitted that she was weak, simple, and ignorant. She also declared that her language was inadequate to express the grand and holy revelations of God.

Seeking help from accomplished individuals

It was owing to such feelings that she decided to seek help from experts. It was necessary to find people skilled in literature, who would help her prepare manuscripts for getting published. Her husband, James White, was a qualified schoolteacher. He assisted her in writing the Spiritual Gifts series. 

After his death, she was assisted by Marian Davis when The Desire of Ages was taking shape in the 1890s. He was her major editorial assistant. The copyists of Ellen G White corrected spelling and grammar, removed unnecessary repetitions, and grouped the writings in paragraphs. Help from other individuals was also sought for making improvements in her manuscripts.

She wanted Joseph Harvey Waggoner to criticize her manuscript and offer suggestions to improve it. He was a knowledgeable theologian, and an accomplished editor and publisher. However, she was displeased with him when he failed to change or improve one of her manuscripts. Ellen G White had also sought the help of Dr. David Paulson at one point. 

The need for editorial assistance

Ellen G White had an understanding that some Bible writers had also needed assistance for editing their works. She had mentioned that it was customary in those times for a writer to send the manuscript to someone. It was for a detailed examination and criticism. An example would be Luke, who chose Theophilus to perform this task. 

She, therefore permitted and even sought help at times with regards to her manuscript. This also resulted in certain changes made to some of her words. While she was not really happy with the changed words, the technical improvements were appreciated. 

Despite sending her manuscripts to several accomplished individuals for criticisms and suggestions for changes, she was not pleased. She had once stated that the words of someone else would never represent her rightly. The editors and copyists of Ellen G White never contributed to her actual writings. 

Once the publisher had appealed for the immediate completion of the manuscript of The Desire of Ages. She wrote in response that there was one thing that even the most competent editor couldn’t do. It was to get the manuscript prepared before it was written. 

Her editorial assistant, Marian Davis had made a note of this fact. This clearly meant that Marian Davis could never do the editing work until she had written her manuscript.

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