The following is Thomas Stone's editor's preface from the 2008 edition:
I grew up in upstate New York, in a small town outside of Rochester. My grandparents on my father's side lived in eastern Tennessee, in Bristol to be exact. This meant that I only saw them once every year or two. Whether they visited us or we visited them, it was always a welcome vacation and family reunion.
My grandfather, Paul E. Stone Sr., was many things: a farmer, a teacher, a principal, a Republican... and a prankster. Whenever we would see him he would stress to my younger brother and me the importance of getting a good education. He would always ask what books we were reading, how we were doing in school, and so on.
So it initially came as no surprise when one year, when I was perhaps seven or eight, he said he had a book he wanted me to "try" to read. I think he even suggested that I demonstrate my reading ability for the family by reading aloud some passages from the book he had in mind. Being a smart, confident young lad I agreed, not knowing that this was one of his pranks.
He looked around for a few minutes, and pulled out a small book that he kept hidden away on one of his overflowing bookshelves. He said it was written by an old Tennessee relative of ours, as though that would make it more interesting. It was wrapped in a plastic bag, and he explained that it was an old book and rather unique and irreplaceable. It was titled "Frontier Experience," but had the strange alternate title "Epistolary Sesquipedalian Lexiphanicism from the Occident". He suggested that I start reading from the beginning of any of the sections, so I think I chose the first Letter. But I couldn't get more than a few words out before I was stumbling and frustrated. This book was like no other I had ever seen, or have come across since.
Frontier Experience or Epistolary Sesquipedalian Lexiphanicism from the Occident was written by J. E. L. Seneker. My grandfather had a copy of this book because we are related to Mr. Seneker. After some research, I've determined that he's my first cousin, five times removed (see the figure below).
According to the family genealogical records I have, Mr. Seneker was born John Elias Lafayette Seneker on May 3, 1848. His parents were James King Seneker and Elizabeth Bushong, and he had five siblings (James King Seneker had two other marriages, and a total of either nine or ten children).
J.E.L Seneker married Louisa Margaret (Maggie) Dulaney and they had four children: Oliver, Beverly, Estelle, and Lorena. He died in 1916 of empyema, though I do not know the exact date.
Mr. Seneker was apparently most well known as being a long-time Superintendent of schools of Sullivan County, Tennessee, and generally being "prominent" in educational circles in eastern Tennessee. For more on Mr. Seneker and his work in education, see the appendix.
While the individual "Letters" in this book are dated 1872, the book was published in 1906. As this edition is being published in 2008, that makes it the 102nd anniversary edition, a claim that I think Mr. Seneker would have found humorous and worthy of mention on the cover.
The events described in the Letters are not inherently interesting: in fact, Seneker describes rather ordinary locations, objects, and events from the time he spent in the "wild west frontier" of the United States. There might be some interest in the types of things he chooses to discuss, given the different times in which he lived. But what makes this book special is the utterly incredible way that he has written his journal-like entries.
The original text was in a format very much as you will find reproduced here. The original book's physical dimensions were quite small: it measured only 6 inches by 4.5 inches, and the text of the letters numbered only 76 pages. As a result, the exact pagination is different in this edition. However, the format of primary text on the left page and more commonplace synonymous words and phrases on the facing right page, was Mr. Seneker's design. I have attempted to deviate from that format as little as possible. Some odditities of the original text are described in endnotes, while others I have corrected without comment, e.g., minor punctuation, casing, split word, and line numbering issues.
The original text also has a few illustrations, typically at the end of the letters or as ornamentation for titles. Some of these have been reproduced here; others were too difficult to work with. For those that I have used, I have attempted to place them in the same location as Seneker did. One exception is the illustration at the end of Letter III, which in the original text appeared at the end of Letter IV.
I have several reasons for wanting to re-publish this book. For one, I think this book is unique: the deliberately obnoxious, sometimes baffling, and completely frustrating choice of words make it so. I find it to be quite humorous to read for that reason, with many passages leaving me in stitches everytime I come across them. Your laughter-mileage may vary of course.
Further, I have no reason to believe that very many copies of this text were ever produced. But given the rise of publish-on-demand technologies and the Internet, it is now rather easy to breathe new life into works that never had much of a life before.
I'd also like to think that my grandfather (now deceased) would have approved of my reproducing this text as I have here. I hope Mr. Seneker would have approved as well.
Who will enjoy reading or find other use for this book? I'm not sure exactly. Perhaps kids preparing for spelling bees or high school students studying for standardized exams. Those interested in Deadwood-era "wild-west frontier" literature might also find it a curiosity. Perhaps linguists, philologists, American historians, or other academics will find it a curious object of study. Any word-hounds and Scrabble-lovers are also prime readers of this book. And lastly, if you are troubled by the devolution of our language through texting and instant messaging, then this book can serve as an antidote for you.
I really have no idea who will read and enjoy this book, but given an easy means to publish it, I wanted to get it out there and see what happens.
The republishing of this text would not have been possible without the assistance of several people.
My parents, Paul and Cathy Stone, helped with some of the genealogical research during a visit to Tennessee. However, the most aid in this regard came from my Uncle George and Aunt Marcia Stone for not only providing family genealogical information from my grandfather's archives, but also the book Adventures in Education, 1773-1983 (see the Appendix for excerpts).
As for the republishing of the original text itself, I tried a few different approaches. I set out thinking I could save time by carefully scanning it in and relying on the scanner's OCR software to do a half-decent job of bringing the text into Microsoft Word. This was frustrating, perhaps because I was trying to use my consumer-quality scanner, but I think more because of the nature of the original being scanned: the font is not standard, the typesetting is quite uneven, and it otherwise has little flaws that makes accurate scanning difficult.
I next tried typing in the text by hand, but this was of course quite time-consuming, and so I quickly found myself attending to other projects. I realized that if I was ever going to finish this project, I would need to hire some transcription and editing help. Here is where my colleague Tricia Murphy came to the rescue. As a professional editor, she was able to carefully transcribe this difficult and unique text, and made meticulous notes where there were oddities for me to consider (well, 'oddities' is a relative term, so here I mean potential typographical errors). I very much appreciate her efforts.
As for the book's front and back covers, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. So I enlisted the help of another colleague, graphic designer Chris Monahan. He proposed several ideas, but in the end I decided to keep it as simple as possible by retaining the original, now quite weather-worn, tan-colored cover design. The only significant deviation from the original front cover, the announcement that this is the "102nd Anniversary Edition" of the text, was Chris' humorous idea. So thanks Chris for helping out with the covers.
I of course would like to thank my wife Susan for her moral support during my work on this project. She agreed early on that the book was a quirky, unique text, and thereby implied I wasn't insane for wanting to get it republished.
And lastly I'd like to thank the folks at Lulu.com for being a great service to help folks like myself get books published quickly and easily. The Internet is a marvel, and the self-publishing industry is one of the many wonders that have arisen as a result.
Thomas Ryan Stone