The Association for Documentary Editing was created in 1978 to promote documentary editing through the cooperation and exchange of ideas among the community of editors.
One of the prime motivations behind the formation of the ADE was to create a forum for exchanging ideas and setting standards that reflect the ADE's commitment to the highest professional standards of accuracy of transcription, editorial method, and conceptual indexing.
The primary foci of documentary editing traditionally have been historical and literary figures and collections and the ADE includes both disciplines. As the profession has expanded, so have the subjects, which now encompass the sciences, medicine, philosophy, religion, and the arts as well.
The majority of editing done on ADE-associated projects is carried out by university-based editors, researchers, and faculty members. Some are multi-volume editions that are being compiled by full-time staffs, while others are solo projects.
The projects represented by the ADE are working to publish edited texts so that they can be more readily available and accessible, in the expectation that they will be then be widely used. The most common form of publication is the letterpress (book) edition, which ranges in scope from a highly selective single volume to more comprehensive projects that produce multi-volume sets. Virtually all of these editions, both the single and the multi-volume ones, are published by university presses. These editions consist of transcripts of the original documents, together with annotation to provide context.
Most major university libraries have the majority of these volumes and sets. College libraries and larger public libraries are likely to have some of them. Finding sets of the microfilm editions may be more problematic, although many libraries can request both the microfilm and printed volumes from other repositories through the interlibrary loan service.
Another form of publication is image-based. In earlier years this generally meant microform, but increasingly such editions have been delivered on CD-ROM and the Internet. Image-based editions, usually not text-searchable, rely on context provided by the editors such as indexes or descriptions of the documents to locate relevant material.
ADE members are also working on a new generation of editions, delivered on the Internet that combine the strengths of both media. Some of these editions offer both image and transcribed documents, while others offer text-searchable versions of letterpress editions.