Again, I appreciate the detailed feedback! The gender issue is something Billy and I are tackling on a case by case basis. There are times when Thoreau says “a man” or “he,” “his,” and generalizing such pronouns would detract from the clarity or distinction of the subject as an individual.
Our primary intent when dealing with gender is to update plural pronouns when he meant “mankind,” “people,” or “humanity.” The argument being that using these more contemporary plural pronouns may ring as truer to Thoreau’s intent than the way plural “man” or “men” comes across to many of today’s readers.
Billy said something interesting about this to me recently, and I think it nicely sums up the dynamic between us as co-editors:
“I’m in a curious position, because my role in this project is essentially to play defense on behalf of Thoreau. I’ll read Matt’s edits side by side with the original text, and will resist changes that don’t positively add to a contemporary reading experience.”