‘La’ is short for ‘Library of America,’ a nonprofit organization founded in 1979 to preserve and celebrate American literature. La publishes authoritative editions of important literary works, mostly by American authors.
Typically, La produces handsomely bound volumes that present a wide selection of an author’s writings like novels, essays, plays, poetry, or extracts from longer poems, speeches, and letters, aiming to offer a representative sampling of the writer’s range and achievement. Editors are chosen for their expertise in the featured writer; they aim to provide as accurate as possible a representation of an author’s intentions.
La volumes are known for their editorial completeness. They include scholarly textual apparatus (the editorial summary) that supplies historical context and critical insights into the materials presented. They frequently feature chronologies and notes on sources consulted during preparation. The care taken with research ensures that the transcription is accurate, that any annotations provided are reliable, and that these books are used as primary sources.
What La editions do most often is establish what was published earlier so it can be studied with confidence now and perhaps generations hence, too.
In summary, ‘La’ means shorthand for the Library of America in book publishing. This nonprofit exists to perpetuate classics from our nation’s written past and publish newly assembled collections designed to expand its literary canon beyond familiar titles whose familiarity had long ago settled into cliché.