It's not often that a novelist gets to have a second bite of the proverbial apple, but Nicholas Delbanco has been nibbling away. Delbanco's series of novels, the Sherbrooke trilogy, was published more than 30 years ago by William Morrow.

The first novel, Possession, came out in 1977, followed by Sherbrooke in 1978, and Stillness in 1980. Delbanco had published seven earlier novels, but the Sherbrooke trilogy established him as a significant voice in American literature.

The thing is, Delbanco always wanted the three novels to be published as one, and this August Dalkey Archive Press will do just that, calling the 800-page work Sherbrookes. "I thought I would like a chance to do what I always kind of wanted to do, which is turn it into one novel," Delbanco says in the second-floor writing den of his home near the University of Michigan campus, where he directed the M.F.A. writing program until his retirement in 2002. "So I've been ruminating kind of close up about what it means as an older person to look at the work of one's youth. The protagonist of Possession is a 76-year-old Vermonter called Judah Sherbrooke and I wrote about him when I was 33 or 34. Now I'm a whole lot closer to his age than I am to the age of the kid who wrote about him."

Reworking Sherbrookes dovetailed with Delbanco's other recent project, Lastingness: The Art of Old Age (Grand Central). In it, Delbanco writes about artists, men and women, who continued, or reached, new creative heights as they neared the end of their careers. Delbanco himself turns 70 next year and "the question of what it means to be productive in one's old age has remained of interest to me." Continuing to produce work late in life is part of "self definition. It really is a way of knowing who you are because of who you were."

Delbanco, who is also a critic, said he somewhat surprised himself by how much he managed to get right in the work that was, at heart, speculation by a young novelist. "I was kind of impressed by how much that kid knew," Delbanco says, laughing. "But I was also appalled by—let me put it this way: the good news is I'm a better writer now than I was then. The bad news is the same. I thought, how did they let me publish this?"

Jeremy M. Davies, Delbanco's editor at Dalkey, says he wanted to repackage the books to give a new generation of readers a chance to discover "a master prose stylist." "The Sherbrooke books are his great American triptych, and his first major accomplishment as an author, and they deserve to have a new audience," Davies says.

Critics at the time lauded Delbanco's trilogy for what was perceived to have been a maturation of his writing style, dropping intricate puns and word plays that marked his earlier works in favor of a more sustained focus on character and narrative. Delbanco himself sees the change. "I'm much more interested in power and reserve now than I was when I was sort of full of display and kind of show-offy," he says.

"I changed nothing important," Delbanco writes in the afterword. "I added nothing of note. The characters and conflict and action and tone stay the same." But he did rework the copy itself. "Why not, I asked myself, improve what needed improving; why leave a phrase intact when it could be with profit rephrased?" Besides, he writes, "I'm the sole proprietor of the territory of Sherbrookes and can alter its property lines."

Scott Martelle is the author of The Fear Within: Spies, Commies, and American Democracy on Trial (Rutgers University Press).