Buying Books for English 330
When possible, I have set up hyperlinks from the syllabus to online scholarly editions of assigned readings. See the "Online Scholarly Primary Sources for Medievalists" link here or on the home page's main menu. It would be possible to get access to acceptable editions of all the assignments for this course online, but prudent students will remember that reading online copies of extensive texts in a "foreign language" like Middle English can be much more difficult than reading them on paper. More importantly, the primary source for the course, The Riverside Chaucer, is almost 50% notes, glossaries, and other aides to interpretation. Prudent students take note of this and use those aids rather than attempting to guess what is going on in the text when it gets difficult. This editorial apparatus is so valuable that the online editions are finally most useful for quick access when you already know what the text means, as when you are preparing a tale presentation for class and want an accurate digital direct quotation for a PowerPoint slide or web page. For that reason, I strongly recommend that you invest in a paper copy of the RC, though you ought to be able to avoid paying the college bookstore's premium price for a new edition if you want to save money.
Geoffrey Chaucer. The Riverside Chaucer. Ed. Larry D. Benson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987 (and many reprints)
Hardcover: 1327 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company; 3rd edition (February, 1987)
Edited by Larry Benson, this third edition of F.N. Robinson's original edition is the current scholarly text for Chaucer studies, and it is expensive ($84 list / $75 Amazon new / $45 or lower online used). Nevertheless, its glossaries and explanatory notes are indispensable aids to students and publishing scholars, alike. It is also available in paperback (1988, ISBN: 0192821091) for $45 new, but you will notice that its new and used price are nearly the same, and both hover around the cost of a used hardcover edition. That is no accident,. It's the marketplace's supply/demand function in action. No sane person will sell the paperback for less than a used hardcover because both contain the same text. For my money, I'd rather have hardcover. The paperback is a weaker binding trying to hold together the same 1327 pages that the sewn hardcover binding struggles to contain. In your work with early print Chaucer editions in the archives, you will gain a great deal of respect for the damage time can do to even a leather-bound edition. Paper bindings used to be a temporary convenience to protect the book while the customer carried it to the bookbinder to get a real binding "between boards." Today's paperbacks are a testimony to the transition of print books to disposable commodities that nobody expects to be around for more than a generation.
Buying it used at an independent bookstore:
As an old-fashioned scholar who loves printed books and old bookstores, I would urge you to find the "bricks-and-mortar" used bookstores in your area and ask them if they can sell you a copy of the RC. If you insist on using the Internet, you can still help to support your local bookstores and those in other communities if you search their catalogues online via www.abe.com. This site operates as a collective search engine for client bookstores online catalogues, and they do not charge additional or hidden fees like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Make sure you get the right ISBN. You also could share a copy between two friends with compatible schedules. consult the Riverside notes and glossary to use with an online edition based on Robinson's 2nd edition (accept no less!).