Williams and Abbott, "Textual Criticism" and "Editorial Procedure"

"Manuscript": in print culture, the author's handwritten composition later used by editors to print an edition.  How many kinds of manuscripts might there be for a given work of literature?  Which one is most "authoritative" and how might the others be important, as well?

"Edition": in print culture, the result of an editor's decisions about how to represent a given work of literature, either starting from a manuscript or manuscripts, or from one or more previous print editions.  What is the result of an editor's choice of "copy-text" for an edition?  What errors might arise from that choice?  What intentional changes are editors capable of making and likely to make?  See the "provenance" of the existing editions of Sir Thomas Malory for a famous and convoluted example of how editors' choices shape readers' interpretive options.

Kinds of edition:  Sir Philip Sidney, Astrophil and Stella, #6.  Editio princeps ["first edition"]


A pirated edition published in 1591, five years after Sidney's death. (Note the spelling of the title.)

Original Spelling: Modernized Spelling: Norton Anthology, 8th Edition, 2006
Some louers speake, when they their Muses entertaine,
Of hopes begot by feare, of wot not what desires,
Of force of heau'nly beames infusing hellish paine,
Of liuing deaths, dere wounds, faire storms, and freesing fires:
Some one his song in Ioue and Ioues strange tales attires,
Bordred with buls and swans, powdred with golden raine:
Another, humbler wit, to shepherds pipe retires,
Yet hiding royall bloud full oft in rurall vaine.
To some a sweetest plaint a sweetest stile affords:
While teares poure out his inke, and sighes breathe out his words,
His paper pale despaire, and pain his pen doth moue.
I can speake what I feele, and feele as much as they,
But thinke that all the map of my state I display
When trembling voyce brings forth, that I do Stella loue.
Some lovers speak, when they their muses entertain,
Of hopes begot by fear, of wot not what desires,
Of force of heavenly beams infusing hellish pain,
Of living deaths, dear wounds, fair storms, and freezing fires;
     Some one his song in Jove and Jove’s strange tales attires,
Broidered with bulls and swans, powdered with golden rain;
Another humbler wit to shepherd’s pipe retires,
Yet hiding royal blood full oft in rural vein.
     To some a sweetest plaint a sweetest style affords,
     While tears pour out his ink, and sighs breathe out his words,
His paper pale Despair, and pain his pen doth move.
     I can speak what I feel, and feel as much as they,
     But think that all the map of my state I display,
When trembling voice brings forth that I do Stella love.

Documentary editing: producing a precise copy in newly-set type of a manuscript or early print edition, preserving all "errors" as well as apparently authoritative text (compare "quasi-facsimile" transcription of title pages).

Critical editing: 1) recensio--establish the descent of all MS and print editions in a "stemma" that determines which are most authoritative and which most corrupted, and which contain unique and authoritative substantive variants; 2) examinatio--discover variant readings in all authoritative MS and early print editions; 3) divinatio--reject erroneous readings and correct them by conjectural emendation, reconstructing the author's intentions and intuiting cause of the scribe's (MS) or typesetter's (print) mistakes.

"Conjectural emendation": filing in gaps or resolving dilemmas in an imperfect text following common rules to turn corrupted text (crux / cruces) into the text which the scribe miscopied or the typesetter mis-set--lectio brevior (the shorter reading is preferable because scribes tended to add clarification as they encountered difficult passages); lectio difficilor potior (AKA, "durior lectio"--the more difficult or harder reading is more likely because scribes and typesetters substituted familiar words for difficult ones); homoioteleuton (same endings) and homeoarchy (same beginnings) produce "eye-skip" when the scribe or typesetter returns to the exemplar and encounters a line that ends with or begins with the same combination of characters or words as were last copied, omitting words or sentences which stand between the two similar passages.

"Copy-text" editing vs. "Historical-critical editing": seeking a single best early text from which all variants can be eliminated to create a single authoritative text; vs. looking at "authoritative states" of the text as independent authorities for different "works," as in the 1608 Quarto (The History of King Lear) and 1623 First Folio (The Tragedy of King Lear) which constitute two different, but authoritative forms of King Lear.

Authority of texts (greatest to least): manuscript or print corrected in the author's own hand (latest date best); first editions if the author controlled production; later editions if first editions are demonstrably corrupted (see the 1591 Sidney above!).