Michael Hunter, Editing Early Modern Texts: An Introduction to Principles and Practice (Houndmills, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 171 pp. Common KnoWLEDgE In 1995 Michael Hunter published in The Seventeenth Century an article called âHow to Edit a Seventeenth-Century Manuscript,â and he has now produced a small manual giving expanded advice on the scholarly editing of âearly modernâ texts, printed as well as manuscript. Rather unexpectedly and unrealistically, he claims that âMost of all, the book is aimed at users of editions.â It is true that any âuserâ who can be persuaded to read through these pages will be a more perceptive one. But prospective editors will surely be the primary audience, and they will find here a quick, and largely sensible, survey of matters they need to think about. They should, however, read critically: as with all introductions, beginners (for whom introductions are intended) will be misled if they take for granted that they are being presented with an infallible synopsis of accumulated knowledge and experience. They will have no way of knowing, of course, when a summary of previous work is inadequate (as is the account of the Greg-Bowers approach in chapter 5) or wrong (as when in chapter 3 the âtheory of copy textâ is said to treat accidentals as âtrivialâ). But any reader of a logical turn of mind will be able to tell, for example, that certain distinctions are not sufficiently sharp â such as that between theoretical issues (which do not vary according to the historical period addressed) and practical considerations (which may well vary), or between transcription (where the aim is to make no alterations) and critical editing (where the aim is to introduce alterations). And careless wording can lead readers to unintended inferences, as when Hunter seems to condone the view that editions âaimed at scholars seriously interested in the author in questionâ will need to be âsupplemented for a general readership by more popular editionsâ: one must then ask whether he is defining general readers as unserious and why an editor should cater to unserious needs. Nevertheless, the book does contain a number of helpful discussions, such as the historical account of electronic editing and the treatment of modernizing. Indeed, if it exposes more beginning editors to the idea that modernizing âis liable to obscure aspects of the meaning of the originalâ and if it causes them to question whether âmodernisation serves much purpose at all,â the book will have provided a useful service. â G. Thomas Tanselle doi 10.1215/0961754x-2008-014
Common Knowledge – Duke University Press
Published: Oct 1, 2008
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