Editing Early Modern Texts: An Introduction to Principles and Practice

Editing Early Modern Texts: An Introduction to Principles and Practice 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 “How to Edit a Seventeenth-Century Manuscript,” and he has now produced a small manual giving expanded advice on the scholarly editing of “early modern” texts, printed as well as manuscript. Rather unexpectedly and unrealistically, he claims that “Most of all, the book is aimed at users of editions.” It is true that any “user” 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 “theory of copy text” is said to treat accidentals as “trivial”). But any reader of a logical turn of mind will be able to tell, for example, that certain distinctions are not sufficiently sharp — 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 “aimed at scholars seriously interested in the author in question” will need to be “supplemented for a general readership by more popular editions”: 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 “is liable to obscure aspects of the meaning of the original” and if it causes them to question whether “modernisation serves much purpose at all,” the book will have provided a useful service. — G. Thomas Tanselle doi 10.1215/0961754x-2008-014 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Common Knowledge Duke University Press

Editing Early Modern Texts: An Introduction to Principles and Practice

Common Knowledge, Volume 14 (3) – Oct 1, 2008

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
© 2008 by Duke University Press
ISSN
0961-754X
eISSN
0961-754X
D.O.I.
10.1215/0961754X-2008-014
Publisher site
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Abstract

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 “How to Edit a Seventeenth-Century Manuscript,” and he has now produced a small manual giving expanded advice on the scholarly editing of “early modern” texts, printed as well as manuscript. Rather unexpectedly and unrealistically, he claims that “Most of all, the book is aimed at users of editions.” It is true that any “user” 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 “theory of copy text” is said to treat accidentals as “trivial”). But any reader of a logical turn of mind will be able to tell, for example, that certain distinctions are not sufficiently sharp — 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 “aimed at scholars seriously interested in the author in question” will need to be “supplemented for a general readership by more popular editions”: 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 “is liable to obscure aspects of the meaning of the original” and if it causes them to question whether “modernisation serves much purpose at all,” the book will have provided a useful service. — G. Thomas Tanselle doi 10.1215/0961754x-2008-014

Journal

Common KnowledgeDuke University Press

Published: Oct 1, 2008

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