Thursday, 2 February 2012

Scholarly Editions: The Facsimile Redux in the Digital Archive

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The facsimile has made a comeback in the digital age.  The facsimile became a common variant of the scholarly edition in the late 1960's and 1970's, issued by such presses as Scolar [sic] Press (Menston, Engl.), Da Capo Press (Amsterdam), The Facsimile Society (Columbia UP), and Scholar's Facsimiles and Reprints (Ann Arbor), and Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Amsterdam).  Some editions included a fairly substantial introduction.  Others (like many of the Scolar editions) provided only a very brief, often single-paragraph, introduction.  I consider these “scholarly” because they present the text in a way that presents textual information that is of scholarly interest, albeit in a visual rather than an analytical form.  This new emphasis on the original form of the literary work coincided with a new emphasis on the materiality of the book (see e.g. Wilson). More recently, Randall McLeod has observed the power of the photo-facsimile to liberate the text from accumulated projections and interventions of meaning.

Fig. 1. This edition of Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia presents an interesting double-remove from the original object.  The backside of the title page describe it as a "Facsimile reproduction of the 1891 photographic facsimile of the original 1590 edition published in a limited edition by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., Ltd., and edited by Oskar Sommer."

We see a similar emphasis on the facsimile in this incunable period of digital editing, but now the exemplar is commonly matched with a transcription, sometimes, but not always, marked-up in XML using the TEI schema.  This combination of image and text forms the basis of most Web-delivered digital archives. (See for examples the Donne Variorum facsimiles, or The Rossetti Archive).  Less commonly are these materials the basis for original textual scholarship and corresponding apparatus of the type one sees in the mature print facsimile exemplified in Jeanne Shami’s edition of a manuscript of John Donne’s 1622 Gunpowder Plot sermon (with authorial corrections).  This edition presents its material in a form that is similar to the digital archive.  Taking advantage of the full, two-page opening, it presents on the left a page facsimile of the exemplar, and on the right, the corresponding transcription.  Interestingly, the lines in the transcription are numbered, just as they are in XML transcriptions to enable correlation between the facsimile and the transcription.  Along the foot of the page are the major variant readings of the only other witness, the printed text found in Fifty Sermons (1649).  So then, while the page arrangements are similar to those of the interface to a digital archive, the content presents more than the simple primary materials.  It includes, in addition to an extensive introduction to the manuscript, a textual apparatus comprising a record of variants, and, at the back, a summary table of Donne’s corrections and a section of paleographic commentary titled “Transcription Details.”
Fig. 2. An opening from Shami's edition of John Donne's 1622 Gunpowder Plot Sermon.

Ernie Sullivan’s edition of The First and Second Dalhousie Manuscripts places the facsimile of the exemplar and the matching transcription side-by-side, but on the same page, rather than on facing pages.  Although the book is folio-sized, the page is not large enough, or not laid-out well enough, to give the reader a legible facsimile image.  There is also a great deal of wasted white space.  In contrast to the Kent State edition of Sidney's Arcadia, and other facsimiles common in the 1960s and 1970s, this one provides much of the supporting documentation that one would expect of a newly edited text.  It has a substantial introduction and note on the transcription at the front, and at the back, a section of explanatory notes, a section on "Manuscript and Print Locations of the Poems," a "Textual Apparatus," and an "Index" to the contents.  That is, this edition, like Shami’s, is the work of original textual scholarship.  The difference between these and other, similar editions, is the presence of page facsimiles of the original artifact (illegible though they may be).

Fig. 3. A page from Ernie Sullivan’s edition of The First and Second Dalhousie Manuscripts

Works Cited

McGann, Jerome, ed. The Complete Writings and Pictures of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: A Hypermedia Archive.

McLeod, Randall.  “UN Editing Shak-speare.” Sub-Stance no. 33/4 (1982): 37. 

Shami, Jeanne, ed. John Donne’s 1622 Gunpowder Plot Sermon: A Parallel-Text Edition. Language & literature series volume 22. Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1996.

Sidney, Philip. The Covntesse of Pembrokes Arcadia. Ed. Carl Dennis. [Kent, Ohio]: Kent State University Press, 1970.

Stringer, Gary, ed. DigitalDonne: the Online Variorum

Sullivan, Ernest W. II., ed. The First and Second Dalhousie Manuscripts: Poems and Prose. Facs. ed. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1988.

Wilson, F. P. Shakespeare and the New Bibliography. Rev. and ed. Helen Gardner. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970.

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