Friday, 9 March 2012

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Standard Editions of Utopia

Thomas More’s Utopia, which is subject to constant editing and publication, has two modern critical editions regarded as standard by scholarly consensus: Surtz and Hexter’s 1965 Yale edition, and Logan, Adams, and Miller’s 1995 Cambridge edition. To differentiate their editions from those of other editors, justify the production of their versions, and assist readers, the editors of these two editions explain their editorial processes in relation to Utopia’s textual history. Their explanations may be regarded as exemplary because Utopia has a convoluted bibliographical lineage consisting of many variant editions. The Yale and Cambridge editorial teams provide sophisticated sets of introductory and annotative material, as well as addenda, to situate their editions.

As noted in its introduction, although it takes the March 1518 Latin edition of Utopia as its copy text, the Yale edition collates another 14 Latin versions dated from 1516 to 1936. In order to justify the choice of copy text, descriptive bibliographies identify and distinguish the earliest four editions of Utopia (Louvain, 1516; Paris, 1517; Basel, March and November 1518) on the basis of their textual variances (in orthography, punctuation, omissions, etc.). Because Utopia features supplementary letters sent between More and his associates, maps, sketches, a section on the Utopian alphabet, and so on, and because each edition organizes these ancillary materials differently, the Yale editors explain their inclusion and organization of such supplementary materials around the body of More’s main text. Expository comments on Utopia are placed as endnotes, while footnotes mark syntactic or lexical variants between the 14 variant editions (see fig. 1). The editors remark that their critical apparatus leaves out small textual differences deemed inconsequential, such as spellings considered interchangeable (ex. iusticia and iustitia), the multiplicity of forms in the abbreviation and capitalization of respublica, and so forth. There is a limit, then, to the extent of the apparatus’s inclusion of details about other editions of Utopia, although the assumption of the editors is that they have provided enough information to satisfy most readers by situating their edition relative to its precursors. The Yale editors’ measured consideration of 14 other editions to complement their Latin copy text, and the wealth of their insights in that regard, certainly attests to the value of engaged, careful bibliographic inquiry. Generally, substantive variants between editions are treated fully; accidental variants are classified as being either significant enough to be mentioned or not. In a section of the Yale edition’s appendix, the editors further discuss More’s vocabulary and diction and, in doing so, they validate their selection and revision of G. C. Richards’ 1923 translation of Utopia, which furnishes the English text that parallels the Latin. The editors also briefly explain their use and revision of Richards’ work in the introduction, but they do not include annotations to explain specific alterations to the translation. In this regard, the Yale edition lacks details of particular interest to other editors of English translations of Utopia, many of whom justify their versions by mentioning (but not explicitly citing) perceived shortcomings in Richards’ translation (see for example Clarence H. Miller, Utopia, 2001, esp. xxi–xxiii). A reader interested in studying variant English translations of Utopia would find little assistance in the editorial apparatuses available to them in the many scholarly and critical editions published since the Yale edition.

Fig. 1. Footnotes marking variants between editions

Logan, Adams, and Miller’s 1995 Cambridge edition is a revised and expanded version of Logan and Adams’ 1989 Utopia. A preface in the 1995 edition explains the scope and scale of its revisions. For example, it adds a redaction of the Latin text, a textual introduction, notes, and an appendix, and it corrects errors in the original edition’s translation. Like the editors of the Yale edition, Logan, Adams, and Miller take the March 1518 Utopia as their copy text; they justify their choice in an appendix which describes and compares the earliest 4 editions of More’s text. Their preface acknowledges their modernisation of the copy text on three counts: Latin spellings, paragraphs, and punctuation. Following the preface, a short section titled “Textual Practices” explains the editors’ references to secondary texts, spelling of the names of historic figures, choices around the use of gendered language in the English translation, and so forth (see fig. 2). The next section, the introduction, is organized into two parts: interpretive contexts and the Latin text. The first part is a thematic overview of the book, while the second relates the bibliographic details the editors took into account in their selection of a copy text. This latter section of the introduction also covers more explicitly matters of modernisation (breaks into paragraphs, spelling, punctuation) mentioned in the preface. For instance, the editors explain the method by which they standardize the spelling of various words that are used with variant spellings in early editions of Utopia. In contrast to the Yale edition, the Cambridge Utopia confines itself to the textual variants between the earliest 4 editions (instead of the Yale’s 14). Footnotes to the Latin text mark especially important variants (i.e. substantive variants) between the 4 editions, but, displaying more prejudice than the Yale version, the Cambridge editors “silently disregard” many accidental variants “when they contribute nothing to an understanding of the text” (xxxiv).

Fig. 2. Prefatory section on textual practices

The editors of these two standard editions of Utopia thus do much to situate their editions in relation to others and provide bibliographic information to readers. Much of the editorial apparatus of both books, in the prefaces, annotations, introductions, appendices and so on, details the specific choices of the editors to these ends (in their selection of a copy text, treatment of accidental and substantive variants, and so on). In light of the tendency of other, less well-known editions of Utopia to note the deviations that they make from the Yale and Cambridge versions, it seems that one of the key reasons why the Yale and Cambridge editions are regarded as standard is that their editors so thoroughly situate and explain their publications in their editorial apparatuses. The paratext of the Yale and Cambridge editions is thus exemplary. However, the editors of both editions remark on the limits of what they include in their apparatuses. Accidental variants between editions, for example, are regularly omitted, as are specific instances of modernisation. Although both editions take the March 1518 Utopia as the copy text for their translations, both omit, without notice or explanation, the extended sections of poems by More and Erasmus, the “Epigrammata Clarissimi Disertissimi,” which conclude the original. As thorough as the Yale and Cambridge editions are, then, and as much as they provide a valuable example of how to collate variant editions into a standard text, there are limits to their bibliographical comprehensiveness.

Works Cited

More, Thomas. The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, vol. 4. Edited by E. Surtz, S. J. and J. H. Hexter. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965.

---. Utopia. Edited by G. M. Logan, R. M. Adams, and C. H. Miller. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

---. Utopia. Edited by Clarence H. Miller. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.

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