Friday, 6 July 2012

Defining the Scholarly Edition: a reconsideration

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It might be a good idea to step back (following on the previous post) and make a distinction between the scholarly edition and the critical edition.  We might define the former as any instantiation of a text that is produced according to some scholarly principles for use by scholars. Thus for some scholarly uses, the establishment of a text and analysis of its history and variant states might be of foremost importance, as is the case for many literary texts designed for use by professional scholars. For other scholarly purposes, the contextual information and commentary around the text (the introductions and the annotations, for example) might be the most important work of the edition.  This might be true for texts designed for student scholars, or for use in disciplines other than literary studies.  Even in literary studies, the textual work of an edition is more important for some works and some historical periods than others.

A student edition of Terence, designed to enable the student to make inter-linear translations (1521)
Fisher Rare Book Library B-10 5336

A scholarly edition of Terence with an emphasis on commentary (1544)
Fisher Rare Book Library hutt 00012

In his emphasis on the textual work of the scholarly edition (as opposed to the contextualizing work) Shillingsburg arguable blurs the line between the scholarly edition in general and the critical edition in particular.  A critical edition focuses more fully on the text. D. C. Greetham defines a scholar edition as an edition that attempts to establish a text through the exercise of editorial judgment and/or choice, as opposed to merely reproducing a text already in existence (347).  It should contain “an apparatus that presents the evidence used in the text’s construction and that lists the variants of the authoritative states... ”; and “since critical editions are eclectic [i.e., in the sense of requiring choice among variant alternatives],” their preparers “must have some principle of eclecticism, some basis on which to judge the authority of the variant readings and states of the text and on which to make emendations” (Williams and Abbott, 57).

Works Cited

Greetham, D. C. Textual Scholarship. New York: Garland, 1994.

Terence. Comoediae. Paris, 1521.

--------. Comoediae. Venice, 1544.

Williams, Bill and Craig Abbott. An Introduction to Bibliography and Textual Studies. 2d ed. New York: MLA, 1989.

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