Friday, March 19, 2010

What William Proctor Williams said...

Noted bibliographic and textual studies scholar William Proctor Williams was at the ASC today for a question and answer period about... well... bibliographic studies. So how could I resist asking him for advice on how to proceed with Merry Devil? Greg, in a piece I previously discussed, apoplectically declared that the only acceptable way of editing a text is to get as close as possible to the authors original work, but even Greg admits that this isn't possible in the case of Merry Devil.

So what does the great Dr. Williams have to say?

I don't think it matters who wrote it because the process from getting from whoever wrote it (maybe plural) is going to be the same, so treat it like Hamlet. No play was ever printed from foul papers, and feel free to quote me on this, no printer would accept it. They weren't in business to get PhDs or MFAs in Renaissance studies, and they wouldn't have their journeyman compositors try to set type from foul papers. The steps are just the same as Hamlet or King Lear, or anything else. Whoever prints it is going to have to take it into the Stationer's Company, and there the process is the same for everyone else. 
So there you go. From the man who literally wrote the book on bibliographic and textual studies (An Introduction to Bibliographical and Textual Studies). It's already the course that I'm following, but now I get to do it with Williams' blessing. 

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