Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Notes on Shakespeare and the Rise of the Editor - Conclusion

"What earlier chapters have not emphasized enough is the fact that the process of 'perfecting' a play text did not stop with its transmission into print but extended to its readers" (196).

See the address to the reader in Thomas Lodge's translation of Seneca's works (2nd ed: STC 22214, 1620): "If thou wilt Correct, bee considerate before thou attempt, lest in pretending to roote out one, thou commit many errors" (196).

Writers and publishers of the early modern period commonly begged pardon for the errors that had passed into the printed editions of their texts, and offered that the typographical errors could be either be ignored or corrected by any keen eyed readers of their texts (198).

Addresses to the reader apologizing for errors and inviting the reader to correct the text demonstrate that printers of early modern texts understood and treated their product as imperfect, and perfectable by the consumer of that text (199).

The preparation of copy text was function-specific rather than agent-specific; several agents, including annotating readers, correcting authors, printers, and typesetters would have corrected a text as it was committed and re-committed to print (201).

"While copy-text editors value and strive to recover the author's first or second thoughts imperfectly reproduced by the printed text, the un-editors idealize the material integrity of the early playbooks by arguing in favor of their presentation to the modern reader in photographic facsimiles or digital images. Neither approach considers the possibility that the early modern printed text was understood as a process, as opposed to a finite and definitive state anterior or immanent to the material witness itself" (204).

Since the early modern printed text was a process, it is less valuable to view a single printed book as a perfected artifact of the print process. Likewise, just because early modern readers would have viewed a perfected text, even by a non-authorial agent, as preferable to a non-perfected one does not mean that a 21st century editor necessarily should do the same. Editing is intrinsically linked to its broader cultural context (204).


I think Massai concludes her own work rather nicely with this: "However editors decide to carry out [their] task, a better understanding of ow early modern printed playbooks were produced seems vitally important to ensure that readers are not misled into thinking that what they are offered are texts which reflect stable authorial or theatrical intentions" (205).


Massai, Sonia. Shakespeare and the Rise of the Editor. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. 2007. Print.

No comments:

Post a Comment