Monday, January 3, 2011

Notes on "What is an Editor?"

"Textual practice for the past twenty years has been increasingly faced with the necessity of abandoning the notion that was basic to the bibliography practiced by Greg and Bowers, that by comparing texts we can arrive at a single, authentic, original, a reconstruction of the author's final manuscript" (117).

Playtexts are built with a fluidity that enabled them to change as the conditions of performance change, and thus the printed text represents only a single stage of an ongoing process. Writers complaining that players have altered their scripts in performance helps demonstrate this point (117).

Uuncorrected sheets were bound into books with corrected ones, and there was nothing in print technology that required this: it is merely reflective of a Renaissance mindset that saw printed books as a fluid medium (117). I disagree with this, partially based on some of the other notes in this journal: hiring a proofreader was an added expense, and wouldn't always be done, and since time was money, when a proof reader was employed, even if only checking for typographical errors, it would mean idle press time to stop the press for the ten minutes Orgel says would have been necessary.

The fundamental assumption of most editors is that there is a "perfect" text that the editor should be true to in creating new editions of that text (118).

Producing a modernized text is not the best way to preserve the print archeology of the originals, but it is necessary to make Shakespeare accessible to the majority of modern readers, and thus the two key tasks of an editor are irreconcilable (119).

"Every facsimile is identical to every other one, and in this respect facsimiles falsify the essential nature of the Renaissance book" (121).


Orgel observes the material instability of the printed book, and the material instability of text itself ("proud" vs "provd" in Sonnet 129). He never says what an editor is, or proscribes a practice for editing, but instead illustrates that editors will often seek two contradictory goals in creating their editions. Editorial logic will, of necessity, be left to the individual judgment of the editor and the needs of the editor's audience.


Orgel, Stephen. "What is an Editor?" Shakespeare: The Critical Context. Stephen Orgel and Sean Keilen Ed. New York: Garland Publishing. 1999. p. 117 - 123. Print. Dual pagination is given for all works in this volume, but since the table of contents follows the pagination running at the bottom center of each page, this is the pagination that I have followed in my citations.

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