A Guide to Documentary Editing
What Is Documentary Editing? Where Did It Come From?
Don’t be embarrassed if you aren’t quite sure what we mean by “documentary editing.” When the first edition of this Guide appeared in 1987, the author found that her local bookstore on the Upper West Side of Manhattan had shelved a copy in the “Movies and Film” section. When she pointed out the error and explained what the book was about, the store manager asked perplexedly, “Where the heck should we shelve it?”
Thus we offer no apologies for providing a brief introduction that explains what documentary editing is and how it came to be.
If this scholarly specialty had appeared overnight in the last decade, we could spare our readers the “history” as well as the definition of documentary editing. Unfortunately, this lively and productive area of scholarly endeavor evolved over more than a half century, and it would be difficult for a newcomer to understand many of the books and articles to which we’ll refer without some understanding of the intellectual debates and technological innovations that generated these discussions. We hope that our readers will find a brief account of these developments entertaining as well as instructive.
We also owe our readers a warning about a peculiar trait of documentary editors that creates a special challenge for students of the craft: practitioners have typically neglected to furnish the public with careful expositions of the principles and practices by which they pursue their goals. Indeed, it was editors’ failure to write about editing that made the first edition of this Guide necessary in the 1980s. It’s hard to overemphasize the impact of modern American scholarly editing in the third quarter of the twentieth century: volumes of novels, letters, diaries, statesmen’s papers, political pamphlets, and philosophical and scientific treatises were published in editions that claimed to be scholarly, with texts established and verified according to the standards of the academic community. Yet the field of scholarly editing grew so quickly that many of its principles were left implicit in the texts or annotation of the volumes themselves.
This lapse was most apparent in the area of noncritical, or documentary, editing, where editors seemed peculiarly reluctant to publish discussions of their goals and methods. This methodology emerged in the United States after World War II and was distinct from the more traditional textual, or critical, method of editing being applied to American literary texts during that period. Even though these methods often overlapped—with the text for one source in a series receiving noncritical treatment and that for another source reflecting a critical approach—American scholars often neglected to define the occasions on which each technique should be used, much less spell out the different methods appropriate to each.
The very term documentary editing did not become current until the late 1970s, a quarter of a century after the publication of the first volumes that employed the methodology. It distinguished this technique from the more traditional approach of textual editors, who consciously applied critical judgment and scholarly experience to produce new, editorially emended texts for their audiences. Such textual editors were the heirs of classical scholarship, a field in which scholars were forced to rely on a variety of scribal copies instead of on original and authentic documents. To divest scribal texts of corrupt words and phrases introduced over centuries of copying and recopying, classicists devised complex methods to recover words, characters, and phrases of the lost archetype or original from which these copies had flowed.
The invention of the printing press by no means halted such problems for scholars. Compositors corrupted the texts of the works they set in type as surely and regularly as medieval scribes had distorted the writings of the authors of ancient Greece and Rome. To meet the challenge of this form of textual corruption, British scholars adapted the methods of classical and biblical textual editing to meet the needs of the variants in early printings of Shakespearean dramas, a process that culminated in the twentieth-century modification of the theory of copy-text for modern works.
Obviously, methods devised to serve the needs of scholars seeking an ideal, nonhistorical text did not serve those of political, intellectual, and social history. Here other editorial methods were required, and they emerged in a series of editions of American statesmen’s papers published in the 1950s and 1960s. These volumes are distinguished from critical editions in part by the sources on which their scholarly texts are based. Documentary editors usually prepare modern editions from source materials that can themselves be described as documents—artifacts inscribed on paper or a similar medium, or recorded by audiovisual means, whose unique physical characteristics and original nature give them special evidentiary value. The significance of such sources demands that their editors provide editorial texts that themselves will communicate as much of the sources’ evidentiary value as possible.
Generally, this means a far more limited level of editorial intervention than occurs when the same sources are edited critically. The documentary editor’s goal is not to supply the words or phrases of a vanished archetype but rather to preserve the nuances of a source that has survived the ravages of time. Documentary editing, although noncritical in terms of classical textual scholarship, is hardly an uncritical endeavor. It demands as much intelligence, insight, and hard work as its critical counterpart, combined with a passionate determination to preserve for modern readers the nuances of evidence.
The years after the preparation of the first edition of the Guide in the early 1980s saw extraordinary changes in the world of American scholarly editing. On the one hand, editorial specialists and the general public were well served by the creation of a number of new resources for study and new forums for discussing the art and craft of editing. At the same time, American editors were blessed or cursed with an embarrassment of technological riches from the information revolution that reshaped the ways in which the world shared words and images.
At first, computer technology created new ways in which editors published the books that contained texts and notes, but then the same innovations created new methods for generating those materials. In the last decade of the twentieth century, the Internet and the World Wide Web opened new avenues for publishing documents of every kind to an audience larger than traditional editors had ever imagined. To complicate the picture further, the economic realities of American scholarship in the humanities quietly downsized the “typical” editorial project. This model has changed from a long-term undertaking with a good-sized permanent staff and reliable financial support from outside sources to one in which one or two scholars or enthusiastic laypeople tried to apply the stringent standards of the editorial community to smaller bodies of texts, relying on their own skills and resources. This prospect only makes the need for an up-to-date guide to documentary editing more urgent.
With this, the third edition of the Guide, the Association for Documentary Editing recognizes that the conditions that have twice demanded revisions of this book will neither stop nor diminish. Fortunately, modern technology has not only changed the way editors do their work but also provided a solution to the problem of keeping this collection of advice and experience current. As in the first two editions of the Guide (1987 and 1998), we will try to anticipate problems and suggest solutions on printed pages. Whenever possible, the print Guide will lead interested editors and would-be editors not only to published books and essays but also to ongoing informational sources (print and electronic) where they can find the newest standards in informational technology of special use and interest to this field. But we now have the incredible luxury of a book edition of the Guide published simultaneously with a Web-based component that can be kept up-to-date for present and future students of editing. (The interrelationship of the paper-based Guide and its Web companion are discussed at length in the first chapter.)
I. Early American Documentary Editing
Happy as the prospect of Web publication will be for future editors, we cannot ignore earlier work in the field. Documentary editors, like any other mortals, thought, worked, and wrote within the bounds and limitations of their own times and their own educational and professional backgrounds. Thus, a brief survey of the evolution of the craft of American scholarly editing must precede a survey of its present state and an assessment of its future.
The very tradition of documentary publication in the United States is older than the nation itself. From the beginning, Americans were almost painfully aware of the historic role that their new republic would play, and both government and individual citizens showed this concern by publishing the records of the young society and its founders. As early as 1774, Ebenezer Hazard planned a series of volumes of “American State Papers” that would “lay the Foundation of a good American history.” By the time Hazard published the first volume of Historical Collections in 1792, the cause of documentary publication had been joined by the Massachusetts Historical Society, which issued the first volume of its collections of New England records in that same year.
The major phase of American documentary editing began in the second quarter of the nineteenth century, when Jared Sparks of Harvard initiated his work. Sparks traveled widely to collect the manuscripts on which he based his Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution, the Writings of George Washington, and the Life and Correspondence of Gouverneur Morris. In 1831 the federal government committed itself to the publication of its own records by inaugurating the American State Papers series. In the decades that followed, later generations of filiopietistic editors produced volumes of such varying quality as William Jay’s Life of John Jay: with Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers and Charles Francis Adams’s far superior edition of the papers of his grandfather John Adams.
At the close of the nineteenth century there was a new burst of editorial activity. Earlier editors of American correspondence and public papers considered themselves “men of letters,” but as the division of academic disciplines developed, there was an increased sense of professionalism and adherence to standards. Some editions, like Henry Cabot Lodge’s scissors-and-paste version of the Works of Alexander Hamilton, represented no improvement over earlier models. But others, like the editions prepared by the brothers Paul Leicester Ford and Worthington Chauncey Ford, showed considerable textual sophistication for the time.
As the twentieth century opened, the new professional historians were ready to make their voices felt in urging a systematic program of documentary publication. President Theodore Roosevelt, himself a historian and biographer, directed the creation of a committee to report on documentary publication. Worthington Ford chaired the committee, and J. Franklin Jameson, the great historian of the Carnegie Institution, acted as its secretary. The committee’s report of 1908 urged the creation of a permanent federal commission on “national historical publications” as well as the revival of the American State Papers series, which had been discontinued in 1862. The American Historical Association urged adoption of the committee’s recommendation, but nothing was done.
Piecemeal efforts were not wanting in those decades. In 1925 Congress authorized the project that led to the inception of The Territorial Papers. The Library of Congress continued to sponsor Worthington Ford’s edition of the Journals of the Continental Congress and also began work on an edition of the Writings of George Washington. And at the Carnegie Institution, Jameson oversaw such major documentary series as The Letters of Members of the Continental Congress and Documents Relative to the Slave Trade in America.
In 1934 Congress created the National Historical Publications Commission (NHPC) as part of the National Archives Act. For practical purposes, this commission remained a fiction, and in the next sixteen years its members met only six times. It was not until 1950 that a new Federal Records Act gave the commission specific duties regarding documentary publication and, even more important, a permanent staff with which to discharge those responsibilities.
II. Statesmen’s Papers and “Historical” Editing
The transformation at this time of the NHPC into an agency with real power and responsibility reflected optimism about the efforts to reform and revolutionize American documentary editing begun by individual scholars during World War II. Even then, technological advances in microforms and photocopying offered an exciting prospect for the editors and publishers of documents. With these tools, photographic facsimiles of all the variant copies of a statesman’s surviving letters, journals, and other writings could be assembled in one place for comparison and evaluation. For the first time, truly comprehensive editions became a practical possibility.
During the war years, two scholars began projects that produced the first fruits of what became known as historical editing. At Franklin and Marshall College, Lyman Butterfield undertook an edition of the correspondence of Benjamin Rush that drew on manuscript collections throughout the nation. At Princeton University, Julian P. Boyd won approval for an edition of the papers of Thomas Jefferson. Butterfield joined Boyd’s staff at Princeton, and under Boyd’s direction the framework of a historian’s notion of a modern editorial project took shape. The availability of photocopies made possible a variorum edition, in which the locations of all extant copies of each document could be cited and variants among the versions could be noted. A systematic approach to cataloging manuscripts and photoreproductions allowed Boyd and Butterfield to create an archive that encompassed Jefferson’s correspondence, his literary works, and his state papers. With these sources at hand, the editors could select the most authoritative version of a Jefferson document for print publication. A system of typographical symbols based on those used by textual scholars for works of earlier eras was devised to reproduce in print certain details of the original manuscript, such as authorial cancellations. For other details of the text, explanatory footnotes were provided.
The Boyd-Butterfield editorial tradition did not stop with supplying a reliable printed text for each document. These scholars felt an obligation to furnish their readers with explanatory footnotes that would allow them to understand the document in its historical context. These notes reflected scholarship as painstaking as any seen in major historical monographs of the time. The publication of the first volume of the Jefferson Papers in 1950 and of the two-volume edition of Rush’s correspondence the following year established this combination of textual attention and explanatory annotation as the hallmark of American historical editing.
These examples of the promise and potential of documentary editing cleared the way for the revitalized NHPC to begin its work. The commission surveyed American historians to determine priorities for its program, and by the time the final report on this survey was ready in 1954, the Jefferson Papers had been joined by three new “papers” projects: those of Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and Benjamin Franklin. Later that year, the Adams Papers project began its work, and in 1955 and 1956 projects for editions of the papers of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison were initiated. Each project focused on a figure whose papers were given priority in the 1954 NHPC report, and they soon received more practical encouragement in the form of grants from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and from the New York Times and the Time-Life Corporation.
In the 1950s the NHPC offered guidance to editorial projects throughout the country and provided the services of its research facilities in Washington; after 1964 it offered money to these projects as well. The Ford Foundation granted $2 million to ensure the continuation of the five “priority” projects—the papers of Adams, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison—and Congress increased the NHPC’s authority, so that it not only administered the Ford Foundation monies but could also make grants from federal appropriations.
By the early 1970s the NHPC had provided money or official endorsement to more than sixty editorial projects throughout the country. Its responsibilities were expanded to include the preservation of historical records, as well as the microform and letterpress publication of documents, and in 1975 the agency’s name was changed to the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The NHPRC encouraged an increasing number of microform publication projects for the papers of lesser-known historical figures and for the records of organizations, which would make their records available to scholars without the expense of comprehensive print publication.
III. Editing the Nation’s Literature: The Americanization of Copy-Text
American literary scholars joined historians in organized editorial pursuits, but their course was an independent one, and they created a somewhat different editorial tradition. While America’s concern for editing papers with historical significance is an old one, that of publishing authoritative texts of the works and correspondence of American literary figures is comparatively new. It was not until well into the twentieth century that America’s role in the history of literature and world culture became recognized as a topic worthy of serious scholarly study. Such recognition was fully established only in the late 1930s, and World War II delayed a coordinated effort to provide American literary and cultural historians with edited resources for scholarship comparable to those available to the political historian. In 1947 the Modern Language Association (MLA) named its Committee on Definitive Editions, which first sought funds for a coordinated program to publish authoritative texts of American literary works. This attempt failed, and further efforts were not made until the early 1960s. By that time American literary critics had already shown their talent and ingenuity in applying textual criticism to seminal American works. Fredson Bowers’s edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and Harrison Hayford and Merton Sealts’s “genetic” text of Herman Melville’s Billy Budd demonstrated both that the American scholarly community had the skills and talent necessary to provide authoritative texts and that the raw materials of American literary documents required such critical attention.
The MLA revived its crusade on behalf of reliable editions of American literary works in 1963 by creating an executive committee to found the Center for Editions of American Authors (CEAA). By the time the CEAA was created, projects were either planned or under way to publish the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Not long after the CEAA’s committee was named, the federal government created the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), a grants-making agency receptive to the CEAA’s aims.
In the spring of 1966 the NEH made its first grants to the CEAA. Once these funds were available, the CEAA published the list of American writers whose editions would receive the first attention. The Emerson, Twain, Melville, Whitman, and Hawthorne projects were to be joined by ones for the works of Washington Irving, Henry David Thoreau, William Dean Howells, and Stephen Crane. Over the next decade the CEAA acted as a conduit for funds from the NEH to editorial projects that met the CEAA’s standards. To make those standards explicit, the CEAA published the first edition of its Statement of Editorial Principles (1967), which set down guidelines for editors seeking the CEAA’s endorsement. At the same time, it instituted an emblem, or seal, to be awarded to volumes that met its standards of editorial accuracy.
Those standards reflected a movement in scholarly editing whose effects on American literary studies would be as far-reaching as the NHPRC’s program of edited papers was on historical research: the year 1950 marked not only the appearance of the first volume of the Jefferson Papers but also the publication of the issue of Studies in Bibliography that carried Sir Walter Greg’s “The Rationale of Copy-text.” Greg’s essay was an eminently clear and cogent summary of the experience of British scholars in editing the texts of Renaissance and early modern drama and literature. Greg described the false starts, intellectual detours, and careful experiments that had led him and his colleagues to codify and rationalize practical rules for the selection of the copy-text. He distinguished between those elements in a printed work that could be termed “substantives,” those that directly affected “the author’s meaning or the essence of his expression,” and those that could be regarded as “accidentals”—spelling, marks of punctuation, and other elements “affecting mainly its formal presentation.” Greg assured his readers that he was well aware of the fragile line between substantives and accidentals. “The distinction I am trying to draw,” he warned, “is practical, not philosophic.”
The practical use Greg made of the distinction was a simple one. In the absence of an author’s manuscript, it was usually possible to identify one edition of a published work, generally the earliest, that drew most directly on that lost manuscript. Greg pointed out that the craftsmen responsible for later printings were likely to respect the words of earlier versions but were unlikely to feel themselves bound by what might seem old-fashioned or incorrect notions of spelling and punctuation in the edition that they reset. Writers who had a hand in revising their own works for later editions were likely to concern themselves more with changing inelegant substantive elements in the old edition than with standardizing punctuation or spelling. Thus, an appropriately chosen copy-text had authority for accidentals in establishing an edited reading text. When only one edition reflected the author’s personal scrutiny, and later editions were merely “reprints,” then the early copy-text’s authority extended to substantive readings as well. But Greg reminded his readers that “the choice of substantive readings belongs to the general theory of textual criticism and lies altogether beyond the narrow principle of the copy-text.” He hoped that this explanation would end what he termed “the tyranny of copy-text”—the tendency of some editors to neglect the hard work and harder thought needed to establish the substantives of a text once they had identified the copy-text on which they could rely for the “accidental” patterns of punctuation and spelling.
It was no surprise that Greg’s exposition of copy-text was published in an American periodical. Literary scholars in this country were as eager as historians to see a more systematic and scholarly publication of American materials, and Greg’s essay on copy-text became part of the theoretical basis for the movement’s claim that it possessed a scientific methodology that could ensure success in the quest for truly authoritative texts of American authors. The creation of the CEAA gave literary editors a chance to show the potential uses of this methodology.
Greg’s techniques, translated for use with the writings of American authors, were implemented in the CEAA’s standards for editions. For works written with the intent of publication, standards for the seal were clear. The CEAA demanded that such editions provide an edited “clear text,” that is, a reading text uncluttered by textual or informational footnotes of any kind. Approved volumes were to provide a historical introduction tracing the work’s creation and publication, as well as an essay on the modern editors’ treatment of the author’s text. The editors were to justify their choice of copy-text and present their analytical judgment of the author’s intentions. An appendix in each volume provided the textual apparatus, which included textual notes, lists of editorial corrections (or emendations) of the text, a historical collation of the copy-text with other editions of a printed work, and lists of line-end hyphenations of possible compounds as they appeared in the copy-text as well as those line-end hyphenations to be retained when quoting from the critical text.
CEAA editions of an author’s writings might also include private materials, such as letters and diaries or journals that had heretofore fallen into the realm of documentary editing. These private writings usually survived only in manuscript form, and the conventions of textual editing for works intended for publication could not be transferred automatically, so the CEAA’s requirements for approved editions of correspondence and journals were less specific than those for published works. For instance, the editors of letters and diaries were not confined to clear-text versions of these manuscripts, although they were expected to list any editorial emendations that they might make.
IV. The Evolution of Distinctive Methodologies
Thus, by the middle of the 1970s two editorial establishments had developed in the United States, each focusing its attention on important American figures, each drawing on traditions of historical research, textual criticism, and modern technology. For the sake of convenience, they came to be known as historical and literary editing, a division many regarded as unrealistic and unfortunate. Each editorial specialty had its own form of professional bureaucracy and oversight. Although the NHPRC, the NEH, and the CEAA all tried to avoid the charge of dictating to the editors who looked to them for funds and guidance, there were distinct patterns that marked an edition as historical or literary in its approach.
Historian-editors were expected to collect photocopies or originals of all the surviving papers of the individual or group being documented. Even if only a selective print edition of these papers was planned, the NHPRC increasingly insisted that the editors make the entire collection available to the scholarly public, usually through a microform supplement. In printed volumes, even those defined as selective, the editor was obliged to publish a sample of both incoming and outgoing correspondence, of writings intended for publication as well as those that a literary edition would define as private.
The literary edition of a figure’s writings was far more exclusive. Edited volumes of an author’s works, of course, were an expected part of the process; but when editors approached the writer’s private documents, they often defined their task as editing the author’s own writings, not all his or her papers. Consequently, literary editions of correspondence customarily printed only letters written by their central figure, not the letters that he or she received. Literary editors were not obliged to provide microform supplements of collected materials excluded from edited volumes or even to supply lists of the items they had omitted.
Historical and literary editors also took different approaches to the treatment of texts. Both groups recognized that the printed page could not reproduce all the details of inscription and physical appearance of the original documents. Historical editors customarily contented themselves with publishing a partially corrected reading text that reproduced only selected categories of such details, and most established general guidelines for the editorial emendation of archaic forms and punctuation in the originals. Such treatment was known as expanded transcription of the sources. Most literary editors were as ready as historical editors to emend the documentary text, but they were obligated to record most of these emendations at some point in the edited volumes, even if the emendations were in an appendix hundreds of pages away from the texts to which they referred.
There were differences, too, in the nature and amount of informational annotation supplied by the two groups. Historian-editors tended to supply more such annotation than did their literary counterparts, and many historical editors supplemented footnotes and headnotes with elaborate indexing systems that enabled readers to retrieve from their volumes almost any kind of information that might serve a scholarly purpose.
Some differences in technique and methodology can be traced to the respective editors’ training. The models from which historical editors worked were nineteenth-century editions of historical documents. Those for literary editors were the textual apparatuses prepared for works in European literature, where it was often necessary to provide an eclectic text that combined, or conflated, elements from several sources. Still more differences arose from the editors’ conceptions of the audience for their volumes. Historians assumed that readers would need a text closely tied to the original—a heavily emended clear text for a document would serve no useful purpose for the historian reader who wished to use that text as evidence. Literary scholars assumed that readers would be concerned with evaluating the readability and literary merits of the letters and journals that they provided: for such a reader, clear text was a standard convenience. The historical editor dealt with papers of public importance that could not be understood without annotation that fixed their historical context. Literary editors assumed that the writings they were editing would be viewed as expressions of a person’s private feelings and internal development.
Working with different standards and varying expectations, scholars produced volumes of “papers” and “writings” that began to crowd the shelves of American scholars and general readers, while their editors awaited the judgment of the reading public for which they had labored so long.
V. The 1950s: The Critical Reception of Historical Editing
Scholars and laypeople welcomed the Jefferson and Rush volumes of 1950 and 1951 with open and grateful arms. Announcements of other series of this type brought cries of delight and, one suspects, of relief—relief at the prospect of authoritative printed texts that would spare scholars the trials of visiting inconveniently located manuscript repositories or of squinting at scratched microfilms. In 1981 Gordon Wood characterized this pattern of response as “effusively laudatory, but critically unhelpful” (“Historians and Documentary Editing,” 877).
This is not to say that historians and historian reviewers did not raise questions about the editions whose volumes began to crowd other books from their shelves by the early 1960s. The quality and quantity of annotation were discussed with increasing concern, and the effectiveness of indexes and other finding aids was analyzed, but reviewers largely ignored any questions raised by the editors’ methods in establishing the printed texts that they offered as authoritative.
In 1951 Theodore Hornberger’s review of the first volume of the Jefferson Papers pointed to the birth of a tradition of variorum editions of American documents, and Hornberger even raised constructive questions concerning Boyd’s choices of source texts and his treatment of works printed during Jefferson’s lifetime. But with rare exceptions, reviewers ignored such broad considerations. Isolated critics (usually editors themselves) compared specific printed texts with their sources for transcriptional accuracy, but for more than a quarter of a century after Hornberger, none posed even tentative questions about general textual standards for historical editions.
VI. The 1960s and 1970s: Editing and Relevance
Editors in the new tradition being set by the Center for Editions of American Authors were less fortunate. The first volume to bear the CEAA emblem was published in 1963. Literary scholars and lay critics alike were more ready than observers of the historiographical scene to take issue with this new phenomenon. In one of the paradoxes common to the literature of American scholarly editing, the earliest and best-known public attack on CEAA methods in documentary editions concerned volumes that did not even bear the organization’s emblem.
In January 1968 the New York Review of Books carried Lewis Mumford’s scathing review of the first six volumes of The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as his laudatory words for the first two volumes of Emerson’s Early Lectures. The Journals recorded details of the original manuscripts with such a wealth of symbolic brackets and arrows in their texts that Mumford titled his essay “Emerson behind Barbed Wire.” The Lectures were in clear text, with omitted details of inscription recorded in back-of-book notes.
All eight volumes had been prepared before the CEAA began to inspect volumes and award its emblem. Still, Mumford used the Journals as a symbol of the evils he detected in the CEAA program. He attacked the volumes on two scores. First, the editors had printed the journals in their entirety, “mingling the important with the inconsequential.” Second, they had chosen “to magnify this original error by transcribing their notations to the very pages that the potential reader might wish to read freely, without stumbling over scholarly roadblocks and barricades.”
As representatives of the Emerson edition and the CEAA quickly pointed out, Mumford had quite simply misunderstood the editors’ aims and had not grasped the volumes’ raison d’être. The only existing edition of the Journals comprised “selections” and rewritten snippets of the original source. There was no need for another such contribution. Instead, William H. Gilman and his colleagues gave readers the complete texts of these important records. They realized that their contents were not of consistent interest to every member of their audience, but they realized, too, that it was impossible for them to anticipate the needs of the thousands of scholars from a dozen fields who required access to the journal entries. As for the textual methods used in the Journals, the edition was an “inclusive” text that recorded specific inscriptional details, not a literal transcription, as Mumford seemed to believe. And there was good reason to make these texts more inclusive than the ones presented for the lectures, for the journal entries had no definable final form, unlike drafts of lectures to be delivered to an audience.
Mumford’s review took on added significance when it became part of Edmund Wilson’s broader attack on CEAA principles. In September 1968 the first of three essays by Wilson on the CEAA program appeared in the New York Review of Books. Wilson admitted that the award of NEH funds to the CEAA represented a personal defeat for him. His own proposal for a series of editions of American classics had been turned down by the NEH in favor of the MLA plan. While he did not challenge the authority or validity of the CEAA texts that he reviewed, he denounced both the expense involved in their preparation and what he considered their nonhumanistic tone and editorial procedures. He echoed Mumford’s earlier complaints of “technological extravagance” and “automated editing” in the Emerson Journals along with Mumford’s suspicions of the supposedly “scientific” methods of the CEAA approach. Mumford had even hinted at a parallel between editorial callousness and the Vietnam War when he cried, “The voice in which Emerson calls out to one is drowned by the whirring of the critical helicopter, hovering over the scene.”
Wilson’s essays were later published in pamphlet form as “The Fruits of the MLA.” The association’s partisans, in turn, issued rebuttals to his and Mumford’s attacks in Professional Standards and American Editions. Peter Shaw recalled the results of these articles at the MLA convention of December 1968: “The young antiwar professors who temporarily gained control of the organization . . . sold copies of Wilson’s Fruits of the MLA and offered resolutions calling for both withdrawal from Vietnam and a cutoff of funds for the American editions” (“The American Heritage and Its Guardians,” 735). Both the conflict in Southeast Asia and support for the CEAA survived these attacks, although neither escaped further critical scrutiny.
Historian-editors viewed the battles within the MLA with amusement. No one had yet examined their textual practices closely, and they quietly continued their work. In 1971, however, historical editions received their first broadside hit, from Jesse Lemisch, a member of the American Historical Association’s Committee on the Commemoration of the American Revolution. Lemisch’s “preliminary critique” of the NHPC’s publications program appeared in the November 1971 AHA Newsletter, with a candid disclaimer that his report in any way represented “the committee’s viewpoint or policy.” In “The American Revolution Bicentennial and the Papers of Great White Men,” Lemisch forced the historical community to reexamine the priorities established for documentary publication. On ideological and methodological grounds, he attacked the NHPC’s focus on projects printing documents of “white male political leaders.” This concentration of funds and public attention seemed to encourage the elitism that Lemisch and many of his generation decried. And by focusing on the collection and publication of the records of individuals who had distinguished themselves in politics and government, he said, the NHPC appeared to slight some of the most lively and fruitful areas of research in American history. Such a program did little to provide easily accessible source materials for quantitative analysts or for the social and economic historians, whose focus was, of necessity, on groups rather than on single figures, no matter how distinguished they might be.
The NHPC responded quickly to Lemisch and his allies, and the 1970s saw an increased emphasis on creating projects with an organizational rather than an individual focus. Historians were encouraged to investigate new sources for documentary editions as well as new formats for presenting these materials, and the selection of appropriate topics for projects soon reflected the needs of a wide spectrum of interests. It was a mark of the success of early documentary editions that scholars with concerns in modern American history and in areas outside such traditional ones as politics and government demanded equal attention to records serving their scholarly needs. By 1982 the NHPRC had given support or endorsement to 386 published volumes whose subjects included not only individuals but institutions and organizations, women as well as men, and leaders of a variety of ethnic and racial groups whose significance lay in social and intellectual as well as political history.
In the best tradition of consumers of published historical papers, Lemisch raised no questions about the textual methods of existing editions, nor did he suggest that any new techniques might be required by the kind of historical editing he proposed, projects that focused on the records of groups, not merely on the documents left by some of the most literate men and women in America’s past. But he had unwittingly contributed to a silent revolution in textual methodology among historian-editors. The editors of these new projects found that they could not confine their innovations to the collection and organizational arrangement of their sources. They had no choice but to ignore the patterns of emendation and standardization accepted by earlier editors of the writings of eighteenth-century statesmen and instead adopt far more literal methods of presenting editorial texts. Unfortunately, they did not publish their reservations about the efficacy of applying the older textual methods to more modern documents and ones by authors of different backgrounds. On the surface, at least, historical editing in the Boyd-Butterfield tradition continued unchallenged.
VII. The MLA and Private Writings
Had the CEAA and its successor, the Committee for Scholarly Editions (CSE), created in 1976, confined their activities to authors’ published works, their achievements and the debate surrounding their programs might have remained largely unnoticed by the editors of American historical documents. As William M. Gibson made clear in a 1969 statement about the CEAA, the editor who adapted Greg’s copy-text theory to American writings hoped to “achieve a text which matches no existing text exactly but which comes closer to the author’s hand and his intent than any previously printed version,” not to present a text that necessarily had documentary value.
Clearly, this goal could not be achieved easily when letters, diaries, and notebooks were published as part of each author’s writings, so CEAA editors necessarily ventured into the realm of documentary publication. To complicate the discussion of editing further, CEAA and CSE rules demanded that editors transfer to these documentary materials the conventions devised for editions of printed works. While some of these conventions concerned an edition’s format, others concerned textual method itself. Certain categories of emendation and suppression of detail (such as slips of the pen and details of inscription, like catchwords) in the source text of documents, like similar problems in editions of printed works chosen as copy-text, could be handled silently, that is, with no record in the edition, whether in the text, in footnotes, or in the editorial apparatus. These categories were identified explicitly in the edition’s introductory “note on the text.” Any editorial actions outside these categories, however, were to be reported somewhere in any volume that received a CEAA or CSE emblem. It was the application of such methods to what the CEAA called private writings, of course, that had been the focus of the controversy over the Emerson Journals in 1968. Although those volumes did not bear the CEAA emblem, critics had correctly assumed that their textual methods anticipated those that would be used in CEAA editions.
Paradoxically, once the CEAA adopted standards for editing private writings, those standards were criticized by William Gilman, editor of the Emerson Journals that Mumford had assailed. In his review essay “How Should Journals Be Edited?” Gilman criticized what he saw as a slavish and ultimately futile attempt by the editors of the Irving Journals to meet the CEAA’s demand that they “collate and report fully” any doubtful readings or peculiarities of inscription in the original manuscripts that they had translated to print. Despite the arrows and brackets of editorial “barbed wire” and the textual annotation in his edition of the Emerson Journals, there had been no attempt to make a complete report of the original manuscript’s details. The Irving Journals, on the other hand, aimed at providing the reader with a nearly literal, or “diplomatic,” transcription, in which all details of inscription were recorded symbolically in the reading text or in adjacent descriptive footnotes.
Gilman’s attack on the application of CEAA standards in the Irving Journals sparked no continuing public debate among editors of private writings. Certainly the problem was not ignored by editors at work on these series, but their discussions of the special challenges at hand were confined largely to notes contributed to the short-lived CEAA Newsletter (1968–71), which published a discussion of the degree to which private writings demand the same scrupulous reporting of emendations and inscriptional details found in editions of published works. In public, literary scholars confined themselves to arguing the merits of imposing copy-text theory and the standards of the CEAA on printed American works.
The special textual problems of documents in the history of American literature also received short shrift when the CEAA published its Statement of Editorial Principles and Procedures in 1972. Although described as a revised edition of the CEAA’s original statement of 1967, it was in fact a new and far more explicit discussion of the CEAA’s aims and requirements. It represented an attempt to report on the results of the first half dozen years’ experience of the CEAA and its editors, and the statement’s appendix, “Relevant Textual Scholarship” (17–25), was the most complete bibliography to that date of writings pertinent to editing American literary works. Nevertheless, the 1972 statement paid scant attention to the variety of approaches these editors had already brought to private writings. Its recommendations for inclusive textual treatment of such materials ignored the fact that the CEAA had given its emblem to volumes in the Mark Twain series that carried no textual record and to volumes in the Hawthorne Notebooks that approached clear text with an accompanying report of editorial emendations.
VIII. The Beginning of Interdisciplinary Evaluation
The first observer to compare the work of literary and historical editors was Peter Shaw, in “American Heritage and Its Guardians.” Shaw focused his attention on inconsistencies in quality and textual methods in CEAA editions of literary works, rather than on the small but growing sample of edited private writings of American literary figures. Among historical editions, he limited his discussion to those of “Founding Fathers” such as Jefferson, Adams, and Madison. Evaluating volumes in both traditions, Shaw concluded that historical editors had served their audience better than CEAA scholars, “not necessarily by common sense but by their fundamental respect for historical fact.” He later modified his judgment, suggesting that NHPRC-sponsored historical series were, indeed, no better than those of the CEAA and CSE mold. In large measure, Shaw was forced to revise his estimate because an essay published two years after his own irrevocably changed the nature of American documentary editing.
This essay was G. Thomas Tanselle’s “Editing of Historical Documents,” which appeared in January 1978 in Studies in Bibliography. Tanselle surveyed the post–World War II tradition of historical editing of documents and took its practitioners to task on two scores. He pointed out that the statements of textual method in these volumes were often maddeningly vague and occasionally self-contradictory, and he argued that the application of heavily emended expanded transcription instead of more conservative methods of literal transcription was a disservice both to the documentary sources and to their readers. In 1981 the historian John Y. Simon summarized the impact of Tanselle’s article: “Some reacted as if the Japanese had again struck Pearl Harbor; more sought to repair their damaged vessels by altering, improving, or explaining transcription policies with a clearer understanding that inconsistent or silent alterations designed for ‘the reader’s convenience’ more often represented the critic’s opportunity. We may eventually come to regard Tanselle’s article as the single most important step forward in American historical editing since the publication of the first volume of the Boyd Jefferson” (“Editors and Critics,” 3).
Widespread and immediate as was the reaction to Tanselle’s article, it did not take public form for several years. In private, many historical editors grumbled at an “outsider’s” effrontery in criticizing textual methods for materials that they felt he did not understand or appreciate. At projects where the textual methods of Boyd and Butterfield had been imposed on editors by advisory committees, there was a sigh of relief. Many heirs to such decisions offered private prayers of thanks to Tanselle for voicing their own reservations, and they either announced that their editions would henceforth abandon expanded methods for more literal treatment or they quietly adopted more conservative methods and prayed that their editorial advisers would not notice the difference.
When public debate came, it emerged, fittingly enough, in a forum that owed its existence to the private discussion of documentary editing sparked by Tanselle’s essay. In September 1978 the NEH and NHPRC held a conference on literary and historical editing at the University of Kansas, the first occasion on which representatives of the two editorial traditions met en masse and exchanged views. At the annual meeting of the Southern Historical Association a few weeks later, the Association for Documentary Editing (ADE) was created to provide an institutional setting within which historical and literary editors could learn about and from each other.
The ADE meeting of October 1980 included a session, in which Tanselle participated, that saw the first formal debate of the issues that had made the association a necessity. Robert J. Taylor, Lyman Butterfield’s successor as editor of the Adams Papers, presented his position in “Editorial Practices—an Historian’s View.” Taylor conceded the strength of Tanselle’s criticism of statements of method in many historical editions. Paraphrasing Samuel Eliot Morison, he confessed, “An historical editor’s real sin is saying carefully and explicitly what he is going to do and then not sticking to it. And here Dr. Tanselle has indeed struck home.” But Taylor challenged what seemed to him Tanselle’s unbending standards for printed texts based on manuscript sources. He argued that it was impractical to adhere to diplomatic methods, whereby every detail of the original manuscript would be recorded in the editorial text. As an aside, Taylor attacked the notion that printed documentary sources—unique pieces of historical evidence that existed in typeset, not handwritten form—should be presented as critically emended texts like those literary works bearing the CEAA emblem.
Unfortunately, the exchange between Taylor and Tanselle was unsatisfying. Tanselle did not address himself to Taylor’s points at length, and his brief comments were never published. Their audience had to wait until 1981, when the MLA’s Introduction to Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures carried Tanselle’s essay “Textual Scholarship.” Here Tanselle made clear his complete agreement with Taylor on the special requirements of printed documents as source texts. He recognized the need for a “noncritical edition” of such works, one that would serve “essentially the function of making the text of a particular document (manuscript or printed) more widely available” (34). But many parts of Tanselle’s position remained unclear. He had not contented himself with pointing to the sins of historical editing; he had also suggested a path to salvation, and it seemed to be some single approach to the editing of documentary sources that would serve both literary and historical scholarship. Tanselle’s long association with the CEAA led readers to assume that this single standard must be that of the CEAA.
The CEAA tradition took on added significance in 1976, when the CEAA, after awarding its seal to more than 140 volumes in a decade, was succeeded by the Committee on Scholarly Editions, another creation of the MLA. Although the CSE did not channel funds to editorial projects, it continued the CEAA’s role of issuing a seal to approved editions and acting as a clearinghouse for information among editors. More significantly, the Committee on Scholarly Editions, as its name implied, hoped to spread the principles of textual scholarship and provide reliable editions “to encompass more than American literature.” To be sure, the CEAA had already moved beyond purely literary works by awarding its seal to volumes in the Works of John Dewey, but it had been unable to give its aid and formal approval to editions that could not be described as American in origin. The CSE could expand its activities, and it not only continued to endorse the Dewey edition but also encouraged approved editions of the writings of psychologist and philosopher William James and editions of British authors.
The agency’s change in name and purpose was accompanied by an official declaration of its new policies in 1977. Its broadened field of interest was reflected in the enumerative bibliography that accompanied this statement, a guide no longer confined to the problems of the Americanist. The statement offered no additional guidance in noncritical documentary editing, however, as it remained focused on the problems of the textual editor preparing an eclectic critical text rather than the challenges faced by documentary specialists concerned with presenting inscribed historical realities.
The debate over the application of textual methods to documentary sources and private writings had proceeded disjointedly. In November 1979 David Nordloh, textual editor of the Howells Letters, presented “The ‘Perfect Text’: The Editor Speaks for the Author” at the annual meeting of the ADE. He suggested that an editor’s goals were to “make” the text what its author had “wanted,” and the practical results of his textual theory could be seen in the clear-text edition of the Howells Letters. More than two years passed before a reaction to his remarks was published. Wayne Cutler, editor of the Polk Correspondence, in “The ‘Authentic’ Witness: The Editor Speaks for the Documents,” took an exceptionally conservative position on the textual treatment of documentary materials. “The historical editor,” he wrote, “speaks only for one document at a time.” He decried Nordloh’s suggestion that documents such as letters or private journals could be emended or conflated for the sake of “perfection.” Neither party addressed the more basic question of whether a back-of-book textual record of emendations, provided by the Howells Letters, justified clear-text presentation of private writings.
IX. A Period of Reexamination: The 1980s and 1990s
As the 1980s progressed, scholarly editors of all schools found more opportunities for discussion and debate. The first meeting of the Society for Textual Scholarship in 1981 launched a series of semiannual interdisciplinary conferences at which dozens of editors discussed the ways in which “text” might be presented and analyzed in historical documents, literary works, musical manuscripts, film, recorded sound, and two- and three-dimensional artifacts of all periods. Selected papers presented at these meetings appeared regularly as volumes in the TEXT series. While the ADE’s annual meetings tended to focus more narrowly on the materials of “history” and conventional literature in the past four centuries, a distinctly interdisciplinary tone soon became apparent at those meetings and in the essays and reviews published in the quarterly Newsletter of the Association for Documentary Editing, rechristened Documentary Editing in 1984.
On a more practical level, the ADE became an active force in creating and disseminating reference materials for editors and would-be editors. First came A Guide to Documentary Editing, in 1987, followed three years later by Beth Luey’s Editing Documents and Texts: An Annotated Bibliography. To supplement these more conventional scholarly resources, the ADE endorsed preparation of Historical Documents: A Handbook of Practice, an anthology of statements of editorial policy and examples of their execution specifically designed for use in classrooms and workshops where documentary editors are trained.
Aside from these formally organized activities, continued academic debate modified the tone and direction of much of the discussion of editorial principles and procedures and called into question the binarism of “historical” versus “literary” editing. Most prominently, the debate over historicism forced literary scholars to reappraise their own assumptions and techniques as editors. As early as the late 1970s, the bibliographic scholar D. F. McKenzie called for increased sensitivity to the complicated social relationships among authors, publishers, editors, typesetters, and others who participate in the production of a printed book.
The American scholar Jerome J. McGann took this line of thought further in A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism. McGann openly attacked the Bowers-Greg emphasis on choice of a copy-text and the recovery of “authorial intentions.” McGann called for a new approach that would liberate textual studies from what he saw as a narrow “psychological and biographical context” (119–20) by admitting that the production of printed literary works has long been “fundamentally social rather than personal.” Authorial intention could no longer be used as a convenient anchor for editorial emendations, McGann and his supporters argued, and scholars must give equal weight to the variety of “texts” that reflect the contributions of different members of the social process of book publication.
Even editors outside the McGann camp of textual socialization were ready to question the search for a single text whose claims to authority or reliability overwhelmed all others. Hans Walter Gabler’s discussions of his experience as editor of Joyce’s Ulysses focused on the need to identify the evolutionary stages of an author’s work and present these states in a “genetic” editorial text. The successive revisions of Peter Shillingsburg’s Scholarly Editing in the Computer Age: Lectures in Theory and Practice (first published in 1986) reconsidered the realities of the authorial process. Shillingsburg urged an editorial pluralism, recognizing that a variety of methods were needed to preserve the various stages by which a literary work reached completion and to accommodate different readers’ interests.
Both Gabler’s and Shillingsburg’s work implied a change in the apparatus of textual editing. Editors might still provide a clear text for the reader’s convenience, but their record of variant readings would have to change. The textual notes would have to be organized so that they clearly traced patterns of emendation by one or another member of the group that had contributed to the text. In recognition of the importance of these variant texts, editors might be required to place their textual notes conveniently close to the passages to which they referred instead of providing a back-of-book record. Keeping textual debate lively in the 1980s, Hershel Parker attacked accepted standards from another side, arguing that original authorial intention is so central to the determination of a work’s text that the editor must sometimes deny an author’s later revisions a place in the critical edition. As Tanselle pointed out, all these commentators shared “a sense of urgency about the need for a renewed historical orientation in literary studies” (“Historicism and Critical Editing,” 17).
This openness to a “historical orientation” led scholars in the tradition of American textual studies to show a greater willingness to experiment with new textual decisions. Gone were the days when an editor could win approval for speaking of final authorial intentions presented in a clear reading text. A variety of methods had to be weighed and tested against the needs of the source texts. Donald Reiman, editor of the Shelley and His Circle series, argued forcefully and effectively that manuscript private writings would be best served by publishing facsimiles of the originals opposite annotated, literal transcriptions of their contents as parallel texts. David Greetham summarized this trend away from critical editions to those with evidentiary value as “documentalism.” The poststructuralist historicist perspective had blurred the distinction between works of imaginative literature and the historical document, as well as the distinction between public and private writing and between the political and the personal. The larger context of modern humanistic studies seemed to call for similar methods, as did the emergence of interdisciplinary studies generally.
For their part, documentary historian-editors spent the 1980s and early 1990s focusing on nontextual issues, whose importance increased because of economic and political considerations. The age of generous government support to long-term editorial projects was over. In the first years of the Reagan administration, the very existence of the NHPRC was threatened by overzealous budget cutters, and a dozen years later the NEH and the National Endowment for the Arts faced extinction. Editorial projects that survived had to operate more efficiently, and projects that began operations during this period often did so with smaller ambitions than their predecessors. The meetings of the ADE and the pages of Documentary Editing were often filled with discussions centering on the theory and practice of selective editions—criteria for selection and the role of annotation, calendars, or lists in recording omitted items. There was a renewed interest in economical facsimile publication, whether in microform or electronic format. University presses reminded editors that print editions, whether comprehensive or select, cost money; and editors reexamined their theories and practices regarding contextual annotation and such companion pieces of editorial apparatus as glossaries, biographical directories, and indexes.
Editors in the CEAA/CSE tradition soon demonstrated that they shared this concern. In 1985 David Nordloh, who had been a chairman of the CSE, warned that literary scholars could not ignore certain “documentary requirements” that had long been the concern of historian-editors. These included the special ethical problems of selective editions, provision of full “supporting information” about a text’s source, and adequate indexing for both persons and topics (“Supplying What’s Missing”).
While American scholarly editors of the 1980s and 1990s might not have agreed on the need for back-of-book records of textual variants, they realized that they otherwise shared the same goal in dealing with documentary sources: how best to present cautiously emended texts that preserved as much as possible of the original’s evidence, along with efficient textual and contextual apparatus that the reader might use to evaluate the editors’ handiwork in both textual and historical terms. Those same editors found themselves bound even more strongly by a related problem: how to accomplish this task in the age of computer technology.
X. The Reshaping of Scholarly Editing and Publication by Electronic Technology
W. Speed Hill once described the basis of decision making in scholarly editing as a tripod constructed of three considerations: the source material for the edition, the projected audience for the edition, and the medium in which that edition might be issued (“Theory and Practice of Transcription”). Computer-based technology did not change these considerations, it merely altered and broadened the choices available to modern editors. Just as scholarly editors began to feel comfortable with their publisher’s use of computers to set type in the 1980s, electronic aides to scholarship of all kinds reshaped this and every discipline in the humanities.
When the first edition of this Guide was prepared, it could offer only educated guesses about the form the computer revolution would take in reshaping scholarly editing. By the early 1990s it was clear that new realities demanded a new Guide to the strange and wonderful world taking shape. In general, it was literary scholars who contributed most handsomely to computer-assisted textual innovation in the early years. With their early investigations of the opportunities of hypertext links between various versions of an author’s work, they pointed the way for scholars in other fields. It was literary scholars, too, who broke ground in the mundane area of proofreading, recognizing the potential of computer collation as a substitute for grueling and unreliable human quality control.
At first, historically oriented documentary editors appeared more eager to use computer equipment for the physical and intellectual “control” of editorial collections and research data. Not coincidentally, it was a historian-editor, David Chesnutt, who devised CINDEX, a convenient mainframe-based indexing system for documentary editions; and another historian, Charles Cullen of the Newberry Library, was instrumental in securing funds to modify the program for use by desktop computers. As more and more editors migrated to desktop PCs, they had more flexibility and control over their data, and CINDEX fell into disuse. Its creation, though, testified to the eagerness of scholarly editors to exploit the new technology at hand.
While editors of all backgrounds found that economic pressures made them, more and more, their own publishers, it was editors funded by the NHPRC who were at first most active in investigating the electronic transmission of facsimiles on a large scale. This merely reflected the NHRPC’s longstanding preference for some form of comprehensive publication of all pertinent materials assembled by a project. Debate on such supplements once centered on the choice between microfilm and microfiche. In the late 1980s the choice was likely to be between issuing indexed digitally scanned images on CD-ROM or making them available on the Internet. While the debates over CD-ROM technology seem quaint now, they were earnest and remain instructive.
By the early 1990s, a decade after the first edition of the Guide was drafted, the most universal aspect of the changes brought to editing by computers may have been the simple acceptance of desktop computers as standard office equipment for all modern scholars. The second edition of the Guide assumed that anyone now beginning a documentary edition would employ a personal computer with word-processing software. What had been a fascinating novelty when the first Guide was prepared was now the norm. The second edition of the Guide also dealt with the Internet, that interconnected set of computers and computer networks, linked by copper wires, fiber-optic cables, and microwave links. The revised book reminded readers of the new online resources for bibliographic and manuscript research that were appearing every week. The Guide’s author and the committee that oversaw her work used e-mail to share draft versions and revisions of the work in progress. And the new Guide devoted a full page to the brave souls who were experimenting with mounting their editorial products on this “information highway,” in a section modestly titled “Internet Distribution of Electronic Texts.”
The scant space devoted to this topic in the second Guide did not stem from ignorance of the implications of Internet publication. Instead, it was the result of an honest inability to anticipate what form the latest revolution would take. That phenomenon, of course, was the World Wide Web, known to us now familiarly as “the Web,” the seemingly boundless set of files and documents available through the Internet via hyperlinks and unique identifiers, tagged in standard markup language that allows users around the globe to access the images, sound, and textual information the files hold.
XI. A Guide to Editing in a New Millennium
The advent of the World Wide Web in 1993 had an immediate impact on documentary and textual editing. The ease with which multiple versions of a text could be published electronically on the Web accelerated the movement among textual editors away from the creation of a single, “ideal” text—the only practical achievement for most scholars whose results would appear on a printed page. McGann’s arguments for emphasizing the “socialized” process by which literary texts were produced were reinforced by the new possibilities for presenting readers with all the “texts” involved in that process. Shillingsburg expanded the arguments for offering users a variety of texts and allowing readers to make their own decisions.
The Web’s impact was also felt by scholars who had dedicated years of their lives to devising a system of markup language that allowed electronically published documentary and textual editions to convey as much as possible of the printed or manuscript sources on which they were based. Their work was conducted within the Text Encoding Initiative, established in 1987, a consortium of institutions and research projects that sought to develop a standard for the representation of texts in digital form. The TEI’s Guidelines, originally issued in 1994, are now in their fifth edition and remain a widely used standard, but their impact has been softened by the use of various combinations of digital images of sources and searchable transcriptions with less sophisticated markup language than that demanded by the TEI.
Among documentary editions, twelve editions formed a Model Editions Partnership to explore ways in which volumes of documents and texts could be converted, retrospectively, to electronic format. Originally it seemed that the detailed guidelines of MEP might prove a model for any and all electronic documentary editions. However, later experiments in “born digital” projects (those that have never had any life on the printed page) and other Web-based editions make it clear that there is no single solution for all documentary editions on the Internet, any more than there was a single simple solution for editions that appeared on pages in printed volumes.
The Web also enlarged the number and range of people and institutions that could publish documentary materials. A quick Internet search for “family letters” or “diaries” from a given era or region produces dozens of examples of images or transcriptions of such source materials by family members, local historians, and librarians or archivists who have mounted resources at their institutions on the Web.
Responsible editors, however, regard the Internet as something more than merely a new medium for publication. More broadly, the Internet drastically expanded the potential role of editing as a means of facilitating research. As documentary and textual scholarly editions become more widely and easily available, the importance of the most traditional values of scholarly editing are more important than ever. Scholarly editors must set an example for other documentary publishers on the Internet by maintaining the truly transparent methods that have always been the hallmark of good editing. Editors who clearly state their sources and methods must be models in the world of the Web, where documents now proliferate with statements of provenance that are often suspect or even nonexistent.
To be frank, while almost anyone who wants to can now publish documents to the world, this does not mean that the results are an “edition” in any meaningful sense of the word. The ADE’s Committee on Scholarly Editions offered these practical comments on what an electronic documentary edition is or isn’t:
Simply rendering a text in electronic form does not constitute an electronic edition. The ADE-CES defines an electronic edition as primary source material prepared with
1) rigorous attention to the text,
2) explanatory annotation and
3) an explanation of the editorial practices used on the texts.
There can be an enormous range of practice within the field of documentary editing, but all share these main goals. Electronic editions require the same burden of scholarship as print and microform publications do, and because of their format, additional issues must be considered. (“Minimum Standards for Electronic Editions”)
Publication of these guidelines has not ended lively discussion among textual editors in the twenty-first century. For every scholar at work on producing a “documentary” textual base that will allow others to produce their own critical texts, there is another who complains that this is an abandonment of scholarly responsibility, a refusal to point out to readers what is “better” or “worse,” “significant” or “irrelevant.” One of the most pointed statements of this position came from Michael F. Suarez, in “In Dreams Begins Responsibility: Novels, Promises, and the Electronic Editor.” Suarez warned: “By abdicating the responsibility for establishing a text through the long and demanding process of critical discernment, of carefully weighing complex evidence and deciding in the midst of difficulty, the electronic editor is not empowering users but obliging them to arrive at judgments they most often will have neither the time nor the expertise to make” (173).
For every advocate of the “socialization” of texts and the “social contract” that influences the evolution of texts over time, there remains a defender of the need to determine the intentions of a work’s author, not that writer’s typesetter or publisher’s agent. The tradition of free, open, and heated argument among scholarly editors is alive and well, and readers of the third edition of the Guide will hear from all sides in the pages that follow.
Editors who face these new responsibilities in the twenty-first-century world of electronic and paper editions are likely to do so on sharply reduced budgets. Scholarly editors have always faced the problem of financial constraints that forced them to produce editions within the time and form the money allowed. Today, private and public funding have become more straitened and restrictive than ever, while scholarly editorial projects must bear the added burden of setting an example for new entrants into the field. In addition, the decline in sales for all scholarly works, especially editions, has reduced editorial financing and dampened the desire of presses to publish scholarly editions.
Although editors in this new century must face increasing challenges, we hope that the third edition of the Guide will show how editors in the era of electronic publication can honor the most important legacy of the older, preelectronic traditions summarized above: a set of procedures to ensure the quality of work throughout the editing project. Even purists who still insist that “editing” is only the establishment of a text admit that the duties of a successful editor neither begin nor end with that process. The documents that merit critical attention must be assembled. Errors of fact or interpretation can be introduced into the documentary texts or their accompanying notes if there is no procedure for verifying and proofreading these materials.
The new realities of documentary publishing have also changed the very definition of “publisher.” In the past, an outside publisher had to be satisfied that an editor’s design of any projected volumes, microforms, or electronic versions was thoughtful and useful. Increasingly, limited outside funding forces more and more editors to work alone and even to publish their work themselves. Many are happy to be “self-publishers” on paper or on the Internet. We hope this Guide will enable them to be as closely critical of their own work as independent reviewers would be.
Happily, the new technology that challenges editors of the twenty-first century makes our work far easier. The third book edition of A Guide to Documentary Editing comes with an electronic component mounted on the Web site of our publisher, the University of Virginia Press. The first chapter of the Guide explains the interrelationship of the book and its electronic companion. While we hope that we have anticipated our readers’ needs and concerns, we now have a Web site where users can register requests and complaints when we have failed. That Web site, too, will provide updated technical information for editors. At last, the Guide to Documentary Editing can be edited and emended in timely fashion so that it will live up to its title.
When the first edition of this Guide was prepared a quarter of a century ago, there were no other monographs dealing with the evolution of American scholarly editing. Thus the list of suggested readings for the historical introduction was more exhaustive than most readers required. Happily, that situation has changed for the better, and we have pruned many early and esoteric books and articles from the readings suggested in the first two editions, leaving ourselves more space for recent studies and analyses centering on current and future problems and solutions for the documentary editor. Students of the methodology’s history are encouraged to consult the Guide’s earlier editions for the suggestions offered to readers in the 1980s and 1990s.
To remain current in the literature of documentary editing, readers should regularly consult publications such as American Archivist, Textual Cultures (formerly TEXT), Documentary Editing, Studies in Bibliography, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, and the Journal of Scholarly Publishing, as well as the invaluable online tools America: History and Life and the MLA International Bibliography series. While there are at present no H-NET lists focusing on scholarly editing or critical bibliography, we hope that situation will change. Meanwhile, aspiring editors should subscribe to SEDIT-L, a discussion list supported by the Association for Documentary Editing: http://www.listserv.umd.edu/archives/sedit-l.html.
Those with a taste for methodological pedagogy should consult earlier editions of A Guide to Documentary Editing. The ADE Web site has a good “Editing Education” section that maintains links to undergraduate and graduate curricula in scholarly editing, sample lesson plans, online discussion forums, and the like: http://documentaryediting.org/resources/about/education.html.
There are now dozens of volumes of collected essays of interest to the student of documentary editing. While many of the older anthologies reflect a perceived distinction between “historical” and “literary” approaches, their usefulness survives. Among the classics devoted to literary studies are Ronald Gottesman and Scott Bennett, eds., Art and Error: Modem Textual Editing (1970); Fredson Bowers’s Essays in Bibliography, Text, and Editing (1975); and G. Thomas Tanselle’s Selected Studies in Bibliography (1979). More recent anthologies of Tanselle’s essays are Scholarly Editing; Textual Criticism since Greg, updated as Textual Criticism since Greg: A Chronicle, 1950–2000; and Literature and Artifacts. David C. Greetham covers all fields and all periods in Scholarly Editing: A Guide to Research. Documentary editors in the historical tradition were represented in Leslie W. Dunlap and Fred Shelley, eds., The Publication of American Historical Manuscripts (1976); and George L. Vogt and John Bush Jones, eds., Literary and Historical Editing (1981).
There are many entertaining essays on the beginnings of documentary editing in the United States. Some of the most valuable are Lyman H. Butterfield, “Archival and Editorial Enterprise in 1850 and 1950: Some Comparisons and Contrasts”; Lester J. Cappon, “American Historical Editors before Jared Sparks: ‘they will plant a forest . . .’ ”; Philip M. Hamer, “. . . Authentic Documents tending to elucidate our History”; and Conrad E. Wright, “Multiplying the Copies: New England Historical Societies and Documentary Publishing’s Alternative Tradition.” A useful discussion of early twentieth-century attempts to create a program for the publication of American historical documents appeared in Alexander Moore, “Present at the Creation: John Franklin Jameson and the Development of Humanistic Scholarship in America.”
Useful essays on the evolution of post–World War II historical editing include Julian P. Boyd, “ ‘God’s Altar Needs Not Our Polishings’ ”; Lyman H. Butterfield, “The Scholar’s One World”; and Lester J. Cappon’s three essays “The Historian as Editor,” “ ‘The Historian’s Day’—from Archives to History,” and “A Rationale for Historical Editing Past and Present.” A fuller list of essays in this area can be found in the Web version of this Guide.
Two entertaining accounts of editions of literary works before our own era are Donald H. Reiman, “Gentlemen Authors and Professional Writers: Notes on the History of Editing Texts of the 18th and 19th Centuries”; and T. H. Howard-Hill, “Shakespeare Edited, Restored, Domesticated, Verbatim and Modernized,” a jovial tour of editing Shakespeare from the beginning of the seventeenth century. Equally amusing are the speculations in W. Speed Hill’s “Where Would Anglo-American Textual Criticism Be If Shakespeare Had Died of the Plague in 1593.”
Useful accounts of early CEAA projects are Guy Cardwell, “Author, Intention, Text: The California Mark Twain”; and David Robinson, “The Legacy of Emerson’s Journals.” David Nordloh provides an informative survey of the CEAA and CSE in “Theory, Funding, and Coincidence in the Editing of American Literature”; and G. Thomas Tanselle’s “Literary Editing” remains worthwhile.
Fredrika Teute’s “Views in Review: A Historiographical Perspective on Historical Editing” provides a useful guide to patterns of reviewing American historical editing. Wayne Franklin’s “The ‘Library of America’ and the Welter of American Books” is an excellent history of the Mumford-Wilson assault on the CEAA and its aftermath. Earlier records of that war of words are Tanselle’s articles in the 1975 and 1981 volumes of Studies in Bibliography and Michael Mancher’s amusing “The Text of the Fruits of the MLA,” and Tom Davis, “The CEAA and Modern Textual Editing.” Other worthwhile contributions are Hershel Parker and Bruce Bebb, “The CEAA: An Interim Assessment,” and Peter L. Shillingsburg’s down-to-earth “Critical Editing and the Center for Scholarly Editions,” as well as his From Gutenberg to Google: Electronic Representations of Literary Texts.
For discussions of critiques of NHPC and NHPRC programs, see Richard H. Kohn and George M. Curtis III, “The Government, the Historical Profession, and Historical Editing”; Simone Reagor, “Historical Editing: The Federal Role,” and John Simon’s response to her; and Simon, “Editors and Critics.”
Jo Ann Boydston’s “The Collected Works of John Dewey,” is an excellent history of her thirty-year association with the Dewey project and the edition’s role in CSE methodology. Followers of the impact of Tanselle’s 1978 attack on historical editing will profit from Don Cook’s useful summary of the issues in “The Short Happy Thesis of G. Thomas Tanselle.”
The 1998 meeting of the ADE marked that organization’s twentieth anniversary, and the papers presented there are of special interest to students of the history of American scholarly editing since 1978. An excellent starting point is Michael E. Stevens, “ ‘The Most important Scholarly Work’: Reflections on Twenty Years of Change in Historical Editing.” Stevens surveys changes in theory, methodology, fund-raising, and even employment opportunities.
Discussions of the implications of Jerome McGann’s work now range over two decades of monographs, speeches, and statements of editorial method. A useful summary of the evolving debate is McGann’s “Social Contracts, Production Contracts, and Authority.” For more rueful reflections on changes in textual editing at the close of the twentieth century, see Joel Myerson’s “Nothing Left to Lose: Or, Changes in Literary Editing and the Decline of Civilization As We Know It.”
D. C. Greetham’s “Textual and Literary Theory: Redrawing the Matrix” points to broader areas of redefinition of textual scholarship. Other surveys of this nature are Steven Mailloux, Interpretive Conventions: The Reader in the Study of American Fiction, especially chapter 4, “Textual Scholarship and ‘Author’s Final Intention,’ ” (93–125); and Resources for American Literary Study 20, no. 2 (1994), a special issue entitled “Textual Scholarship and American Literature,” whose guest editor, Philip Cohen, offers a useful introduction in “Textual Instability, Literary Studies, and Recent Developments in Textual Scholarship.”
W. Speed Hill’s “The Case for Standards in Scholarly Editing” reviews attempts to set standards and regulate results in textual editions, as does his more recent article “Theory and Practice in Anglo-American Scholarly Editing, 1950–2000.” Documentary editing in other nations is surveyed in Christopher Kitching, “The Status of Documentary Editing in the United Kingdom”; Johanna Roelevink and Augustus J. Veenendaal Jr., “Undeleting the Dutch Past: The Netherlands Government Commission on National History”; H. T. M. van Vliet and Annemarie Kets-Vree, “Scholarly Editing in the Netherlands,” with the same authors contributing separate papers on the subject in TEXT; and Mary Jane Edwards, “CEECT: Progress, Procedures, and Problems,” and “Scholarly Editing in Canada.”
As historical background, we recommend two articles from Computers and the Humanities: David R. Chesnutt’s discussion of computer use by documentary editors during the 1980s in “Historical Editions in the States”; and George P. Landow’s survey of the more adventurous use of computer tools by textual editors in “Hypertext in Literary Education, Criticism, and Scholarship.” More recent book-length studies include Susan Hockey’s Electronic Texts in the Humanities. Hockey’s work is directed primarily at scholars interested in producing sophisticated textual editions, but chapters 2 and 3, “Creating and Acquiring Electronic Texts” and “Text Encoding,” are helpful for any editor. Peter Shillingsburg has not prepared a revised version of his Scholarly Editing in the Computer Age: Theory and Practice since the third edition in 1996, but his cautions there are timeless, and the final chapter, “Electronic Editions,” is especially useful. More recently, Shillingsburg has addressed modern editing in such essays as “Editing Determinate Material Texts.”
The Text Encoding Initiative Consortium and the MLA sponsored Electronic Textual Editing, edited by Lou Burnard, Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe, and John Unsworth, a volume of essays dealing with all aspects of the problem published in paperback in September 2006. Preview copies of the articles were made available online in 2005 and can still be consulted at http://www.tei-c.org/Activities/ETE/Preview/. The current version of the TEI Guidelines (P5) was released in November 2007 and is at http://www.tei-c.org/release/doc/tei-p5-doc/en/html/index.html.
See also Michael Suarez’s “In Dreams Begins Responsibility: Novels, Promises, and the Electronic Editor.”