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Chapter Five

The Conventions of Textual Treatment

We apologize for discussing the conventions of textual treatment in terms of verbal documents recorded on paper by hand or type. We don’t dismiss the needs of nonverbal or aurally recorded documents, we simply recognize the fact that most of these textual conventions arose from the problems of inscribed or printed documents and that the best examples of their use currently available appear in editions of such texts.

This nostra culpa registered, we proceed to that least loved of creatures, a reference book’s glossary. It presents not only summaries of technical methods of confronting textual and nontextual problems but also tables of symbols and repetitive examples of the different results that can be obtained by applying varying methods to the same source. The problems and solutions discussed here are the most basic an editor will address. In documentary editions, the patterns of characters, words, phrases, and paragraphs offered to the reader are seldom the only ones that the edition’s source could have produced. Instead, they form but one text that the editor might have extrapolated from the handwritten, typed, spoken, or printed material that is the edition’s base.

It is difficult to make the choices necessary to establish an authoritative documentary edition without being familiar with earlier editorial traditions and gaining the knowledge necessary to invent new methods for novel materials created by new technologies. The editor of modern documents often has problems and goals different from those of analysts of classical texts or canonical literary works. The classicist’s aim is usually to recover a lost archetype, usually by carefully comparing the surviving witnesses to that archetype—copies made directly from it or even later transcriptions based on earlier scribal versions. Since it is impossible to hazard guesses about the formal accidentals (spelling, punctuation, or format) of that missing archetype, modern editors often standardize such elements of the text. Editors of literary works published in an author’s lifetime may have something more complicated than recovery of the author’s original manuscript as their goal. Instead of trying to reconstruct a lost archetype, they may try to determine the author’s final intentions in an idealized form that combines elements of an incomplete authorial manuscript and subsequent printed editions of the work based on that manuscript. Frequently, such editors cannot point to a single source that represents all of the author’s careful proofreading or stylistic revisions. Instead, they must painstakingly collate, or compare, manuscripts and printed editions for their variants. They familiarize themselves with the work’s publishing history so that they can evaluate responsibility for such changes and determine authorial patterns in the accidentals of punctuation and spelling as well as in the substantive elements of patterns of words. Thus, the editions prepared by the classicist or the literary critic can themselves be new works. Critical judgment and scholarly insight can give the reader the text of an archetype that no longer exists in a physical sense or of something that never existed, such as a critical edition of a novel that is more intellectually consistent and textually reliable than any published during an author’s lifetime.

Documentary editors of American historical materials have certain advantages over classical analysts and editors of literary works. In most cases, their source texts are themselves archetypes, and if they survive in transcribed form, such copies were usually made within decades, not centuries, of the original inscription. Thus, textual recovery is a comparatively rare concern. Unlike the editor of published literary works, the documentary editor seldom needs to compare dozens of variant versions hundreds of pages in length. There are seldom more than two or three copies with any claim to such consideration, and most such source texts are unarguably the final intention of the author—copies of letters dispatched to and received by their addressees, or public papers that the author signed and submitted to government bodies or other agencies.

This is not to say that the documentary editor’s task is easier than other scholarly editors’, merely different. He or she may, for instance, have at hand a sufficiently wide selection of holograph materials left by the subject to justify conclusions about that writer’s customary use in such accidentals as paragraph indentation, punctuation, and spelling; but the documentary editor does not have license to exploit this knowledge by emending (or correcting) the literal transcription of the source text to standardize its accidentals.

The printed versions of materials that have been edited as documents rather than reconstituted as idealized texts should themselves be usable as documents—as evidence for factual research. The aim of such editorial texts is to present what was actually written or spoken, not what might have been inscribed had the author had the luxury of revising the materials for publication. It is the responsibility of documentary editors to translate handwritten, typescript, or printed source texts into a form that their readers can trust as an accurate representation of the specific original materials they represent. Even when they use traditional techniques of textual scholarship such as emendation and conflation, documentary editors stop short of making their texts too smooth, too finished in appearance. Their readers usually need to know when words or phrases in the reading text are the result of editorial judgment, not of clear evidence in the source text.

If every author of documentary material obliged posterity by inscribing her or his letters, journals, and other papers in a regular, immaculate hand (or, better still, by leaving behind impeccably proofread typescripts or word-processing files), documentary editors could discharge their duties by serving as little more than faithful scribes. Historical figures are seldom so considerate. Their records are filled with inconsistent and confusing usages, with symbols for which no equivalent exists in any printer’s font. Water, fire, insects, the ravages of time, and the scissors of autograph collectors may have defaced pages that were scarcely legible in the beginning. The array of physical details of the source texts range from authorial idiosyncrasies that are clearly pertinent to marks such as a cataloger’s notations, whose value to the edition’s readers may not be immediately apparent.

Thus, after collecting and cataloging materials, documentary editors must survey these source texts and their initial transcriptions to inventory their peculiarities. Next, they must devise ways to present an edited version of this collection that will serve the majority of users almost as well as would the archive itself. Finally, they must remember that each stage in establishing an edited text of these documents may take both editors and readers a step further from the source’s full meaning.

If the source collection consists of printed source texts, the editor’s task is comparatively easy. Textual decisions are limited to choosing a typeface that will accommodate any archaic characters in the old printing and determining the degree to which original formatting should be retained in terms of page and line breaks, line spacing, and paragraph indentation. The editor may need to do nothing more than devise a method of indicating corrections of obvious typographical errors.

But the editor of unprinted sources must make one agonizing decision after another while considering how to standardize details of inscription whose nuances might serve the purpose of some researcher. The very act of printing such source texts suppresses some of their details, for the informational content of an unprinted document can extend far beyond textual elements. The character of the handwriting or typewriting can offer clues to the author’s alertness or health. Careless penmanship in one recipient’s copy of a letter and painstaking inscription of a letter addressed to another can indicate different degrees of formality between the author and the two correspondents. The nature of the paper, ink, or pencil or typewriter ribbon can provide important clues to the time and place of the preparation of an undated letter or journal entry. Many of these important factors in the source’s documentary contents cannot be reproduced; they can only be described.

Even elements of the document added by persons other than the author must be considered part of the source text’s documentary contents. The recipient’s endorsement of a letter can be an exposition of his or her reaction to that communication, making the endorsement, in its turn, a separate document that is physically a part of the first. Notations by third parties can also be significant. Postal markings indicating a letter’s date of receipt; words, numbers, and codes entered by a clerk in the docket of a public document; similar notations made by a compositor on a manuscript that was the printer’s copy for a published essay or poem—these can be important parts of a source’s documentary evidence.

In short, the special problem of the modern documentary editor is more often an embarrassment of textual riches than the absence of an archetype or of some single manuscript that represents final authorial intentions. The question that faces the documentary editor is how to share as much of this wealth as possible without making the printed pages of the new edition an incomprehensible mass.

I. The Bases of Scholarly Editing: Standardizing, Recording, and Emending

Documentary editors generally agree that standardization should be limited to certain formal elements of the texts, that the recording or description of physical details of the source should be limited to those that cannot be readily reproduced in print or on a computer screen, and that emendation of the source’s transcriptions should meet a few clearly defined standards. The boundaries between these categories of editorial intervention are not well defined, and one editor’s standardization may be another’s emendation.

In general, standardization concerns elements in the source’s physical format. An edition of correspondence may arbitrarily place all datelines for letters at the beginning of their texts, no matter where the date appears in the source text. Similarly, it is customary to standardize an author’s paragraph indentation in handwritten source texts so that all paragraphs in the print edition follow a consistent visual pattern.

Many details of inscription in a handwritten source text are not readily translated into printed symbols and so defy standardization. A writer may use different forms of capital letters or vary the length of dashes beyond the capacities of any typesetting system. In revising a draft, the author may employ a variety of methods to cancel rejected versions, sometimes using a line to cross out an earlier thought and sometimes simply writing over the preliminary version. The editor faced with such patterns must not only decide which patterns are worth recording in the editorial text or its accompanying notes but also find a system of symbols or abbreviations that will most conveniently communicate the detail in the source.

Beyond standardizing formats and recording significant patterns of inscription, editors must decide how lightly or heavily to emend, or correct, the transcriptions of the source texts and must choose the method of emendation most appropriate to the sources and the edition’s likely users. The term silent emendation describes changes made in a text that are not enumerated individually on the page of edited text. Silent emendation is the method traditionally used in critical editions of literary works and transferred by CEAA/CSE editors to documentary series: the editorial reading text itself contains no hint that emendations or alterations have occurred. Most but not all such emendations are reported in a back-of-book textual record. The regularization of capitalization and punctuation and corrections of misspellings are often unrecorded. Overt emendation, on the contrary, refers to changes indicated within the editorial text (usually enclosed in some form of bracket) or in notes immediately adjacent to the text.

In choosing methods for standardizing documentary formats, recording details of inscription, and emending an author’s spelling or punctuation, the editor should bear in mind the discouraging fact that the printed version of an unprinted source text—or even of a printed source with unique characteristics—will always be an inexact copy. One can hope to do nothing more than choose those conventions of print publication that best communicate the significant patterns of the source text at hand.

What is more, the editor must be aware that any documentary edition that encompasses more than one source text may have to use more than one textual method. Even different passages within a single lengthy source text may require varying approaches. The editor’s wisest course is to choose a textual method that will serve the bulk of the material being edited. When exceptional circumstances require a departure from the general rule, a note to the reader can explain the reasons for this variation, as well as the new method’s implications for the source text at hand.

Modern editors of American documents usually perform their tasks within five general methodological frameworks, and an infinite variety of results is possible within each general approach. This chapter examines the theoretical principles and practical results of these methods: facsimiles, diplomatic transcriptions, inclusive texts, expanded texts, and clear texts. Of these, facsimiles produce editorial texts closest to the source in physical appearance. At the other extreme, eclectically constructed clear texts of documents can suppress many elements of inscription, making recovery of the details of the original extraordinarily difficult. Diplomatic transcriptions, inclusive texts, and expanded texts fall between these two poles, and they are described in the order in which they move away from the literal facsimile’s presentation toward the systematic emendations sanctioned in a clear text.

A theoretical and historical discussion of each method will be followed by a demonstration of the results of applying that approach to the same source text, a handwritten draft of a note from one of the authors of this book, Mary-Jo Kline, to Richard K. Showman, chairman of the committee that supervised her work in the early 1980s. The advantages and failings of each method are apparent.

II. Photographic and Typographic Facsimiles

Facsimiles of documentary texts in an authoritative edition may be photoreproductions or digital images or typographic facsimiles on printed pages or computer screens. Traditionally, examples of photo facsimile editions have been limited to companion or supplementary microform series, particularly for NHPRC series in which select print editions were paired with comprehensive microforms. For editors of historical documents, the use of photo facsimiles in published volumes remains generally limited to reproductions of printed sources. A modern exception was Ralph Franklin’s two-volume edition of The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson (Cambridge, Mass., 1981), a facsimile publication of the “fascicles” or handmade booklets in which Dickinson drafted and copied out her poems. The same press has on its Web site a facsimile edition of Dickinson’s Herbarium, edited by Richard Sewall, a fascinating online example of the technique: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/DICEMI.html.

More typical is the Albert Einstein edition’s Works series, which reproduces facsimiles of the print pages bearing Einstein’s published essays and reports rather than resetting them in a modern typeface, and the modern edition of Thomas Jefferson’s Extracts from the Gospels, which provides a facsimile reproduction of the clipped Bible verses in Jefferson’s compilations.

Both theory and technology now make such editions more common and more intellectually demanding. Among literary scholars, the call for a document-based approach to sources customarily served by highly emended, printed editorial texts has created a demand for convenient access to images of source materials. Increasingly common are print editions in which a photo facsimile appears as part of a parallel text accompanying a printed editorial transcription. Digital scanning creates wider options for editors who wish to offer such photographic images in online or DVD-based editions, conveniently linked to machine-searchable transcriptions, accessed through automated indexes. The technical processes of creating such facsimile editions are described in chapter 7.

The typographic facsimile demands more discussion here, for its rationale and methods play a significant role in textual and documentary editions. This form attempts to duplicate exactly the appearance of the original source text as far as possible within the limits of modern typesetting technology. Naturally, a typographic facsimile reproduces the author’s spelling and punctuation without any correction. No contractions or abbreviations are expanded. An author’s additions above the line are printed interlinearly. Marginal material is set in the margins. Passages crossed out by a line are rendered in canceled type (canceled type). The author’s format and spacing are followed exactly. Headings, titles, datelines, greetings, and salutations are set line for line so that the line breaks in the printed version mirror those in the original.

Modern typographic facsimiles of handwritten material customarily do not present pages whose breaks correspond to changes in the original’s pagination, but those page breaks are recorded within the editorial text, usually by an editorial interpolation within some form of bracket. Such editorial interpolations as “[2]” or “[new page]” can appear in the body of the text (when the author begins a new page in the middle of a sentence) or in the margin (when the new page represents a new section of the document).

Examples of a pure typographic facsimile, without the use of any textual symbols or other editorial conventions, are rare in modern editions. An approximation of facsimile technique can be found in Julian Boyd’s “literal presentation” of Jefferson’s drafts of the Declaration of Independence (Jefferson Papers, 1:417–27), in the texts of letters in Shelley and His Circle, and in the Cornell Wordsworth edition.

Because typographic facsimiles can be more time-consuming and costly to produce than other formats, they are generally used for nonprinted source texts only when textual symbols will not adequately communicate the nuances and complexities of the original. The users of a series of colonial laws, for instance, would be more concerned with the final versions of statutes—the words or phrases that were promulgated by the provincial government—than with a clerk’s corrections of his copy of that law. Here a typographic facsimile would be a needless luxury. In contrast, the editor of documents relating to the legislative history of a colonial assembly would have good reason to consider a typographic facsimile of a draft of an important legislative report. In such a document, the position of interlineations and marginal additions can indicate the evolution of the final version of laws, often essential to understanding their history.

Some elements of typographic facsimile techniques may be used for individual documents in editions that otherwise do not follow this method. One legal historian has remarked, for instance, that the reproduction of the format of Hamilton’s draft legal papers in the Hamilton Law Practice volumes “allows the reader to see Hamilton’s mind at work.” This edition uses conservative expansion of some archaic abbreviations and contractions and thus cannot be described as a true typographic facsimile, but its editors recognized that there were special documents whose full meaning could be conveyed only by retaining Hamilton’s format.

Typographic facsimile has always been the method of choice for reproducing printed documentary source texts. Even editors who took substantial liberties with manuscript source texts did their best to reproduce as exactly as possible the appearance of printed sources such as pamphlets and newspapers (see, e.g., the treatment of “A Representation of Facts” in vol. 5 of the Laurens Papers). This rule for the treatment of printed source texts is consistent among editions of eighteenth-century materials, but editors of more modern documents have departed from it. In the Woodrow Wilson Papers, for example, the same rules for emending spelling and punctuation were applied to both manuscript source texts and Wilson’s published works. The editors of the Harold Frederic Correspondence allowed themselves far greater latitude in emending printed and even typewritten source texts of letters than in treating handwritten sources.

The economies offered by modern technology make this textual approach economically practical for many more editions. The first volume of the Documentary History of the Supreme Court, published in 1985, offered readers page after page of documents in which superscript letters, marginal additions, interlineations, and archaic symbols were reproduced literally in type. By then, the project’s editors could put encoded editorial copy for both documents and notes into computer files, which were translated into print by Columbia University Press. The press estimated that the cost of producing each page of the Supreme Court volumes in printed facsimiles in 1985 was a bit less in real terms than the per-page cost for the more standardized texts of a volume of the Hamilton Papers in 1978.

Although theory and technology now combine to make facsimile editions more popular, the most important theoretical consideration in publishing facsimiles remains the same: editors and readers alike must remember that the facsimiles themselves are edited forms or versions of their sources, with cameras or scanning equipment performing the editorial function. They are their own form of editorial text, and they demand the same exacting review readers would expect from printed emended texts. In his excellent historical survey “Reproductions and Scholarship,” G. Thomas Tanselle reminds us that facsimile editions, unlike conventional photoreproductions, involve “thorough proofreading and the writing of notes on potentially misleading spots” (75).

Figures 1 and 2 display the results of imposing facsimile treatment on this chapter’s sample document. Figure 1 shows a photographic facsimile, which can be compared against the typographic facsimile in figure 2. In a scholarly edition, readers would be informed that the letter was written in April 1982, when the author was engaged in arranging the date for a meeting in Bloomington, Indiana. There she was to discuss the final details of the Guide with an executive subcommittee composed of David Chesnutt of the University of South Carolina, David Nordloh of Indiana University, and Paul Smith of the Library of Congress. It was expected that another person might attend these meetings—Don Cook, then president of the ADE and a member of the Indiana University Department of English.

Figure 1. Photofacsimile

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Figure 2. Typographic facsimile

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III. Editorial Texts Requiring Symbols or Textual Annotation

Only editors who prepare image facsimiles are spared the use of editorial devices that communicate original inscriptional details that cannot readily be duplicated in a typeset version. As they have put general theories of textual method into practice, American editors have used a broad, sometimes bewildering variety of mechanical devices and techniques. In a diplomatic transcription, symbols or abbreviations appear in the documentary text itself. In inclusive or expanded texts, the symbols may appear both in the text and in supplementary notes. In clear text, symbols and notes appear in the back-of-book records of editorial emendations and details of inscription.

A. Textual Symbols

The use of textual symbols goes back to the work of classical scholars in their editions of ancient works. The first systematic use of textual symbols for more recent materials appeared in the early 1920s in the Malone Society’s Reprints series, edited by W. W. Greg. The society’s editions of British literary works of the Renaissance and the early modern period employed two sets of characters to indicate details in manuscript sources: angle brackets (< >) to enclose passages lost through mutilation or other damage and restored by the editors, and square brackets ([ ]) to enclose passages deleted in the original manuscript.

After World War II, these and other symbols were applied to American documents and literary works. The first American system of textual symbols was devised by Julian Boyd and Lyman Butterfield for their Jefferson and Rush editions. They confined themselves to the same two pairs of symbols used by the Malone Society, but they modified the meaning of each set of brackets. Because common American usage had already assigned to square brackets the function of setting off interpolated material, these symbols were given a similar meaning in the text of American documentary editions. Instead of denoting authorial deletions, square brackets in the Jefferson and Rush volumes indicated some form of editorial intrusion into the text—the insertion of characters or words not physically a part of the original, whether these were added to restore mutilated passages or interjected to explain some aspect of the text. Angle brackets, on the other hand, had no generally accepted function in American usage of the time. Since they were a “neutral” symbol, the editors of the Jefferson and Rush editions arbitrarily assigned them to enclose restored canceled material in their source texts.

During the thirty years following publication of the first volume of the Jefferson Papers, scholarly editors here and abroad devised symbols and abbreviations for almost every detail of inscription of which the human mind, hand, and pen could be guilty. Symbolic description of textual detail won popularity so quickly that many of its adopters were unaware of the novelty of their methods. In the statement of textual method for the first volume of the Emerson Journals, published in 1961, the use of angle brackets to enclose restored authorial deletions was described as traditional, although that tradition was only a decade old. The symbol has now become so widely used that some editors no longer bother to define its meaning in prefaces to their volumes of documentary texts.

Other conventions have won less universal acceptance and acclaim. The list that follows records only some of the devices that modern editors have devised to represent textual details—what Lewis Mumford dubbed the “barbed wire” of modern American scholarly texts:

1. Passages Deleted by the Author

<italic> Original device used in Jefferson Papers. Textual notes now record deletions
<roman> Emerson, Howells, Irving, and Frederic editions; most historical editions
<<italic or
A deletion within a deletion in an edition that employs single angle (or “broken”) brackets for a primary deletion
canceled type Grant and Hamilton Papers; most editions of literary works; almost every edition inaugurated since 1990
< A crossed-out deletion, Billy Budd
An erasure, Billy Budd

2. Unrecoverable Gaps in the Source Text

[ . . . ] The number of suspension points within the square brackets usually offers a clue to the length of the lacuna, or unrecoverable material. In the Jefferson and Adams Papers, “[ . . . ], [. . . . ]” indicates one or two missing words; if a footnote number follows the brackets, the lacuna is longer, and a note estimates the number of missing words. The Cooper edition employs a similar technique. In the Grant Papers, the number of points represents the approximate number of missing letters, not words.
[ ] A missing portion of a number, Jefferson Papers
|| . . . || The number of suspension points approximates the number of missing words in the Emerson Journals, with three dots representing one to five words; four dots, six to ten words; and five dots, sixteen to thirty words. The abbreviation msm within the vertical lines stands for “manuscript accidentally mutilated.”
{ } Missing words or pages in the Margaret Sanger edition, with text between the styled brackets indicating the amount of lost text (“{two words missing}” or “{one page missing}”)
xxx Missing letters in the Emerson Journals, with the number of x’s approximating the number of lost characters
[---] Missing words in the Grant and Wilson Papers, with the spaced hyphens indicating the number of words lost. The editors of the Ratification series employ the same symbol, but three hyphens are used regardless of the length of the lacuna.
. . . Lacunae in the Hamilton Papers, with the suspension points representing the approximate number of unrecoverable characters
// . . . // Illegible words in Mark Twain’s Satires
[ *** ] Unrecoverable shorthand characters, Wilson Papers

Countless variations upon this theme are possible. The Irving edition, which employs angle brackets to enclose deleted passages, combines that symbol with italicized descriptive words or phrases to indicate unrecoverable canceled passages, as with “<illegible>” for a hopelessly obliterated section.

3. Additions to the Original

> An insertion with Melville’s caret, Billy Budd
An interlinear insertion without a caret, Billy Budd
^roman^ All insertions (interlinear and marginal), Mark Twain’s Satires; interlineations only, Frederic Correspondence; interlineations made with author’s symbol for an interlined addition, Emerson Journals
↓roman↑ “Substitutions for a deletion,” Mark Twain’s Satires; interlineations in Emerson Journals, Irving edition, and most other “literary” series and the Margaret Sanger Papers
/roman/ Marcus Garvey Papers
I roman I Marginal additions, Emerson Journals
< > Jane Addams Papers; interlineation appearing within the brackets
w.o. Superimposed addition (“written over”), Billy Budd

4. Underlining in the Source Text

italic Single underlining. This method was once almost universal, but most projects now simply print a word with its underline.
small capitals Double underlining. This convention, too, was once almost universal. Modern editions print the text with two underlines.

5. Authorial Symbols

þ The handwritten thorn, which had been formalized to y by the mid-eighteenth century, is customarily printed as a y or as th for materials in American history and literature.
~ Many eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century authors employed the curved tilde or a simple straight line at the point in a word where characters were omitted to form a contraction. The tilde is reproduced in type by the Laurens, Ratification, and Burr editors. Many editions, following the lead of the Jefferson Papers, once ignored the tilde and silently expanded the resulting contraction where it was employed. Today, the Jefferson editions reproduce the tilde without expanding the contracted form.
[per sign] The “tailed p” is either rendered by the character for this symbol in print (Jefferson Papers) or expanded to the intended form of per, pre, or pro (Hamilton Papers, Letters of Delegates). If the meaning of the symbol is unclear, an edition that ordinarily expands it must indicate an ambiguous usage by “p[er?]” or some other method reserved by the edition for conjectural readings. Changes in modern-day typesetting are rapidly eliminating the need to translate this symbol, but it is still one of the characters unavailable for display in HTML.
* The asterisk is the most commonly employed rendition of an idiosyncratic symbol used by authors to indicate their own footnote numbers (Emerson Journals). However, when the author uses a standardized (even if rather archaic) form of citation, it is preferable to retain the form when it has an equivalent in modern type fonts, such as a dagger (†).
A “fist” or “index” drawn by the author in the margin to call attention to a passage in his or her text can be translated to the printed “fist” that survives in many typefaces.
-[ ]- Bracket used in the Emerson Journals to enclose page numbers supplied by Emerson himself
Author’s marking for a new paragraph
no ¶ Author’s marking for the consolidation of paragraphs

6. Line Breaks in the Source Text

/ Most historical editions; Howells Letters
| Hawthorne, Whitman, and James editions

7. Editorial Supply

[roman] The most common device for both literary and historical series; if doubt exists concerning the supplied material, a question mark precedes the closing bracket ([reading?]).
<roman> Hamilton Papers
|| roman || Emerson Journals
| roman | Howells Letters
{roman} Frederic Correspondence
-[roman]- Wilson Papers device for “word or words in the original text which Wilson omitted in copying”

8. Editorial Expansion of Abbreviations or Contractions

[roman] Universally accepted symbol in editions that expand such forms within the text

9. Editorial Omissions

[ . . . ] Emerson Journals
. . . Booker T. Washington Papers

10. Alternative Readings

/ Introduces alternative readings in Mark Twain’s Satires
/roman/ The virgules enclose alternative readings in the Emerson Journals

When variant copies provide alternative readings in documentary materials, it’s far more common to describe the variations in notes than to represent them symbolically within the text.

11. Editorial Interpolations

[italic] This is the most commonly used device, although both the Emerson and Ratification volumes employ “[roman].” If an edition contains a substantial amount of material that must be represented within square brackets for other reasons (lacunae in the text, expanded abbreviations, supplies of mutilated passages), the editorial apparatus must distinguish clearly between bracketed material that can at least be inferred from the source text and bracketed contributions that do not stem from the source (corrections of outrageously misspelled words, catchwords such as illegible, and so on). The reader must not be left to wonder to which category the bracketed material belongs. If brackets are used sparingly in the text, and there is no possibility of confusion, then all bracketed letters, words, and phrases can be in the same typeface.
italic Frederic Correspondence

B. Some Rules for Using Editorial Symbols

The variety of symbols used by different editions to represent the same textual detail is so great that it’s hard to escape the conclusion that some symbols were adopted because editors were unaware of the conventions already in place. Others may have tried to prove their inventiveness by adopting a new form of bracket or a new arrangement of virgules (slashes) instead of imitating another edition’s practices. Nothing short of an editorial Council of Trent could impose order on the symbolic chaos in existing documentary editions. We can, however, offer a few observations and suggestions.

A careless choice of symbols can make the reader’s task more difficult. If two symbols represent related details in the manuscript, the symbols themselves should have a visual relationship. The reader’s memory will be burdened sufficiently without the addition of sets of characters that contradict each other in appearance and meaning. Following this rule, the editors of Melville’s Billy Budd used variations on the opening half of a pair of angle brackets (<) to indicate different kinds of authorial cancellation, and employed variants on the closing angle bracket (>) to represent two methods of interlineation in the source text. If the edition requires a lengthy series of textual symbols, the editor should use as many devices as possible that mirror the physical appearance of the original. If an author cancels material both by lining out phrases and by erasing them, the lined-out deletions should appear in canceled type, whose meaning is easily grasped, with symbolic designation reserved for the erasures.

Fortunately, computerized publishing technology makes it possible to eliminate a good many symbols altogether. Many of those details can now be reproduced with no more trouble to the editor or expense to the publisher than inserting codes for symbols. Arbitrary symbols can be reserved for problems that cannot be so easily translated, and the list of symbols the reader is required to memorize will be reduced correspondingly. Online editors can provide hyperlinks from transcribed editorial text to points in images of the source texts where questions or confusion might arise.

C. Descriptive Textual Notes

Despite the thicket of editorial symbols cultivated by modern scholars, many details of inscription stubbornly defy symbolic representation, and some editors simply prefer to avoid the use of textual symbols altogether. Instead of symbols, their textual notes use verbal descriptions of textual problems whenever possible. Such textual descriptions can be provided in three ways: (1) in the documentary text within square brackets (as in the Calhoun Papers); (2) in footnotes whose numbers are keyed to the location of the cancellation, interlineation, marginal addition, or other detail in the edited text of the document (Franklin Papers); and (3) in a back-of-book textual record. The reasons for choosing each variation on the method are instructive.

The format of the Calhoun Papers allows for no footnotes of any kind. All editorially supplied historical notes as well as textual explanations are presented within square brackets in the text. This design does not lend itself easily to arrows and other symbols within the initial brackets. In the Franklin Papers, William Willcox explained that he found the use of symbols within the texts of printed documents to be “disfiguring,” and his choice of descriptive methods rested on this aesthetic preference.

Traditionally, editions of the writings of American literary figures have carried a complete textual record. Here the use of descriptive rather than symbolic methods rests on very different and more complicated grounds. Some of the details and patterns customarily reported do not lend themselves to symbolic treatment. The resulting number of textual notes would make it impossible to report these details within the text of a document or even in numbered footnotes, whose profusion would make the text a field of numerals rather than words and phrases. Therefore, the textual record usually has to be presented in unnumbered notes keyed to the line and page of the printed edition, appearing either in a section of notes following the text or in a back-of-book section. In either case, the textual note is at some distance physically from the section of edited text to which it referred. Many textual problems requiring such notes are so complicated that readers need special cues for understanding the significance of emendations or omissions, and brief verbal descriptions frequently serve this purpose better than symbols.

Fredson Bowers was the leading exponent of descriptive rather than symbolic textual annotation, and his edition of Leaves of Grass is the best example of a diplomatic transcription employing the technique. The notes follow each poem and can be consulted easily. Bowers later argued for the use of descriptive textual annotation for inclusive and clear texts as well, and the practical effect of the method in such an edition was first seen in the Hawthorne Notebooks. The system became more highly refined in Bowers’s textual notes for the William James edition, and his exposition of the method appears in his “Transcription of Manuscripts: The Record of Variants.” The back-of-book records of emendations and inscriptional details in these series follow the traditional format for literary works. Each line-page reference is followed by the lemma (a word or phrase in the editorial text that indicates the site of editorial activity), followed by a left-opening bracket (]), which divides the lemma from the reading in the source text. The method can be seen at its simplest in the record of the first editorial emendation in Hawthorne’s French and Italian Notebooks:

6.3 a little more or less] ^a little more less

This merely indicates that in line 3 on page 6, the editors have supplied the word or, which Hawthorne omitted from this entry in his notebook.

Usually, such textual tables need only three symbols in addition to the left-opening bracket that follows the lemma: the slash (/), which indicates a line break in the source text; the mathematical symbol ~, which represents a repetition of the word that appears after the bracket; and a caret on the line (ˆ), which can indicate the absence of punctuation in the source text. Thus, in the same Hawthorne volume, “of] of/ of” shows that the editors have omitted the of that Hawthorne repeated when he began a new line. And “Liverpool,] l~ˆ” shows that the editors have added the comma after Liverpool.

A scheme of descriptive textual annotation should be designed as carefully as one of symbolic representation. The words and phrases that describe more complicated emendations and details in the source can be written out or abbreviated. The Thoreau Journals contain descriptive textual notes without abbreviations for the best and most practical of reasons: brevity. The notes seldom run to more than one line with unabbreviated descriptive forms, and using contracted forms would have saved no space while forcing readers to master a table of abbreviations. Still, many editions require abbreviations to prevent the descriptive textual notes from becoming unmanageable; among the most common are del. for deleted, ab. for above the line, and interl. for interlined. A descriptive textual record is offered for the clear text version of the sample document in figure 5, below. Descriptive annotation is still very much alive, and a new, alternative system appears in David L. Vander Meulen and G. Thomas Tanselle’s “A System of Manuscript Transcription.”

IV. Diplomatic Transcriptions

In modern American editions, a diplomatic transcription is one step removed from the typographic facsimile. The editor uses carefully chosen critical symbols or abbreviations to indicate details of inscription such as interlineations and cancellations instead of reproducing their physical appearance in the original. Editors of diplomatic transcriptions often standardize the placement of such routine elements of the source text as datelines, greetings, salutations, titles, and the indentation of paragraphs, and they may also supply missing punctuation, expand ambiguous or archaic abbreviations and contractions, or even supply words unintentionally omitted by the author or destroyed by mutilation of the original source text. None of these corrections or emendations, however, is made silently: each is given within a form of brackets indicating such editorial activities. If some emendation or detail of original inscription cannot be described conveniently with symbols or a bracketed interpolation, a footnote immediately adjacent to the text explains the problem at hand.

Figure 3. Diplomatic transcription

missing image file

Examples of exhaustive diplomatic transcriptions are almost as rare as printed facsimiles among editions of modern American materials. Perhaps the best known are Fredson Bowers’s Leaves of Grass, the Hayford-Sealts genetic text of Melville’s Billy Budd, and Donald Reiman’s edition of Shelley and His Circle. In all these, the reader has immediate access to the details of the original manuscript source text in the diplomatic transcription and to a critically edited reading text, which represents the author’s apparent final intentions. In Leaves of Grass and Shelley and His Circle the reading texts and the diplomatic transcriptions are presented as parallel texts on facing pages. The Hayford-Sealts reading text of Billy Budd precedes the genetic text of the author’s manuscript. For materials whose diplomatic transcriptions rival these in complexity, providing a reading text is not only a kindness to the reader but a necessity.

Figure 3 offers a diplomatic transcription using the following textual symbols:

< > Deleted passages
↑ ↓ Interlined material
^ ^ Material interlined with a caret
[roman] Editorial expansion of abbreviated forms
[. . .] Unrecoverable canceled matter, with each suspension point representing one illegible character

V. The Middle Ground: Inclusive Texts and Expanded Transcriptions

Most editors compromise to one degree or another between a detailed diplomatic text and a clear reading text. Among editions in the CEAA/CSE tradition, such methods are described as “inclusive.” For historian-editors the practice became known as expanded transcription. The difference between the inclusive and expanded methods is not so much the editor’s basic conservatism or liberalism in emending and standardizing the text as the degree to which such editorial tinkering is reported to the reader. In both inclusive texts and expanded transcriptions, certain classes of emendations (usually relating to physical format) are performed silently in individual cases although described to the reader as classes of correction and standardization in a general statement. Editors of inclusive texts that meet CSE guidelines report any emendations in other categories individually in accompanying textual notes. Expanded texts in historical editions offer no such supplementary record of emendations or suppressed details beyond what appears in the text and in footnotes immediately adjacent to the documentary text.

In both techniques, some details of inscription are reported overtly in the editorial text, that is, through the use of textual symbols or numbered footnotes adjacent to the text. Both breeds of editors may also standardize certain elements of the format of the source text silently. Datelines and place lines in letters are usually printed above the greetings and text, no matter where they appear in the original. Headings for diary and journal entries are standardized for easy reference. Paragraph indentations and dashes of varying length are made uniform.

Beyond such standardization of the format, inclusive and expansive editors often emend the text without giving any overt indication. In decades past, superscript characters were commonly lowered to form an abbreviation or contraction on one line, with a mark of punctuation placed after the resulting form. Archaic holographic symbols were generally rendered in their closest equivalent in print (as th or y for the thorn, or per, pre, or pro for the tailed p). Abbreviations or contractions that editors judged unfamiliar to their readers were not reproduced exactly—they were expanded silently or overtly, with brackets to indicate that an editorial hand was at work or a change in typeface to signal supplied words or characters. Erratic punctuation was standardized—silently or overtly—and missing marks of punctuation were supplied. Modern editors of long-lived projects that began with broad patterns of emendation have generally modified these policies in favor of more conservative treatment.

A. Inclusive Texts

The most cogent description of requirements for an inclusive text appeared in the CEAA’s revised Statement of Editorial Principles of 1972 (9). It stated that inclusive methods should be employed for a source text whose audience is “limited mostly to scholars and specialists,” and they were specifically recommended to editors whose source texts are “manuscript letters or journals or notebooks” for which no authoritative published version exists. The Statement also pointed out that this method is preferred whenever “reporting the author’s process of composition directly is important.” Once the editorial text is established, deletions and revisions might be reported on the same page as the editorial text, as for a diplomatic transcription; in accompanying textual footnotes at the bottom of the page; or in notes placed between such “separable” items as letters and entries in a journal. These textual notes can explain the use of symbols in the text and record details of inscription that the editor has been forced to omit from the text itself.

In addition to such notes, the CEAA/CSE inclusive editor was usually required to furnish “in some form” a record of editorial emendations of the source text that were not clearly indicated in that text or its adjacent notes. Thus, an inclusive text might be followed by a back-of-book record of emendations similar to the ones that appeared in CEAA/CSE editions of literary works, with their references keyed to the line and page of the edited volume where they occurred. An inclusive text of documentary materials, like any CEAA/CSE edition, was also to be accompanied by a report of “editorial decisions in the handling of possible compounds hyphenated at the ends of lines in the copy-text, along with an indication of which end-of-line hyphenations in the newly edited text should be retained in quotations from the text.”

In practice, few multivolume CEAA/CSE editions consistently followed these rules for documentary materials. The Washington Irving series was among this small number. Irving’s Journals and Letters used editorial symbols in their texts for most details of inscription. Numbered footnotes at the bottom of the page (Journals) or at the close of individual items (Letters) reported emendations and details suppressed in the reading text.

Editors experimented with a variety of methods for documentary source texts. The Emerson Journals provided an example of inclusive methods, with editorial symbols within the journal entries for major details of inscription and a further back-of-book record of editorial emendations not apparent in the reading text itself. The Emerson Lectures, however appeared in clear text. Still another series bearing the CSE seal, the Harold Frederic Correspondence, imposed different editorial methods on different groups of source texts in the same volume. The 203 letters whose source texts are holographs are offered as inclusive texts, while the 163 letters in the volume that survive only as typescripts, transcriptions, or earlier published versions appear in clear text.

One edition adopted inclusive methods midstream in its progress. The first volumes of documentary material in the Mark Twain Papers—Twain’s Letters to His Publishers and his Letters to H. H. Rogers—were heavily emended by the editors, with neither a report of canceled passages nor a record of other details suppressed in the reading text. Ensuing volumes of documentary materials, however, adopted inclusive methods. The volumes of Twain’s Notebooks and Journals are an example of inclusive textual editing at its best. The reading texts employ conventional editorial symbols to indicate such items as legible canceled passages, revisions, and other significant details of the source texts. A back-of-book record conveniently divides textual notes between “Editorial Emendations and Doubtful Readings” and “Details of Inscription in the Manuscript.” The first alerts the reader to elements of the reading text that result from editorial judgment, while the second records elements of Clemens’s accidentals and substantives in the source texts that either did not warrant inclusion in the reading text or could not be reproduced symbolically on the printed page.

In the light of experience, the editors of the Twain edition later devised a new form of inclusive textual editing dubbed “plain text” for their author’s correspondence. This system is discussed at length in Robert Hirst’s “Guide to Editorial Practice” and “Guide to Textual Commentaries” in Mark Twain’s Letters (i:xxv–xlvi, 447–63). The Twain editors do not pretend that their reading texts are print facsimiles or even diplomatic transcriptions, but these conservatively emended inclusive texts use typographic equivalents for certain details of the original rather than the editorial symbols customarily used in inclusive texts. Samuel Clemens’s use of the conventions of nineteenth-century typography in his personal letter writing and the economies of modern computerized typesetting made this effective, commonsense approach a practical possibility. The letters that appeared in the two earlier volumes, Letters to His Publishers and Letters to H. H. Rogers, are being reprinted in later volumes of the Letters series, appearing at their appropriate chronological places and reedited in plain text.

None of these inclusive or plain text editions pretends to report all the details of their sources. Two forms of emendation are made silently within the text, with no record in the textual apparatus: (1) standardization of the manuscript’s format, including the placement of such elements as a letter’s dateline, salutation, and complimentary close; uniform spacing between lines and uniform indentation of paragraphs; and (2) standardization of irregularly formed letters of the alphabet and marks of punctuation. Inclusive editors seeking CSE approval may enlarge this list of silent emendations, listing additional categories in statements of textual method in their volumes.

Certain details of inscription are customarily reported overtly, by using symbols or facsimile printing in the text or by placing footnotes adjacent to the text. Those details include legible canceled passages, especially those that reflect a change in the substance of the author’s thought, and legible additions to the original passage, such as interlineations, on-line additions, and marginal insertions. An interlinear spelling correction, for instance, would not fall into this category.

Details of inscription in the following categories are usually omitted from the inclusive text and recorded only in back-of-book textual notes: (1) false starts so brief that they give no sense of the author’s preliminary intention; (2) slips of the pen such as dittography (words repeated unintentionally) or minor errors of spelling or punctuation that the author did not correct; (3) authorial corrections of spelling and punctuation (whether as write-overs, interlineations, added characters, or marginal insertions) that do not indicate a change in the desired sense of the passage; (4) illegible canceled passages; (5) catchwords at the bottom of a page that are repeated at the top of the following page; (6) a change in any of the media used in the original manuscript (i.e., variations in paper, ink, or pencil within the same document); (7) symbols that cannot be reproduced in set type in any readable form and must be described rather than represented by visual symbols; and (8) authorial revisions so complicated that not even diplomatic transcription or facsimile printing could represent them clearly.

Similarly, some types of editorial emendation are usually reported within the text rather than in the back-of-book record of an inclusive edition. The following editorial contributions are signaled by symbols in the text (usually a pair of square brackets) alerting the reader to possible ambiguity: (1) supply of a word, phrase, or a single mark of punctuation omitted by the author; (2) supply of mutilated or obliterated material; (3) any change in the identity of the source text, when two or more sources are conflated to produce the complete text of an item; (4) any editorial expansion of authorial shorthand necessary to make a passage read sensibly, such as completion of dates and expansion of ambiguous contractions and abbreviations or of a set of initials to a full name; (5) any editorial interpolations of factual material; and (6) any editorial omissions of material that the author clearly intended as part of the final letter, diary entry, or essay (e.g., standardized headings).

Finally, some forms of emendation are made silently within the text, with some note of their existence in the back-of-book record: (1) expansion of unambiguous but obsolete contractions or abbreviations; (2) the supply of a missing punctuation mark that is part of a set, such as half of a pair of quotation marks, or one or more commas in a series; (3) the supply of terminal punctuation when the author began a new sentence with a capital letter but omitted the period, question mark, or exclamation point that should have preceded that character; (4) correction of an author’s lapse from his or her usual patterns of punctuation or spelling; and (5) the supply of breaks for paragraphs in a lengthy passage.

B. Expanded Transcription

The term expanded transcription, describing the textual practices of historical editors, gained currency in the 1954 edition of the Harvard Guide to American History. In discussing documentary publication, Samuel Eliot Morison categorized the methods used for American historical materials into three groups: “the Literal, the Expanded, and the Modernized.” As an aside, he pointed out that “in addition there is one that we might call the Garbled or Bowdlerized, which should be avoided” (95). Morison’s rules for all three of the recommended methods included providing clues to the provenance of the source text; standardizing the address, dateline, and greeting of letters; marking all editorial interpolations by square brackets; indicating editorial omissions by suspension points ( . . . ); lowering interlineations to the line; and rendering words underscored once in italics and those underscored twice in small capitals. A final instruction to all editors advised them “to prepare a fresh text from the manuscript or photostat” instead of relying on an earlier printed version (97).

Morison spent little time discussing “literal” techniques or “modernized” methods, which he approved for use only for English translations from other tongues and for “an early document, chronicle, or narrative [whose] average reader [might be] put off by obsolete spelling and erratic punctuation.” Most of his attention was directed to describing the expanded method of textual presentation that had been used in the first volumes of Boyd’s Jefferson edition, then a new and exciting addition to the literature. Unfortunately, Morison confined himself to describing his preferences for expanded transcription and noting his minor differences with Boyd, never explaining the goals or rationale of the method. His six rules for expanded transcription were hardly helpful, for they included such advice as “Retain the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation of the source text, but always capitalize the first word and put a period at the end of the sentence no matter what the writer does” (98).

Studying Morison’s precepts for expanded texts is less illuminating than examining Julian Boyd’s reasons for adopting the methods or later editors’ motives in modifying the technique in what became known as the historical tradition. The patterns of silent emendation cited by Morison were worked out by Boyd and Lyman Butterfield during their fruitful partnership at the Jefferson project in the late 1940s. Acutely aware of the loss suffered by the transfer of any eighteenth-century source text to a twentieth-century printed page, they cast about for some device that would preserve the flavor of the original materials: their solution was to print manuscript materials more or less as they would have been printed at the time of their inscription. While the device itself was not new, an attempt to apply it to American materials was. Consulting products of Benjamin Franklin’s press, the two scholars compiled what could be termed a style sheet for compositors of the late eighteenth century. The conventions used in the Jefferson, Rush, and Adams volumes edited by Boyd and Butterfield were largely those employed by the printers who were contemporaries of their statesmen subjects. In printing houses of that day, for instance, the ampersand was retained only when it was part of the name of a business firm or part of the abbreviation &c or &ca for etc.; otherwise the symbol was rendered as “and.” This usage was transferred to the printed texts published in the 1950s and 1960s. Similarly, because the thorn was no longer used in printing by the late eighteenth century, Boyd and Butterfield silently translated it to th when it appeared in a manuscript.

Unfortunately, Boyd and Butterfield assumed that their readers and fellow editors would recognize the patterns of silent emendation for what they were—the printing conventions of Revolutionary America. They believed that they were justified in imposing these conventions on the materials at hand because Jefferson, Rush, and Adams were literate men who would have expected to see such conventions imposed on any holograph materials that they submitted to a printer. In effect, Boyd and Butterfield sought to publish volumes of documents edited as Jefferson, Rush, and Adams themselves would have edited them. Butterfield recognized the method’s limitations for John Adams’s own family: letters written by eighteenth-century Adams women, often denied conventional education in standard English usage and punctuation, were emended far more conservatively lest nuances of the original be lost by imposing inappropriate conventions. Other scholars, however, missed this central point, assuming that Boyd and Butterfield’s patterns of emendation were designed to serve any documentary edition. Some attempted to transfer these methods to manuscript source texts of later periods, when the reasons for the Boyd-Butterfield printing conventions had no validity. Worse still, some used these methods with documents composed by semiliterate men and women, thus obscuring almost every bit of the original texture and flavor that Boyd and Butterfield had hoped to preserve.

Not only did editors following this tradition expand certain forms abbreviated in the original, but they also included within the text or its accompanying footnotes elements of the source text that were excluded from the final version of the document. Thus, Boyd and Butterfield and their followers, like inclusive editors in the CEAA mold, reported cancellations and insertions whose existence seemed likely to be of importance to their modern readers. Some editors used textual symbols, others used footnotes adjacent to the text. Unlike inclusive editors of the CEAA/CSE school, however, expansionist editors did not pretend to record every detail of inscription by providing a back-of-book record of such suppressed details or of their emendations of the source text.

Expanded texts can be constructed conservatively or liberally. The text of letters in the Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, for instance, is close to a diplomatic transcription of the sources. If the editors provided a back-of-book record of minor emendations, their volumes would easily qualify for the CSE seal. Volumes in the Adams and Jefferson series, however, continued the practices of traditional expansionist emendation until the first years of the twenty-first century.

While part of this diversity came from the traditions of the editions in question, another factor played an important role. Ulysses S. Grant’s letters simply required fewer silent emendations under the definitions of expanded text because they were not eighteenth-century materials. Grant and his correspondents used neither the thorn or the tailed p. Their style was already a century closer to modern conventions, and the editors of the Grant Papers did not need to bend the rules of expanded methods to create their near-diplomatic transcriptions, for those rules simply did not apply to the textual problems they faced.

The fathers of expanded transcription based their method on another assumption that Morison and their followers ignored. Although Boyd and Butterfield were selective in including details of the source text in their volumes, they did not ignore the requirements of readers who needed access to the contents of the originals. They assumed that microfilm editions of their projects’ archives would soon make facsimiles of these source texts available to a wide audience, thus giving readers access to any details of the originals that the printed texts ignored. The Library of Congress did issue an indexed microfilm of Jefferson’s surviving personal papers in that institution’s Presidential Papers series (now even more conveniently available online thanks to the American Memory Web site). A few other major repositories issued microfilm collections of Jefferson materials, but there has never been a supplementary publication of the items from other repositories whose materials exist as surrogate photocopies in the files of Jefferson Papers project. Similarly, Butterfield and his staff issued a microfilm edition of the Adams Family Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society, but the project never prepared a similar microform edition of photocopies of Adams materials collected later from other repositories.

Figure 4 presents the text of this chapter’s sample document in what might be its inclusive or expanded form, followed by the textual record that might accompany the inclusive text in an edition bearing the CSE emblem. In this expanded form of the document, the abbreviation “D.C.” in line 19 has been expanded within brackets, unlike other abbreviations for personal names, because its meaning would otherwise be ambiguous (Don Cook or David Chesnutt?).

Figure 4. Inclusive text, or expanded transcription

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C. Textual Record

The textual record for the inclusive text (see fig. 4) uses the traditional “lemma]” form for locating alterations in the reading text. Line numbers precede the first lemma in each line.

1 9 April] entered at the foot of the letter in the MS
3 “Guide”;~<,>
5 Comm[itt]ee.] Commee; the] ye
6 the] ye
7 for]<of> ↑for↓
11 a lot] a (h) lot
14 Look,] ~ ^
15–16 lemma, and don’t] “and . . . arguments” added in margin, with a guideline directing its insertion after it.
16 that this] that ↑this↓
20 can] <co> can
28 those so ignorant] those <so> ↑<too>↓ ignorant
29 that they confuse] to ↑that they↓ confuse
30–31 lemma. I wish] “I wish . . . peacemaker” originally part of the preceding paragraph, with authorial markings for a new paragraph. “I’ll keep” was originally the beginning of a new paragraph, with authorial markings for a “run-on.”
31–32 you give] you ↑give↓ welcomed—] welcomed ↑—↓

VI. Clear Text

The term clear text has traditionally described the preferred method for presenting the critically edited texts of published works. The texts themselves contain neither critical symbols nor footnote numbers to indicate that an emendation has been made or that some detail has been omitted. All such emendations and alterations are reported in back-of-book tables whose citations are keyed to the page and line numbers of the new printed edition. With the publication of the Hawthorne Notebooks in the early 1970s, however, clear text was applied to CEAA-approved volumes of writings not originally intended for publication—the private writings that had hitherto received more conservative textual treatment. The decision was soon imitated by editors of the Howells Letters, the Thoreau Journals, and portions of the Harold Frederic Correspondence. Each series won CEAA/CSE endorsement, even though the CEAA and CSE guidelines of the day urged the adoption of more inclusive methods for source texts of this kind.

While there is no official standard for the adoption of clear text in documentary editing, the experience of editors who have used the technique furnishes some useful guidelines. Elizabeth Witherell, longtime editor of the Thoreau edition, provided words of caution when she recommended that clear text for manuscript source texts of private writings be used “only when a great deal of editorial emendation is required, or when almost none at all is necessary.” This apparent contradiction is easily explained. Thoreau revised many journal passages for use in lectures, essays, and books, so a page of his manuscript may contain two distinct versions of the same passage: Thoreau’s original jottings in pen, along with his later revisions of these entries in pen and pencil. Although an ingenious book designer might have improvised a method to present a single typographic facsimile, diplomatic transcription, or inclusive text giving simultaneous access to both stages of composition, the reader would be hard-pressed to make sense of the results. The Thoreau editors chose to present a clear text of the earliest version of the journal entries and to complement each volume with tables of emendations (applying only to that first version), as well as with tables of significant variants between the earlier and later stages of the journals’ physical contents. The editors did not pretend that their reading text conveyed all that could be learned from the manuscript journals; they simply provided a legible and reliable text of one of the two versions that exist in the same document.

At the other extreme, Witherell suggested that clear text is a practical option for documents that are themselves close to final versions of the documents that they represent. Neatly inscribed recipients’ copies of letters, fair copies of literary manuscripts or of political treatises—each of these is clean enough to serve for clear text. The extent of editorial intervention is so slight and of so little substantive importance that the editor can responsibly assign the record of such emendations to a back-of-book table.

The editor who weighs clear text as an option must carefully consider the requirements of the text and its prospective readers, for this treatment can suppress important inscriptional details or distort the documentary value of the resulting editorial text. If a writer customarily sent correspondents copies of letters containing canceled passages, a clear text of such letters would seriously distort the document by omitting such cancellations from the reading text. The edition’s readers would be denied immediate access to words, phrases, and paragraphs that were easily read by the letters’ recipients. Similarly, if a writer consistently dispatched carelessly proofread letters in which words were inadvertently omitted, a clear text that silently supplied the missing words would be a disservice. In both cases, the editor would have gone too far, and clear text would not be a practical and honest solution.

Before choosing clear text, an editor should analyze the emerging patterns of emendation and details of transcription that would have to be relegated to back-of-book records. If these fall into the categories that the inclusive editor would ordinarily report within the text (legible canceled passages with substantive implications, editorially supplied material for a mutilated document, and so on), then the source is not an appropriate candidate for clear text. If the evolving patterns fall into the categories that inclusive editors normally consign to the back-of-book record or emend silently, however, the source is clearly a perfect subject for clear text methods.

Clear text is justifiable in a scholarly edition only when that reading text will be accompanied by a full record of editorial emendations and suppressed inscriptional details or a companion facsimile. Editorial intervention of any degree can be justified only when readers are provided with a complete report of what they have been denied by the editor’s decision to be exclusive rather than inclusive.

Figure 5 provides the clear text version of the sample document shown in figure 1. It is followed by samples of the textual record that might accompany it, one using symbolic methods and the other the descriptive approach.

Figure 5. Clear text

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A. Textual Records

1. Symbolic Method

The textual record for the clear text in figure 5 is presented in the symbolic format used by the Howells Letters. Editorial emendations are reported in the “lemma] manuscript reading” style, with heavy reliance on traditional textual symbols. Suppressed details of inscription are indicated without the citation of the lemma unless confusion might result from abbreviated treatment.

1 9 April 1982] “9 April” entered at the foot of the letter in the MS; “1982” added by the editors.
3 Guide] ~ <, >
3–5 This was initially the second paragraph of the body of the letter. The author marked it for insertion at this point.
5 Commee
6 <nagging> ↑to nag↓ the]ye; Sub-Comm.
7 date <of> ↑for↓
8 Nordloh] N.
9 Chesnutt] C.
10 Smith] S.
11 a <h>lot
14 Look] ~ ^
15–16 “and don’t give me any [ . . . ] arguments” added in the margin, with a guideline directing its insertion after “it
17 Bloomington] Bl’ton
18 Don Cook] D.C.
19 I <co> can
23 Sub-Comm. <Chesnutt> ↑One member↓
24 <Nordloh> ↑Another↓
26 <so> ↑<too>↓ ignorant to ↑<that they>↓ confuse
27–28 “I wish . . . peacemaker. I’ll keep . . . of all developments.” Originally, “I wish . . . peacemaker” was the concluding sentence of the preceding paragraph. The author marked it to begin the letter’s last paragraph and marked the following sentence to run on as part of that paragraph.
28 ↑give↓
29 ↑—↓

2. Descriptive Method

This alternative textual record for the clear text in figure 5 employs the descriptive method for details of inscription, which employs the following abbreviations:

ab. = above del. = deleted interl. = interlined
aft. = after insertd. = inserted  
1 9 April 1982] “9 April” entered at the foot of the letter
3 “Guide”] comma del. aft. Guide
3–5 This was initially the second paragraph of the body of the letter. The author has marked it for insertion at this point.
5 Committee] Commee
6 to nag] interl. ab. del. “nagging”; the Executive Sub-Committee] ye Executive Sub. Comm.
7 for] interl. ab. del. “of”
8 Nordloh] N.
9 Chesnutt] C.
10 Smith] S.
11 lot] aft. del. “h”
14 Look,] ~ ^
15–16 and . . . any arguments] insertd. in margin with illegible cancellation aft. “any”
17 Bloomington] Bl’ton
18 Don Cook] D.C.
19 can] aft. del. “co”
23 Sub-Committee] Sub-Comm.; One member] interl. ab. del. “Chesnutt”
24 Another] interl. ab. del. “Nordloh”
26 so . . . confuse] del. “too” ab. del. “so”; “that they” interl. ab. “to”
27–28 I wish . . . of all developments.] Originally, “I wish . . . peacemaker” was the concluding sentence of the preceding paragraph. The author marked it to begin the letter’s last paragraph and marked the following sentence to “run on” as part of that paragraph.
28 give] interl. aft.you
29 —] interl. with caret

VII. Electronic Publication

Electronic publication of facsimiles or editorial transcriptions of source texts broadens the choices open to editors and users of these editions. Digitally scanned images of the sources can conveniently be paired with a variety of parallel texts. Hypertext links, for instance, give users access to the image of the source as well as a machine-readable clear text transcription that might serve the needs of a novice, with links to a textual record that notes details of inscription and a diplomatic transcription that might serve an advanced student. The Web component of this Guide offers such an example for the sample document used in this chapter.

VIII. Conclusion

Even with the newest technology, the oldest rules apply. The source text, likely audience, and publishing medium will dictate the choices new editors will make concerning their editions’ textual presentation, and there are cautionary lessons to be drawn from earlier enterprises. The sample texts presented here provide a few basic lessons.

The fact that the author of that 1982 letter used the thorn as shorthand in drafting correspondence is of some interest, but it could easily be reported in a general statement on her style without the need to reproduce every such symbol as “ye” or “[th]e” or to supply a textual note every time the thorn appears. The treatment of revisions and substitutions in the clear text, however, conceals not only changes in wording and tone but also factual information, such as the identities of the committee members to whom she referred. In each text, the conventions peculiar to the editorial method used show their own virtues and limitations.

The history of these editorial methods provides even more important lessons. Boyd and Butterfield, for instance, grounded their justification of expanded transcription on the assumption that some kind of comprehensive image edition of their source texts would be available to the public in timely fashion. However, no such comprehensive facsimile edition has been published or is now contemplated. Boyd and Butterfield erred, too, in assuming that their readers would understand the reasons for the editorial policies they adopted. No editor is justified in automatically adopting conventions or policies of emendation used by a colleague. The textual methods of each edition must be designed to suit the materials that provide source texts. “Generally accepted,” “traditional,” and “time-honored” are adjectives that should not be used to justify the adoption of any editorial practice. In choosing textual methods, each editor must start afresh, making decisions.

Suggested Readings

The most valuable discussions of editors’ choices of one textual method over another appear in the introductions to the editions themselves. Much of this material is collected in Editing Historical Documents: A Handbook of Practice, edited by Steven B. Burg and Michael E. Stevens. An earlier attempt to survey a wide variety of methods is G. Thomas Tanselle’s “The Editing of Historical Documents.” An interesting example of the modern application of different methods to the same source text can be seen in the Franklin Papers edition of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (New Haven, 1964), and in J. A. Leo Lemay and P. M. Zal’s genetic text of the same work.

An interesting summary of the arguments concerning the responsibility of editors of private source texts appears in CEAA Newsletter 3 (June 1970): 16–21. Hilary Jenkinson’s “The Representation of Manuscripts in Print,” published in 1934, is worth rereading, if only for its reminder to editors: “It is possible to make the path too smooth.”

Documentary editors have confined their remarks on the use of symbols or descriptive notes for textual problems in unpublished writings largely to the introductions to volumes in which such symbols or notes are employed; many of these are collected in Burg and Stevens’s Handbook of Practice. The Handbook provides a survey of practices comparable to G. Thomas Tanselle’s analysis of methods for published literary works in “Some Principles for Editorial Apparatus.”

The symbols of classical scholarship were standardized at a conference in Leiden in 1929, and their forms are summarized in the pamphlet by J. Bidez and A. B. Drachmann, Emploi des signes critiques; disposition dans les editions savantes de textes grecs et latins: Conseils et recommandations (Paris, 1932; rev. ed. by A. Delatte and A. Severyns, Brussels, 1938). For examples of textual symbols in the Malone Society’s Reprints series, see the editions of Anthony Munday’s John-a-Kent and John-a-Cumber (London, 1923), and Philip Massinger’s Believe as You List (London, 1928).

In addition to the essays cited in the text, the student of descriptive textual annotation should see Joel Myerson’s review essay “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin: A Genetic Text” in the Newsletter of the Association for Documentary Editing; and Fredson Bowers’s comments on Myerson’s remarks in a letter to the editor of the newsletter in September 1982.

For a more detailed discussion of the options available in the present century, we refer you to chapters 6 and 7, below, and to links from the Guide Web site.

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