The New Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Robert Louis Stevenson

Archive for November 2010

Colvin and the first Edinburgh Edition

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For our edition we hope to collate the text that Colvin prepared for the first collected edition of Stevenson’s works, The Edinburgh Edition (1894-8). RLS was involved in the planning of the first few volumes, so they have a value as lifetime editions (Baxter travelled out to Samoa with the first two volumes, only to find RLS had just died when he arrived).

However, the study of these volumes will also help give us a picture of Colvin’s work as an editor and how confident he was to make changes, since his attitude to the editorial role colours the whole process of production of RLS’s volumes from the Pacific period.

I have just finished transcribing (with the help of Neil Macara Brown) the early “Sketches” (1870-1) and have done a rough collation with the Swanston Edition (1911-12) – which we know was set up from the Edinburgh Edition. I did this (just a quick – or not so quick – check, using Word’s tracking changes function) as a way of checking the transcription. But it throws out a series of changes undoubtedly deriving from the Edinburgh Edition and Colvin’s editorial intervention.

This will all be checked properly when the real collation is made, but this first exercise suggest that Colvin

  • always changed RLS’s <Scotch> to <Scots>
  • added exclamation marks and dashes not in the MS
  • changed RLS’s typical semicolons to commas (on six occasions here)
  • corrected things in a way we might see as fussy: <bible> becomes <Bible>, heathen <Gods> becomes <gods>
  • removed commas after long subject phrases (acceptable in more traditional, rhetorically-based punctuation)
  • decided not to print the last three sentences of “A Character”

Not having the Edinburgh Edition to hand, I can’t check, but certainly in the Swanston edition the sexton in Old Greyfriars churchyard complains that the Churches have “impoverished” the country, while the MS has an underlined “_impoverised_”.


As this is the first long transcription I’ve made, I realize that the editors will have to find a way of pooling opinions on what emendations can be made to reading versions of MS transcriptions. For example, I’ve corrected spelling that would not be acceptable at the time or are the result of slips, but I’ve kept the following:

  • satyrist, bye (seems a deliberate choice), saw-dust, recal (common 17-18C variant, used by Shelley in early 19C), connexion (alternative head-word spelling in OED)

I’ve also

  • not standardized upper/lower-case variation, like satyrist-Satyrist, old Greyfriars-Old Greyfriars, as I don’t find it disturbs reading to any significant extent
  • not as yet given normal capitals to: reformation, latin, scotch, bible, psalm, sunday

–though I can imagine some people would want to standardize/correct some of those.

The editors’ manual has some guidelines, but it would be useful if editors could find a way of sharing experiences so we can build up a useful list of principles and examples.

Written by rdury

30/11/2010 at 4:12 pm

Meeting of Scott, Burns and Stevenson editors

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Last Saturday saw a meeting of all the editors of the major Scottish Literature Editions (Scott, Burns and Stevenson). The workshop, at the University of Glasgow, was sponsored by the Carnegie Trust and organised by Alison Lumsden (General Editor of Scott’s Poetry) and Gerry Caruthers (General Editor of the Oxford Burns). Regular meetings like this one help us to share ideas about the theory and practice of scholarly editing, to pass on practical help and hints, and to reflect on our own progress. From the Stevenson edition, Penny Fielding spoke about the need to see every volume as a separate case to be considered in the light of our editorial policy. Volumes like The Amateur Emigrant pose the difficult question of whether to publish the last version (which appeared after Stevenson’s death, a long time after the initial creative process) or to use the manuscript, proofs, and magazine versions to think through the original state of the text.

Essays editor Alex Thomson joined Gill Hughes and Murray Pittock for a panel on literary uses of Scots. He pointed out that unlike in his poetry, fiction and letters, Stevenson only uses English for his essays, thus raising little by way of specifically editorial problems relating to the use of Scots. However, the variable use of the term ‘Scotch’ itself, in the original magazine versions of some essays, in the 1887 edition of Memories and Portraits and in its 1894 republication as part of the Edinburgh Edition, could be used to illustrate the interest of the essays as a literary genre.

Further updates will follow from our editorial workshops in Edinburgh and Aberdeen. EdRLS warmly thanks Alison Lumsden for putting the programme together.

Written by pennyfielding

28/11/2010 at 2:34 pm

News from the volume editors: the Essays

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Stevenson, essayist
According to the essay editors:

One of our main aims is to make clear the importance of Stevenson as an essayist. In his own lifetime and in the following decades, his essays were included among his most important works. But with Modernism, the personal essay (despite its noble ancestry from Montaigne onwards) fell into disrepute—was even declared to be ‘dead’. In part this is because the essay is in an undefined position at the edge of the literary system, yet it is a focus of innovative writing in the USA today.

By providing a proper edition with notes, background information to composition, variants and an index we hope to allow both scholars and ordinary readers to take a fresh look at these works. People in the past who have read them have always been very impressed, then surprised to see so little written about them. Our edition hopes to make clear the importance of Stevenson’s essays—and even if it doesn’t, the editors are enjoying working together on the project anyway.

Coordinated production
The five volumes of essays are being produced in close collaboration between the four editors.

Robert-Louis Abrahamson (Virginibus Puerisque and part of Familiar Studies), Alex Thomson (Memories and Portraits), Richard Dury (Uncollected Essays I and part of Familiar Studies) and Lesley Graham (Uncollected Essays II) have weekly conference calls and meet up once or twice a year. They are also reading through all the essays together and commenting on them in an on-line discussion group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ReadingRLS/, which anyone can view and also apply to become a member if they think they would like to contribute to the discussion.

The five volumes needs to be coordinated because of the decision to include a General Introduction in volume 1 and an index in volume 5, but also because the explanatory notes will contain many cross-references to other essays—and we naturally want these to be to the pages of our edition!

Restoring the essays
Almost all the essays were published first in magazines and then a number of them were collected in volumes in Stevenson’s lifetime. Our choice of copy-text is the first volume edition where this exists, but often this includes interesting changes to the magazine version. These will be recorded systematically for the first time.

Where there are manuscripts, transcripts of these or interesting variants or cancellationsin them will also be noted. A small group of volunteers are lending a hand with the transcriptions. If you think you have the right skills and would like to take part in this, get in touch with richard.dury@t-r.it.

Missing manuscripts
Many Stevenson manuscripts were sold at auction following the death of his widow in 1914. Most of these are now accessible in libraries open to the public, but some have not been seen for decades. These include two famous essays published in Virginibus Puerisque: the title essay and ‘On Falling in Love’. Both of these were sold in a fund-raising sale organized by the British Red Cross in 1918. The first surfaced in a sale in New York in 1952 and then disappeared again, and the second has not been heard of since the first sale in 1918. Both are probably still in the possession of private collections. Anyone with information on their whereabouts, please get in touch!

One of the manuscripts has ended up at an isolated ranch museum in Wyoming. This is Stevenson’s essay on Walt Whitman, who was an important influence on the young writer and indeed on many late Victorians. The manuscript is a late draft and contains many interesting passages that never appeared in the final version of the essay. As far as we know, no one has ever studied this manuscript before, so we’re hoping it will give us an interesting insight into the composition process.

Another reason we have to look at the manuscripts is that RLS’s handwriting is often difficult to decipher and printers made mistakes that have remained in editions ever since. Since we have more time than the hard-pressed compositor we are usually able to solve the problem and correct the reading.

Written by rdury

18/11/2010 at 2:35 pm

An editor’s trinity: Oxford Writers’ Reference « Cardiff Book History

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Having done a fair bit of editing over the last decade, of myself, of others’ contributions and of scholarly editions, it was with unalloyed delight that I recently discovered a trio of invaluable reference books that make the job of handling scholarly writing a great deal easier. These three works—New Hart’s Rules, the New Oxford Spelling Dictionary and the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors—are an absolute treasure trove of useful pointers, guidelines and clarifications. Quite a few years ago, I had already encountered the Dictionary for Writers and Editors in an earlier incarnation, and it had served me well as a trustworthy companion in my various encounters with academic prose.

This new set of three books, first published in 2005, represent a leap forward from these beginnings. Each of the volumes complements the others perfectly, so that writers and editors have at their disposal a plethora of abbreviations, tips on style and disambiguations of the most troublesome spellings. Moreover, considering that so much information is packed into each book, they are uniformly formatted to a handy ‘pocket’ size (roughly, 18cm x 12cm), and are minimalistically but elegantly packaged. published by such an august firm as OUP, each of the volumes has also received the seal of recommendation from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. All three books can be purchased individually or as part of a set (as The Oxford Writers’ Reference Pack) for about £30 online.

Read more at the Cardiff Book History blog.

Written by Anthony Mandal

16/11/2010 at 10:17 am

News from the volume editors: Kidnapped

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The Kidnapped manuscript

Caroline McCracken-Flesher (University of Wyoming) is now at work on one of Stevenson’s masterpieces, Kidnapped. She reports that interesting problems with the manuscript start right from p. 1:

Just where did young David Balfour set out from? Generations of schoolchildren know that David’s travels began in Essendean—or did they? Without giving the game away, let me say that this is a matter of some doubt in the manuscript held at the Huntington Library. So what name will appear in the New Edinburgh Edition? This depends on some editorial choices yet to be made. So watch that space … ‘Mr. Campbell, the minister of [?         ] was waiting for me by the garden gate.’

Various editions of the text

Another problem with Kidnapped is the later changes made to the text, especially since we can’t be sure which of these came from Stevenson himself:

We know that RLS began to think about alterations to Kidnapped immediately after its publication. For example, he told his friend Edmund Gosse (in a letter five days after publication) that the conventionally poetic ‘ferny dells’ (ch. 17) should be Scotticized to ‘ferny howes’.

But between these changes, and those that appear in the 1895 Edinburgh Edition, we have little to go on. We know that in December 1893 Stevenson marked changes in a first edition of the novel for the braille translator Harriet Baker, and asked her to forward it to Cassell for the two-volume publication with David Balfour. Unfortunately, we currently lack the marked-up copy, nor has the braille edition yet been identified, though the search continues …

The changes Stevenson made in the marked-up copy were presumably incorporated in the Braille transcription, in the 1895 Cassells edition and then in the Edinburgh Edition (1895). But we do not know for sure what, in these editions, derives from Stevenson and what from the transcribers and editors.

The clincher would be that copy of Kidnapped with Stevenson’s markings—surely such an artefact would not have been thrown away in in 1893: Stevenson was then one of the most admired writers in English. If Cassells sent it on to Sidney Colvin then there’s a good chance that it has survived somewhere. But … if it was kept by Cassells … then it would have been destroyed—along with all their Treasure Island archive—in an air-raid which hit the Cassells offices in 1941.

Written by rdury

06/11/2010 at 4:39 pm

Major new Stevenson manuscript: In The South Seas

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Lost manuscript

A major Stevenson manuscript has recently come to light in Ireland. It is a collection of over 90 pages of drafts for his planned historical, cultural and anthropological work on the Pacific islanders, In the South Seas.

The manuscript had never been previously heard of, not being included in the big auction of Stevenson books and manuscripts after his widow’s death in 1914, nor in any subsequent sale of Stevenson material. It will be auctioned at Christie’s of New York on 3 December this year.

The seller is an Irishman who inherited it from his grandfather, an engineer who lived for a period  in New Zealand. The most likely story is that, visiting Samoa some time between Stevenson’s death in December 1894 and the final departure of his family in 1897, he was given the sheets as a keepsake. Stevenson’s widow Fanny and daughter-in-law Belle distributed quite a number of manuscript pages in this way in the years after 1894, including several pages of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

New sections of In the South Seas

The pages fall into four or five groups (described in the sales catalogue, pp. 347-48), and, Roger Swearingen reports:

[M]ore than half of these are not only unpublished but until now have been known only from chapter titles in various outlines.

The most spectacular group of pages makes up eight chapters of text, 40-plus pages, intended to be the first two parts of the South Seas but never used. The two parts are titled ‘Whites in the Pacific’ (5 chapters) and ‘Contraband’ (3 chapters), topics of great interest indeed.

There is also a very full table of contents in which six chapters on Tahiti are listed (these were never written) as well as these chapters on white influences.

And there are two drafts of an unpublished chapter on the island of Manihiki, which the Stevensons visited during the Janet Nicoll cruise, and draft material for four of the published chapters: two chapters on Penrhyn and two on Molokai.

Although the collection of pages represents different part of In the South Seas, Swearingen speculates that

these pages are possibly together because they represent Stevenson’s own consolidation of the last work that he did on the South Seas before he dropped plans for an all-inclusive work. At this point he decided to move forward in the planned scheme and write the chapters on the Gilbert Islands, as a self-contained unit. Then he called a halt. This would be in March or April 1891, and Stevenson seems never again to have visited this material.

Stevenson abandoned his innovative ‘big book on the Pacific’ partly under the weight of the material he gathered, but perhaps mostly because of continual criticism from his wife Fanny and friends at home (including his mentor Sidney Colvin). They clearly wanted a personal essayistic travel book, not the  serious (though, of course, ever-stylish) study that Stevenson had in mind. This new manuscript gives us a picture of Stevenson’s last attempt at carrying out his grand original idea.

Written by rdury

05/11/2010 at 3:52 pm