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

Kidnapped and the copright edition

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The joys of making an unexpected discovery

For the “What Are You Reading” event at the NLS on 7th December I was trying, with Penny Fielding and Gill Hughes, to get as clear an idea as possible of the publication history of Kidnapped. We knew there had been a “copyright edition” of the first ten chapters produced by Henderson (editor of Young Folks) issued in April 1886, but I’d assumed such productions were slung together any old how and were not really relevant.

Copyright Edition is identical with Young Folks

But then I remembered that, of course, the NLS has a copy of this, so we could have a look and see what relationship it might have with the Young Folks and Cassells first ten chapters.

Gill Hughes and I called up the volume, and we saw that it corresponded exactly with all the typical word- and punctuation-variants of Young Folks, that it was indeed identical with it (Gill’s expert proofing skills came into play here). Then I thought the type size and column width looked familiar (it was in two columns to the page), so I suggested looking at the University of South Carolina images of Young Folks on their website.

Copyright Edition is Young Folks

So off we went to the catalogue computers, where you’re allowed to look at any websites, found the first chapter of Kidnapped in Young Folks on the USC site and saw that the lines all began and ended with the same words as in the Copyright Edition—that the typography was identical. They had just placed the lines of type into the different lengths of columns. (The only change was to the first paragraphs of each chapter in the magazine version, where a decorated initial meant the type had to be placed differently on the lines.) This fact immediately removed a couple of question marks from the provisional stemma we had sketched out. (A stemma is the tree diagram to show the relationship of the different ‘witness texts’.)

Just to make sure, that we hadn’t discovered something already known, I then looked in the various Stevenson bibliographies (conveniently on open shelves in the NLS Readng Room) and found that this indeed had not been noticed before.

Much research involves months of work before results start mistily to appear; this all took ten minutes. Great!


Written by rdury

08/12/2011 at 8:56 am

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