Archive for October 2012
Throughout his life RLS used notebooks for drafts, ideas, lists of titles, outlines of chapters etc., addresses of people he met, scraps of verse.
One of his early Notebooks, started in November 1872 for lecture notes, soon gets taken over by a series of numbered sections prefaced by a table of contents with page references. This is a typical commonplace-book technique: any combination of thoughts, copied quotations, drafts etc. are written down one after another, while the ongoing table of contents can be quickly scanned to find an item and its page. This is the MS that was transcribed and published in the 1922 Vailima Edition (and then in the Tusitala Edition) as ‘Selections From His Notebook’ (for the moment, we’re just calling it ‘Notes’).
This Notebook has now been transcribed (except for the lecture notes) by myself and volunteer transcribers Olive Classe and Mafalda Cipollone. One fascinating point is where, in the middle of a Note on adolescent desire for unity with nature, there is half a page in pencil (not printed in previous editions) that describes the movement of the little girls dancing in Mentone in February 1874, clearly related to the essay ‘Notes on the Movements of Young Children’ (written June-July 1874). It opens with the following line (which has the air of a note written soon after the event):
And here’s the puzzle: what is that word after ‘accomplished’ and before ‘movement’?
It might be of some help to quote a letter from Mentone of 17 February 1874:
Madame Garschine showed me … how the Tartar women dance, slowly balancing themselves from side to side with raised arms, and slowly turning round with infinite pliant little changes of posture: this they do, in the moonlight, on the flat roofs of the Crimean towns …’ (Letters 1, 242).
My first guess and that of several of the contributions to the debate (see ‘Comments’) was that this was a word ending in ‘-ing’, so let’s look at how RLS forms his g’s:
there is a bowl formed anti-clockwise which then descends to a tail and a clockwise loop. In our example, there is an anticlockwise movement but no attempt at a tail. Also relevant is that there is no dot for an ‘i’, and this is something that we almost always find (sometimes our most precious clue). Let’s look at some -ing words (all these examples are from the same note):
(i) ‘sin[n]ing’ perhaps (‘sometimes sinning through an excess of salient vitality’ – he’s talking about the 3-year-old trying to dance); (ii) ‘struggling’, notice the tail as a constant feature; (iii) ‘aborting’ (the desire to dance aborting in ludicrous little jumps), and notice also the dot to the ‘i’ which is always present (the first one in ‘sinning’ a little off-target).
In our example, the lack of a tail and the lack of a dot for an ‘i’ makes ‘-ing’ unlikely, in my opinion.
Scanning nowadays is a usually much more reliable way of digitizing text than keyboarding. After scanning (which produces a ‘photograph’ of the page), the file is translated into text by an OCR program (optical character recognition). But typefaces being many and various, actual printed type sometimes not well-formed, and OCR programs not being perfect, the result will often contain typical scanning mistakes (‘scannos’).
Scannos can sometimes provide light relief to proofing – the ‘Prankish’ inhabitants of Gaul, the cooing of ‘cloves’, ‘a grizzly bean’… Sometimes the scanno produces results that are difficult to see: the wrong spacing before or after punctuation, for example, or the number “1” for the letter “l” or zero for the captial letter “O”.
Now Distributed Proofreaders have developed a font called DPCustomMono2 that has distinctive characters for one and zero, exaggerates inter-character spaces and separates dashes so that the more difficult-to-spot scannos stand out better. Here’s a comparison between Times and the new font:
This news item comes from Lesley Graham.