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

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from the EdRLS office

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Steffi Grimm is our current 6-month intern from Germany and here she gives some insight into her work for us.  The  edition is transcribing all manuscript material to make sure that we have a record of Stevenson’s first thoughts.   Steffi is working on manuscripts from Stevenson’s Fables.

My name is Stefanie Grimm and I am the new research assistant with the EdRLS project.

A few days ago I started transcribing the manuscript of “The Scientific Ape” which will be part of Volume 4 of Stevenson’s stories.  As this was my first experience of transcribing Stevenson’s hand,  I stumbled over words and phrases that were difficult to read and to make sense of.

We want to give you an example how to figure out an unusual phrase by referring to historical usage.  This is a point in the story where the Chief Ape calls a halt to the experiments of the Scientific Ape. Reading the clip below we could not figure out what the words after “physical-“ could mean.

First we had to figure out if it is supposed to be one word or two because of the big space in between and the hyphen after the word “physical”. We were certainly sure that the last letter is a y, that in the middle there is a t, and that the first letter is an f. But the letters in between could have had several meanings.

After a while we settled on the transcription “physical-force tory”. But we were not sure if that expression existed, so we started looking for a description of the term “physical-force”.

We found that the term “physical-force” to describe a political idea had been most commonly used to describe a branch of Chartism—very far from the “Tory” position of the Chief Ape. But when we looked a bit closer, we found the term associated with Conservatism and with Unionist resistance to Home Rule in Ireland. Of course we will be able to leave it up to the volume editor, Bill Gray, to work out the precise significance of the term, but its use as a political category was enough to confirm the reading.

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13/06/2012 at 6:00 pm

Prince Otto: Bob Irvine asks about Otto’s unusual appearance

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I am currently writing the notes for our edition of Stevenson’s 1885 novel Prince Otto. This work turns up all kinds of surprises. When Sir John Crabtree, an English traveller, is detained in Otto’s palace, he is accommodated in ‘the Gamiani apartment’. Gamiani; ou, deux nuits d’excès is a famous French erotic novel published anonymously in 1833, often attributed to Alfred de Musset! A little in-joke for Stevenson’s louche gentleman Imagefriends, perhaps. A note can simply cite this text and leave the reader to make of the connection what they will.

More difficult to annotate are those passages which evoke a discourse or way of thinking specific to the period, without (it seems) alluding to a specific text or texts. The case of Sir John again provides us with an example. The scathing description of Otto’s court which he has prepared for publication describes the prince as follows:

He is not ill-looking; he has hair of a ruddy gold, which naturally curls, and his eyes are dark, a combination which I always regard as a mark of some congenital deficiency, physical or moral …

And although his opinion of Otto improves after the prince challenges him to a duel in defence of the princess’s honour:

‘…I still mistrust your constitution; the short nose, and hair and eyes of several complexions; no, they are diagnostic; and I must end, I see, as I began.’

Several nineteenth-century pseudo-sciences provide the concepts that the learned Sir John is using to interpret Otto’s features here. ‘Physiognomy’ had been instituted on a formal basis in the eighteenth century by Johann Kaspar Lavater in his Physiognomische Fragmente zur Beförderung der Menschenkenntnis und Menschenliebe (1775–8), which encouraged the idea that moral traits and habits of mind could be read off the facial features of an individual, and this idea remained in circulation. That what strikes Sir John is the incongruity of Otto’s red-blonde hair and dark eyes suggest that he is thinking in the specific terms of a later development, mid-nineteenth-century racial theory. This interpreted such features, not in the first instance in terms of moral traits in the present generation, but as an inheritance from distant forebears. The important texts here are French: Prosper Lucas’s Traité philosophique et physiologique de l’hérédité naturelle (1847) and Arthur de Gobineau’s Essai sur l’inégalité de races humaines (1853–5). This racial theory provided the framework within which anthropologists collected data under the rubric of ‘anthropometrics’. So, the ‘Final Report of the Anthropometric Committee’ to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1883 was able to observe that the combination of dark eyes and light hair was especially common in the south-west of England, because in this region ‘the light and dark races meet and overlap each other’. Such ‘hybridity’ of races was picked out for examination in works such as Paul Broca’s Recherches sur l’hybridité animale en général et sur l’hybridité humaine en particulier (1760).

But Sir John does not only identify an incongruity between his hair- and eye-colour: he reads this as ‘a mark of some congenital deficiency’. That suggests a third conceptual context for Sir John’s comments. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species of 1859 had described a natural order in which races of organism were changing all the time; the possibility was therefore raised that, while human beings had evolved into a higher form from their primate ancestors, they could also, over time, degenerate back into a lower form. Even before Darwin published, B.A. Morel had brought out Traité de dégénérescences physiques, intellectuelles et morales de l’espèce humaine (1857). So the phrase ‘congenital deficiency’ might have evoked, for the readers of Prince Otto in 1885, this concern with the decline of the species as a whole.

What I have been unable to find is any particular text which links the ‘racial’ mixing suggested by Otto’s mis-matched hair and eyes with ‘congenital deficiency, physical or moral’. Theories of hybridity seem predominantly interested in the fertility or infertility of racial ‘mongrels’ and the degree to which they are capable of stabilising into new ‘races’, rather than with their moral or physical strength more generally. Theories of degeneration, on the other hand, are overwhelmingly concerned with the lower social classes, with criminals and slum-dwellers, and not with decadent royalty like Otto (the idea of the ‘higher degenerate’ such as the decadent artist seems to be very much a product of the 1890s). If any readers of this posting can point me towards sources that anticipate Sir John’s connection between hybridity and degeneration, I would be very interested to hear from them.

There is another context for Sir John’s comments that may be worth mentioning in conclImageusion. In his moral decay and loss of power to his prime minister, Gondremark, Otto perhaps resembles, speculates Sir John, ‘the last Merovingians’. The later kings of this Frankish dynasty are remembered as powerless figureheads, their empire ruled by their hereditary chief stewards. The last Merovingian king, Childeric III, was deposed by his steward; his red hair, till then uncut as a symbol of his royalty in the fashion of his clan, shorn to symbolise his loss of power. Here is that event as imagined in a nineteenth-century painting by Évariste-Vital Lumais. A rather more humane exile awaits Otto: but in Childeric’s face, apart from the misery of dispossession, are we also being shown ‘marks of congenital deficiency’ that made it inevitable? A parallel, perhaps, for Sir John’s diagnosis of disaster in the physiognomy of Stevenson’s prince.

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21/05/2012 at 6:23 pm

Fanny Stevenson’s short stories

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Sarah Ames, research assistant for New Arabian Nights: The Dynamiter, has this request for anyone out there interested in Fanny Stevenson:

Work is currently well underway for the EdRLS edition of More New Arabian Nights: The Dynamiter, which is being edited by John Lyon (University of Bristol). This was Stevenson’s only prose narrative collaboration with Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson (they also collaborated on a play, “The Hanging Judge”), and the Introduction of our edition will naturally examine the nature of that collaboration, and the question of Fanny’s contribution to the text. In order to do this we will be comparing samples of Fanny Stevenson’s writings with the text of The Dynamiter, to see if there are any similarities between the language in the texts, such as distinctive choices of words and sentence constructions.

With this in mind, we are currently working on digitizing Fanny Stevenson’s published short stories, with the aim of publishing them certainly as an on-line resource, and possibly as an appendix to the edition. Tracking these down, however, has been difficult, and has involved searching for a number of ‘different’ authors: ‘Fanny Stevenson’; ‘Fanny Van de Grift’; ‘Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson’ (with ‘Vandegrift’ variants); ‘Fanny Osbourne’, ‘F. M. Osbourne’; ‘Mrs Robert Louis Stevenson’…. With the help of Roger Swearingen and Richard Dury, our list now stands as follows:

‘Too Many Birthdays’ (St. Nicholas, 1878)
‘Chy Lung, The Chinese Fisherman’ (St. Nicholas, 1880)
‘The Warlock’s Shadow’ (Belgravia, 1886)
‘Miss Pringle’s Neighbors’ (Scribner’s Magazine, 1887)
‘The Nixie’ (Scribner’s Magazine, 1888)
‘The Half-White’ (Scribner’s Magazine, 1891)
‘Under Sentence of the Law: The Story of a Dog’ (McClure’s, 1893)
‘Anne’ (Scribner’s Magazine, 1899)

So far, we have digitized about half of these; we are still looking for scanned copies of: ‘Too Many Birthdays’, ‘The Warlock’s Shadow’ and ‘Chy Lung’.

Any help with our hunt for Fanny Stevenson’s texts would be gratefully received: does anyone possess scanned copies or scannable photocopies (or original magazines) of the two texts mentioned above? And does anyone know of any other of her short stories, besides the ones listed above, which were published?

EdRLS at the German Consulate

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This year the edition has an important new team member. Marina Held has joined us from the University of Mainz as ERASMUS intern. The placement is supervised by Dr Penny Fielding (University of Edinburgh) and PD Dr Sigrid Rieuwerts (University of Mainz) and it is made possible through EU funding overseen by the EU ServicePoint at the University of Mainz.

Marina Held, Penny Fielding and Sigrid Rieuwerts meet German Consul Dr Wolfgang Mössinger

On 27th October we met the German Consul, Dr. Wolfgang Mössinger, to mark the establishing of the Edinburgh-Mainz internships and to discuss possible future German-Scottish collaborations for the Stevenson Edition and Edinburgh University’s project for Scottish Writing in the Nineteenth Century (SWINC). It is connections like this, made possible by Professor Rieuwerts and the University of Mainz, that establish the edition as a truly European project. We already have editors from Italy, France and Germany on the team and look forward to to working with our new German friends.

Marina is an invaluable member of the team, helping us with all aspects of textual editing and public engagement. She is enabling us to make really good progress on the edition as her computer skills far exceed those of the Edinburgh General Editor. She is also a champion Irish Dancer! We are delighted to have her with us and very much enjoy working with her. Marina is currently working on digitising The Dynamiter, Weir of Hermiston and some of the Essays, and she is research assistant for our third event in the What are You Reading? series of talks and workshops at the National Library of Scotland. She is helping us to produce sample pages of the various states of Kidnapped to show what questions about textual editing we will confront in this key Stevenson novel.

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07/12/2011 at 3:53 pm

News from the volume editors: Prince Otto

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by Robert Irvine

Editing a Stevenson novel can involve some very small matters as well as some big questions. Robert Irvine describes how one of the smallest points of all—the hyphen—raises questions about historical usage.

First choices
I have been working recently to establish a ‘copy text’ of Stevenson’s 1885 novel Prince Otto. A ‘copy text’ is a particular instance of a text which is taken as a base-line by the editor, against which variations in other versions of the text can be listed, and variations from which in the final published version must be justified. We have chosen the first book edition to perform this function for the New Edinburgh Edition. So my first task as editor is to ensure that the electronic copy text on my screen conforms in all aspects to the text published by Chatto and Windus in 1885. In principle, no editorial decisions are to be made at this stage: where there are mistakes, even an obvious printing error like the omission of a quotation mark, those remain in the copy text, to be corrected when the text is edited and the correction noted.

That pesky hyphen
No editorial decisions to be made in principle at this stage: but one set of editorial decisions is, in fact, unavoidable. In transcribing prose, we pay no attention to line-endings in the text from which we are transcribing, line-endings in prose being dictated by space available on the page, and nothing more. To preserve the line-endings in the transcription of a prose text irrespective of the size of your new page would be to turn it from prose into verse. But to make the most efficient use of the length of line available to him the type-setter of the printed text will sometimes split words at the end of a line with a hyphen. Usually the transcriber of the copy text can ignore these hyphens and restore the complete word. The problem comes when the word that has been split across two lines might have been hyphenated to start with. Deciding whether or not to preserve the hyphen in the copy text in such cases is no longer a case of simply preserving what is on the page in front of you, but requires reference to other sources of information: requires, that is, an editorial decision. Read the rest of this entry »

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13/07/2011 at 9:32 pm

Stevenson Edition in the headlines

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William Gray’s upcoming volume of  the Fables is featured in today’s Observer newspaper.  Here Bill explains about Colvin’s manipulation of the stories for the original Edinburgh Edition and discusses how his new edition will restore Stevenson’s own ideas for the way the Fables should be read together:


Update: the story runs and runs!


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24/04/2011 at 12:06 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.

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28/11/2010 at 2:34 pm