EdRLS

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

Posts Tagged ‘publication history

Conference report for RLS 2013: Stevenson, Time and History (UNSW)

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by Naomi Carle (Durham University)

I have to confess, I was more than a little sceptical that I would be able to identify a group of Stevensonians among the crowd gathered on the steps of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, but I needn’t have worried. Although this was to be my first Stevenson conference (well over-due), a collection of amiable and interested faces affirmed I was in the right place. Roslyn Jolly’s inspired decision to begin the conference with a tour of Stevenson’s Sydney was both convivial and informative. We viewed pictures illustrative of the ‘sham candy cane’ tropics that Stevenson strove to correct; saw an exhibition of manuscripts collated especially for the conference at the State Library and marvellously contextualised by Roger Swearingen’s extensive notes; rested in the very chair Stevenson often occupied when hiding away from his womenfolk at the Union Club (albeit now housed in a rather impressive skyscraper that would have been entirely alien to him); and wondered at his vehement hatred of the inoffensive Post Office Tower. Roslyn’s helpful revelation that one of his manuscripts was ingested by its corridors never to re-emerge went some way to explaining things. As with all good tours, ours ended in a bar – a rather marvellous institution tucked beneath the majestic sails of the Opera House, just above the harbour. By the time we began to peel off into the night, I felt like I was parting from old friends.

Union Club, Sydney

Roslyn and Chris Danta continued the spirit of the previous evening in their official warm welcome to the conference, which included a respectful acknowledgement of the indigenous peoples whose land we met on. Business began with Adrian Poole’s masterful keynote, which utilised Alan’s ‘grand memory for forgetting’ (uttered in genuine Scots) as a fruitful point of departure for a discussion of individual and collective memory as models for writing in Stevenson’s works. From a polite agreement between friends, to rats nibbling at the edges of a vicar’s sermon and fin-de-siècle preoccupations with psychology, history, points of origin and genetics, we arrived by steps and leaps at a new appreciation for Stevenson’s uneasy understanding of survivals which resonated with many subsequent discussions. There followed a day of illuminating and incredibly inter-related panels, despite their diversity in topic and approach. The many faces of Stevenson were discussed in relation to the historical novel, the anxiety of influence, the reception of his work in French literary circles and Portuguese translation, and his complex relationship with the law. These papers provoked interesting elaborations on Stevenson’s playfulness as a writer, the contention between history and fiction in his writing, and his desire to be innovative and experimental in all while remaining acutely aware of the limitations of his chosen medium. During lunch, we were treated to the book launch of Juvenilia Press’s edition of Stevenson’s Early Writings, edited by Christine Alexander and Elise McPherson. The volume contains some remarkable sketches drawn to accompany his writings, which show that an interest in the dialogue between artistic forms began at an early age.

rls2013

The themes of memory and Stevenson’s unsettling ability to leave his reader with a startling pictorial impression carried through into the second day. We enjoyed panels on Stevenson’s manipulation of narrative time, his strong interest in science and medicine, the tension between tradition and modernity and his important Samoan connection. One of the most arresting of Stevenson’s characteristics to emerge was the plasticity of his approach, the immense capacity he had for seeing, and capturing oral tradition in his writing. After the day’s proceedings, we were privileged to attend the unveiling of a newly discovered Stevenson poem, ‘Birthday verses to a Lady’, at Sancta Sophia College. Roslyn Jolly delivered a wide-ranging lecture on the poem’s context in Stevenson’s oeuvre, elucidating the meaning of the find: the manuscript had been tucked away in College archives, undisturbed for years. Caroline Howlitt, one of the conference delegates, provided an authentic Scottish accent for another of Stevenson’s related verses, adding an international flavour to the evening.

The final day brought with it a further windfall of stimulating papers – spanning the sundry aspects of Stevenson’s writings from childhood, his creativity with both words and pictures, and his highly developed interest in the dynamics of process, change and movement. Alongside these panels, we were treated to some rather out of the ordinary presentations. Penny Fielding and Anthony Mandal gave us a preview of the current working format for the much-anticipated Edinburgh Edition, including a list of the anticipated dates for publication of the individual volumes. Anthony then returned after lunch to tell us about his highly innovative Jekyll 2.0 project which will bring the experience of Jekyll’s London to life for participants. Using technology that monitors cardiac and sensory responses to the simulated world, players will be guided through their own unique version of Jekyll’s experience of transforming into Hyde. Anthony shared the closing panel with Jo Henwood, who – like all the independent scholars participating in the conference – gave a refreshing and insightful portrayal of her personal engagement with Stevenson through her profession as a storyteller. In an entertaining and unscripted presentation, she took us right to the heart of Stevenson’s craft in her survey of his narrative techniques designed to exploit the power of suggestion and lure an audience in.

I left Sydney determined to contribute to Virginia 2015, and eager to return to my study and inject something of the intellectual vibrancy of the past three days into my thesis.

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Written by Anthony Mandal

05/09/2013 at 2:51 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:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/apr/24/robert-louis-stevenson-fairytales

Update: the story runs and runs!

http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/Fairytale-ending-for-Stevenson-book.6758606.jp

Written by pennyfielding

24/04/2011 at 12:06 pm

News from the volume editors: Kidnapped

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by Caroline McCracken-Flesher

We know that in December 1893 Stevenson marked changes in a first edition of the novel for the braille translator Harriet Baker, but the braille edition has so far never been located.

Volume editor Caroline McCracken-Flesher has now corresponded with Philip Jeffs, Archivist of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, who answers as follows:

Not located
I am aware of the braille connection with the early edition of Kidnapped and have been asked the question by researchers in the past, unfortunately, as far as I am aware the manuscript copy of Kidnapped produced by Harriet Baker has no known location, if it still exists.

Harriet Baker, the transcriber
I am afraid that we also have next to no details of Harriet Baker, there is a Mrs. Charles Baker listed as a member of the Auxiliary Union of the British and Foreign Blind Association (RNIB), this union was established to ‘firstly, write or correct embossed manuscripts, secondly, to encourage the employment of the blind by any means in their power, and thirdly to form centres for obtaining employment for the blind as individual circumstances and opportunity may suggest’ and finally for promoting knowledge of the aims and operations of the Association in circles where these were not already sufficiently known. Mrs. Baker first appears as a member of this Auxiliary Union in the annual report of 1893/94 and last appears in the report of 1899/1900.

The Braille Kidnapped
Kidnapped is first issued by the RNIB in 1893 as a manuscript copy, the following extract is from the beginning of the Manuscript Book list for that year ‘The British and Foreign Blind Association has had the following Books embossed by hand within the last four years, as there is not yet sufficient demand for them to make it desirable to print them.’  The earliest edition we have here is a grade II braille edition printed 1915, but states that it is produced from a 1914 edition, so not likely to be relevant for you. We also have a Moon edition printed in 1914.

One single copy!
The Baker edition would therefore have been a unique, hand produced, manuscript copy. A handframe and style would have been used and Harriet would have written out the entire volume producing each braille dot one at a time. We do not have a copy of this manuscript in our historic collections, and it is quite possible that after a lifetime in public circulation, that when withdrawn from the library’s stock it was disposed of. We can of course hope that somebody had the foresight to preserve the copy, or that it may have been given to a member of the public when withdrawn and be in somebody’s loft. Many volumes have no standard print on them whatsoever, so it is easy for people not to know what they have.

Hope remains
I am still in the infancy of sorting through the very large historic collections here, so some information may eventually turn up, we also have the records of the National Library for the Blind here, which may give some clue as to where you should search. As well as Harriet’s original it may well be possible that a version was stereotyped from the manuscript, sometimes plates were produced from braille originals and sometimes from standard print, depending on the workers available

Written by rdury

04/03/2011 at 8:29 pm

News from the volume editors: St Ives

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by Glenda Norquay

The parts played by Stevenson’s friends, as editors and business negotiators, particularly after his death, was one area of focus in my recent research trip to Princeton and to the Beinecke Library at Yale working on St Ives.

Baxter takes on American publishers and gives it to them straight
One of the unexpectedly fascinating aspects of this research has been the complicated publishing history of the material, with American and British publishers wrangling over book publication and serial rights, a debate made difficult not just by Stevenson’s death but also by the ‘disappointment’ (to put it mildly) of Charles Scribner at The Ebb-Tide going to Stone & Kimball and their claim to have rights to future works.

Scribner’s had been Stevenson’s publishers since 1885, when Stevenson had been delighted at receiving any money at all from US sales. He was, however, disappointed at sales of The Wrecker in 1893 in the US (where it had sold about a third of the number sold in the UK) and suspected them, with Baxter’s encouragement,  of dishonesty or incompetence. He therefore made Baxter his business manager and asked him to get the best offer for future items.

The Americans are highly suspicious of Charles Baxter and his deal-making. And perhaps with some justification: in a letter of July 1894 he writes to RLS: ‘There is no being sentimental with American publishers […] If you want their respect, you must “do” them, and they will think you real smart’. Cultural differences and prejudice, combined with the need for income to keep Vailima going, seem to have created a difficult situation.

Colvin’s helpful ideas for a historical novel
Colvin is not exactly a business intermediary (Baxter had warned Stevenson in February 1893 that Colvin ‘is not much use at selling’) but becomes the more acceptable face of Stevenson’s representatives to the Americans. Colvin’s role, however, is more than a mediator. His contribution to St Ives includes the suggestion: ‘Couldn’t you let Scott walk across the stage in one or other of your 1812 novels? Also I want Boney, why not, in St Ives.’ (1 Dec 1893) Stevenson doesn’t seem to have been too enthusiastic about the Napoleon suggestion but a cameo of Scott provides one of the book’s most memorable chapters.

Colvin, Quiller-Couch and the conclusion of St Ives
It was also Colvin who negotiated the ‘Conclusion’ to the novel, first approaching Conan Doyle who declined by asserting ‘I’d as soon think of putting a new act on to Hamlet’ (n.d.) then working with Arthur Quiller-Couch.

The extended correspondence over the ending, which Quiller-Couch was working on while chapters were appearing in the Pall Mall Magazine, shows Colvin as recipient of all ‘Q’s anxieties over the impossibility of the ending apparently planned by Stevenson. The correspondence between them is an unusual one, in that Colvin is an editor of the material, responsible for the revisions that went to the publisher, while Quiller-Couch is both author and a reader. So in April 1897 he notes that: ‘I have just read the May installment in the P.M.M. [chapters 19–21] Alain doesn’t work out as I had expected—or perhaps a very bad illustration has something to do with it. At any rate I had expected a grander air with him and more gusto in his villainy.’

Colvin’s editorial role is also an important one, although he is dismayed to find that revision notes incorporated in the English version by Heinemann did not reach Scribner in time for the American edition. It is, nevertheless, his approved version of the novel that dominated for over a hundred years.

Work continues
Of Quiller-Couch’s role in shaping the ending, of the mystery of the American Privateer and of my first encounter with the 800 manuscript pages for St Ives, more to follow.