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

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Talk on scholarly editing at the National Library of Scotland, 9 Nov 2011

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Textual Editing in Principle and Practice: What Are You Reading? Lecture 2

Dr Alison Lumsden (University of Aberdeen) and Dr Anthony Mandal (Cardiff University)

National Library of Scotland, 9 November 2011, 6pm (free)

Why should you buy a book for £6.99 when you might have the same title for 1.99? Is it just the price? The quality of the paper and cover? Or might the text itself—the words you’ll be reading—be different?

Why does a research library like the NLS hold so many copies of the same title? What difference does it make to read one copy rather than another? Why are so many books even needed?

The books that we buy in bookshops or read in libraries may have the same titles, but they are often very different—they may contain different words; sometimes a crucial scene or even the ending may vary. Some editions will alert the reader to these differences—others will just print the most easily available text. In this series we will look at some famous examples of texts which have more than one version, and guide you through the choices editors make in order to produce a text for the informed reader.

In this lecture, the second of the series, scholars working on major editions of key Scottish authors will explore how modern editors set about producing an edited text. What are the principles we adhere to? What is the evidence that counts in valuing one state of the text over another? Should we prefer the author’s first or last version? How should we treat the author’s original manuscript? In the second part of the talk we will demonstrate the process of editing, in particular how we can benefit from the latest technological advances.

  • Why we edit books. Dr Alison Lumsden (Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels)
  • How we edit books. Dr Anthony Mandal (New Edinburgh Edition of Robert Louis Stevenson)

Part of the ‘What Are You Reading’ series of lectures and workshops. For more information download the ‘What Are You Reading’ information sheet PDF (122 KB, 2 pages).

Please book your tickets online or call the NLS directly on 0131 623 3918.

Written by Anthony Mandal

07/11/2011 at 5:20 am

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 »

Written by pennyfielding

13/07/2011 at 9:32 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