Today will examine eclectic text editing and learn more about TEI.


  • An understanding of what makes an eclectic text, and how it fits into editorial tradition.
  • The ability to create and encode an apparatus criticus.
  • A set of principles for annotating scholarly editions.

Schedule: Day 3 (Wednesday, 4 July)

Time Topic Type
9.30 Seminar 6: Eclectic/clear text editing; Critical Apparatus Presentation, Discussion
11.30 Seminar 7: Encoding critical apparatus in TEI Digital lab
14.00 (in SHL) Seminar 8: Editing a clear text: stories and poems; Principles of Annotation; Writing and encoding annotation Discussion; Digital lab
16.00 Library Time  

Seminar 6: Eclectic/Critical Text Editing


  1. W. W. Greg, “The Rationale of Copy Text”
  2. Fredson Bowers, “Some Principles…”
  3. Tanselle, “Varieties of Scholarly Editing”.
  4. Richard Bucci on Tanselle and copy-text editing.
  5. Parker, Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons.

Lecture Notes

What is the copy-text? The Greg 'copy-text' method.
    Authorial intention. The goal with so-called "copy-text" editing is to reconstruct the text that comes closest to the author's final intentions.
    This comes out of two general scenarios:
    1. We have an autograph manuscript and a later printing of the work.
    2. We do not have a manuscript but we have multiple versions of the printed work.
    In either scenario, the editor choses as "copy text" the earliest version, or (in some rare cases) some other version that appears to be closest to the author's final intentions (see Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage as an example of that rare case). Copy text is the basis of your own edited text. Some editors call it the "base text".
    What did Greg actually argue?
    The difference between manuscript-based classical scholarship to print-based editing (i.e. when no ms survives). What the more hasty devotees of the Lachmannian method "failed to understand, or at any rate sufficiently bear in mind, was that authority is never absolute, but only relative" (my emphasis).
    "[T]he conception of 'copy-text' does not present itself to the classical and to the English editor in quite the same way; indeed, if I am right ... the classical theory of the 'best' or 'most authoritative' manuscript, whether it be held in a reasonable or in an obviously fallacious form, has really nothing to do with the English theory of 'copy-text' at all."
    It's important to stress that Greg's ideas came out of the context of Renaissance literature, which presents a textual situation that is unique from, and requires different treatment than, more recent literature (i.e., from the nineteenth and twentieth century). (See also Donald Reiman's essay in Greetham.)
    Authority and essence? "[W]e need to draw a distinction between the significant, or as I shall call 'substantive', readings of the text, those namely that affect the author's meaning or the essence of his expression, and others, such in general as spelling, punctuation, word-division, and the like, affecting mainly its formal presentation, which may be regarded as the accidents, or as I shall call them 'accidentals', of the text."
    "This distinction is not arbitrary or theoretical, but has an immediate bearing on textual scholarship."
    We only select a copy-text "on grounds of expediency."
Substantives and accidentals
    The editor is advised to select substantive (meaningful words) readings from the first or most authoritative printing and the accidentals (punctuation, spelling, capitalisation) from the manuscript or first printed source.
    Individual choice in choosing among variants, including "the all-important matter of the choice of copy-text".
    The tyranny of the copy-text: the failure to use individual judgment on variants and to understand the substantive and accidental differences.
    E.g. Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. The so-called B-text (1616 printing) was used as copy-text in F. S. Boas's now-outdated edition of 1932. He compared this to the A-text (1604 printing). Consider the opening line to Faustus's opening soliloquy:

    A-text: Bid Oncaymaeon farewell, Galen come...
    B-text: Bid Oeconomy farewell; and Galen come...

    The name Oncaymaeon was misprinted from copies of the A-text in 1609 and 1611, and reflected in the B-text. But the meter was disrupted, so the B-text also features a semi-colon followed by "and". Boas emended the copy-text to reflect the correct spelling of the name but kept the additions of the semi-colon and the "and" before Galen. What would you do? Would you keep the semi-colon? (this shows that punctuation changes are not always 'accidentals'!)
    We now know that it is unwise to privilege A or B. Both texts were published after Marlowe's death, and both involved the influence of many hands other than Marlowe. During Boas's and Greg's time, the assumption was simply that the A text was corrupt because it was shorter and had mistakes. But it now appears that both the A and B texts had corruptions.
    But sometimes we have cases of two minor substantive variants in two authorial versions, like Herman Melville's Moby-Dick.
    Let's divert for a moment to consider Ahab's soliloquy in Chapter 132 ("The Symphony") of Moby-Dick, which includes an excellent textual editing puzzle:

    First American edition reads, "Is Ahab, Ahab?"
    First English edition reads: "Is it Ahab, Ahab?"

    How can you chose?
    Back to Greg: the circumstances of editing English texts "make it necessary to adopt in formal matters the guidance of some particular early text. If several extant texts of a work form an ancestral series, the earliest will naturally be selected." But this is the straightforward case. The more difficult case comes with multiple authoritative texts: "then although it will be necessary to choose one of them as copy-text, and to follow it in accidentals, this copy-text can be allowed no over-riding or even preponderant authority so far as substantive readings are concerned." The choice of readings depend on the individual judgement of the editor as to "intrinsic merit, so long as by 'merit' we mean the likelihood of their being what the author wrote rather than their appeal to the individual taste of the editor."
    Sometimes the choice of copy-text "is a matter of convenience rather than of principle". Nevertheless, some principles:

    1. whether the original reading can be attributed to the author;
    2. whether a later reading is one that the author assented to;
    3. If the answer to (1) is no, then the later reading will be right.
    4. If the answer to (1) is yes, and no to (2), then the original reading should be retained;
    5. If the answers to both (1) and (2) are yes, then the later reading should be adopted.

    Greg's pragmatism: "The fact is that cases of revision differ so greatly in circumstances and character that it seems impossible to lay down any hard and fast rule as to when an editor should take the original edition as his copy-text and when the revised reprint."
    Yet: "All that can be said is that if the original be selected, then the author's corrections must be incorporated; and that if the reprint be selected, then the original reading must be restored when that of the reprint is due to unauthorized variation."
    "My desire is rather to provoke discussion than to lay down the law".
The Bowers method
    Bowers essentially stretches the argument to the context of nineteenth century editing. He accepts the authority of the manuscript, and that the default assumption of the editor is to privilege the manuscript over the printed source (if there is no evidence the author oversaw the printing, that is). Printing simply introduces too many errors and deviates from the author's wishes.

Example 1: See Greg, from Editorial Problems in Shakespeare: King Lear and Othello, and Brian Vickers’s review of the New Oxford Shakespeare.

Example 2: Milton. See Gaskell on Comus; see also Empson on Bentley’s editing of Milton in Some Versions of Pastoral.

Example 3: Dickens’s David Copperfield. See Gaskell on Dickens.

Example 4: “The Lost Manuscript and the Emergence of Physical Evidence” in the California edition of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Seminar 7: Encoding critical apparatus in TEI

The apparatus criticus

The textual apparatus (app crit, hereafter) is one of the foundational aspects of critical editing. In eclectic text editing, it is required, because your readers need to access the variants from all of the surviving witnesses that the editor used to constructed the reading text.

Print publication: The difference between putting the app crit at the foot of the page versus in the back of the book. (Examples, from the same editor, of A. E. Houseman and Philip Larkin poems.)

For digital publication, the app crit is encoded within the text. For more on this, consult the TEI Guidelines, Chapter 12.

Negative versus positive apparatus

The choice comes down to whether you are working with a base text (or copy-text). If you have chosen a base text, you are offering a negative apparatus, which is to say a record of variant readings that are different (taken away) from the preferred readings in the text. Many editors will be more likely to do this when transferring a print edition into a TEI-XML digital edition. Yet it is also reasonable to this in a digital edition if one is working in an eclectic (critical) text model.

If you are working without a base text, then you are collating full transcriptions of all the witnesses and noting their differences in the apparatus. This may be called a positive-comprehensive apparatus: an alignment of all variants at a particular location in the text, with witness attribution.

Parallel segmentation method (TBD).

Seminar 8: Editing a clear text: stories and poems

Principles of Annotation

Click here to download the handout on annotation

Dr Johnson’s maxim: annotation is used to correct what is corrupt, and clarify what is obscure.

William Empson: a great thinker about notes. See Empson’s Introduction to the Notes to his Collected Poems (in the annotation handout). See also Empson on obscurity and annotation.


Access a plain text file of Tennyson’s poem “Early Spring”.

Encode the poem in TEI (with the required metadata in the <teiHeader>, please).

Proceed to Day 4