Ars or Scientia? Reflections on Editing Piers Plowman
In this essay, Schmidt provides a detailed discussion of the editorial principles he uses in his four-text parallel edition of PPl: William Langland: Piers Plowman. A Parallel-Text Edition of the A, B, C, and Z Versions, vol. 1 (London and New York: Longman, 1995); vol. 2 (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute, forthcoming). He begins with an historical analysis of past editorial practices, categorizing the editions of Skeat (A, B, & C), Knott and Fowler (A), Pearsall (C), and Rigg and Brewer (Z) as positivist, and the Athlone editions of Kane et al. as rationalist, although both these groups are further subdivided and commented upon. Schmidt then situates himself between these approaches and highlights the “four central principles [that] are internally coherent” that make up his editorial philosophy: the canon of unanimity, the canon of acceptability, the canon of ratification, all of which “rest on a fundamental rule of reasoning . . . , the principle of economy or simplicity of explanation” (37). The canon of unanimity holds that that the “material unanimously attested by two, three, or four versions” constitutes a core-text, on the basis of which it is possible to deem line unique lines as acceptable if they conform to the “lexical, syntactic, stylistic, and metrical norms” of the core-text (36). According to the third principle, lines are determined to be “authentic” if “one version’s readings are retained by its successor” (36). Schmidt’s fourth principle, that of economy or simplicity of explanation, is essentially an updated formulation of Ockham’s razor. Schmidt then discusses the logical connections of these editorial principles in detail and considers fourteen examples that illustrate these principles.