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Redefining Critical Editions

Redefining Critical Editions

Editing, understood as the “critical reconstruction of the ideal text, with the stages of the reconstruction documented in complex apparatus,” has been challenged in a dispute of what constitutes such an ideal text, as well as of the importance of authorial revisions and attractive readings found in apparently unauthoritative manuscripts. Critical editing is both a method and a presentation; by both criteria, the Manly-Rickert edition of the CT and the Kane-Donaldson edition of PPl B text are unsatisfactory. K-D, relying on hand-sorting, felt that the stages of transmutation from one actual text to another were irrecoverable. But computer technology can yield a reconstruction of the historical stages through which a text passed into all extant manuscripts, and will also make practicable a set of “fluid editions” for which editor and reader become partners in understanding, both with access to the same materials.


The Digital Word: Text-Based Computing in the Humanities, ed. George P. Landow and Paul Delany. Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press, 1993. 271-91.


Robinson, Peter M. W.