Really enjoyed today’s workshop on scholarly annotation organised by the Institute of English Studies. Because of other commitments I was only able to attend the first half, but it was a great opportunity to hear about and ponder the challenges faced by editors of scholarly editions of texts.
The first paper was by Dr Valerie Rumbold (University of Birmingham), and discussed her work to render The Dunciad in Four Books (1743) teachable to modern undergraduates. She gave a brief history of how she came to edit the Longman Annotated Text of it, after having claimed at the start of her career that the capabilities of the web to provide hypertext editions would render print editions obsolete. Thank goodness for the rest of us that (a) she was wrong in this youthful assertion and (b) she was willing to reconsider her opinion and embark on the task of producing the Longman edition.
Dr Rumbold spoke clearly and concisely on the decision-making processes she faced as an editor, working out what requires annotation in order to contextualise and elucidate the text for the primary audience of undergrads while remaining useful for Pope scholars. As is the case with any full paper given by an expert presenter, there was lots of food for thought – too much to do justice to all of it in a brief blog article.
One point that was beautifully illustrated by Dr Rumbold was the importance of page design in communicating the text to the reader. Users of the earlier Twickenham edition by James Sutherland had reported that it was challenging to identify the modern editor’s annotations (as opposed to Pope’s own). In the Longman text, a swelled rule was used to indicate the end of Pope’s work (above) and Rumbold’s (below the rule). A modern font was also used to set the modern commentary. A page of the original 1743 Dunciad is shown on p. viii of the Longman text, which is available in the “look inside” preview on Amazon, “showing the complexity of the original layout and typography”. Dr Rumbold mentioned in passing that Pope used every bit of print technology available to him. She also discussed the irony with which she and other Pope editors have to feel comfortable – knowing that they are involved in the kind of book-making activity Pope satirised in some of his work.
Now I want to go back to The Dunciad and really contemplate the page design of the different editions. Future Historical Bibliography students should look out for a class activity based on this … with full credit to today’s workshop for pointing out this excellent case study. Browsing around tonight, I’ve noticed Katherine Mannheimer’s study Print, Visuality, and Gender in Eighteenth Century Satire (Routledge, 2011). Fingers poised over the “buy with 1-click” button on a well-known online bookstore …
by George White, sold by Samuel Sympson, after Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt
mezzotint, 1732 (1722)
13 7/8 in. x 9 3/4 in. (352 mm x 247 mm) paper size
Given by Sir Herbert Henry Raphael, 1st Bt, 1916