The Value of a Sermon Critical Edition. Part 5. (Some Examples.)

[Cross-posted from BCC.]

Here is part 4.

Bibliographical disciplines have divided up into various specialties and during the last several decades the dominant Anglo-American textual theories have splintered into a variety of approaches modeled on various ideas with roots ranging from multivalued and fuzzy logics to epistemology, philology, physics, biology, etc., which coexist in some tension.[1] This means that no matter what approach a critic or editor takes he or she is bound to fall victim to a thrashing by somebody. The good side of this is a wide open field for expression. One hopes that *someone* likes the result.

This time I want to give a few examples of various ways texts are presented. These will range from classical presentations where the editor is concerned with laying out both editorial decisions and the available alternatives, to a clear text format where the presentation records a smooth, clean (easily quotable) grammatically correct text whose relationship to manuscripts or other editions is essentially hidden from the reader or if not that extreme, at least annotation is placed in back matter.

The first example comes from Kenneth Newport’s 2001 edition of the sermons of Charles Wesley. A short excerpt from “Sermon 4” goes like this:

        Oh numberless are the scriptures wherein he promises this Holy Spirit to all that ask him, especially in that last discourse to his church,216 which the children217 of this generation, no less blasphemously than absurdly would fain appropriate to his apostles. But ye will not so easily quit your title to the legacy of your Lord, even that blessed Spirit, which not only St. Peter or St. John, but you and I and every baptised person may claim as his heritage forever. 218
216Albin and Beckerlegge suggest ‘children’ here. However, the compound shorthand sign here is ’tisch’, which might be read as ‘to his church.’ . . .
217 The shorthand here is ‘ch’; see note above. Again the context is important. ‘The children of this generation’ (Luke 16:8) are the subject of Sermon 17.                            218 Ps. 119: 111.

You can see from the footnotes that the transcription is from a document written in a form of shorthand and that typical of such documents from the period (and later) there may be a number of possible interpretations. Newport employs standard footnotes within the text, annotating various words and sections where the shorthand interpretation is judged to be difficult, and while not presenting the original, some characteristics are preserved, such as deletions. A facsimile edition here might be important for interested students of Wesley, but Newport’s edition represents a useful compromise.

The following is from Arden’s text for the Merchant of Venice. Note that each line is numbered (but only every 5th line explicitly), and the footnotes make reference to a line number in the text, each note references something (usually a word) in that line giving an alternate reading either from early versions of the text in the first set of notes, or explanations of the text in the second set of notes. This kind of explicitly present above-board annotation is less common in modern texts, but for some purposes has much to recommend it.
Merchant of Venice

The next example is from the recent critical edition of The Lincoln-Douglas Debates.

        The Kansas and Nebraska bill declared, in so many words, that it was2 “the true intent and meaning of the act not to legislate slavery into any state or territory, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.”
2 U.S. Statutes at Large 10, 283.

The text is presented without the line numbering apparatus and in a “clear” format. However, the back matter of the book offers annotation directed to page number and line number from the top of page. The annotation observes the source or some variants/additions/deletions for the text.

Finally, here is a little of a different kind of study. A base text is taken from the manuscript history of the LDS Church – it was written down in that history by Robert Lang Campbell.[2] The text was developed by the LDS Church historian’s staff c1855 from sources they had available at the time. The presentation is a partial facsimile– it preserves paragraphing but does not mimic lines.

This text represents all post-1855 variations in a portion of the text of a sermon given by Joseph Smith in 1843. By pursuing the annotation, it is possible to reconstruct any of those particular instances of the sermon-text.

Next time, I’ll show a bit more of what I’m doing with the Joseph Smith sermons.

[1] A fun, sometimes (mostly, I think) brilliant, sometimes confusing, sometimes frustrating, sometimes autobiographical and wide-ranging picture of things including the last few decades is David Greetham, The Pleasures of Contamination. (Bloomington, ID: Indiana UP, 2010). The lines can blur between types and some editions employ several brands of bibliography and critical viewpoints. A nice summary of the state of Anglo-American text theory is Hill, “Theory and practice in Anglo-American Scholarly Editing” Anglia-zeitschrift fur englische philologie 119/3 (2001): 327-350.

[2] Robert L. Campbell (1825-1874). Robert Lang Campbell was born to Alexander Campbell (not the American religionist) and Janet Stewart at Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire, Scotland, January 21, 1825. Baptized at Johnstone, Scotland 1841 and migrated to Nauvoo, Ill. 1844. Served a mission to Europe 1850-53. Territorial Superintendent of Common Schools (Utah), chief clerk of House of Representatives in Utah Legislature. Played an important role in the Church Historian’s office and wrote portions of the manuscript history of the Church. Married Joan Scobie, November 29, 1845, Nauvoo, Ill. Polygamist, marrying Mary Stewart, of Glasgow, Scotland, November 14, 1853; Jeanie Miller of his home town May 6, 1855; Elizabeth Beveridge, July 17, 1857, all at Salt Lake City. Twenty-two children. Died April 11, 1874, Salt Lake City, Utah. [Acknowledgement to Anne for spelling corrections.]


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