Pre-codex to post-codex : editorial theory in the second incunabulum




Finn, Patrick James

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This project studies the ways recent changes in cultural theory and information technology are influencing the delivery of texts, and how these changes signal a need for innovation in editing practice. The word incunabulum describes the material objects produced in the early stages of the development of a technology; most commonly, it refers to printing during the period just before the turn of the sixteenth century when material textuality in the west was changing from a manuscript to a print base. According to critics of digital culture like Janet Murray the current shift to digital media entails many of the same changes. Following this, I will refer to this period as the second incunabulum. Given the limitations of HTML and SGML markup and storage technologies used in early digitization projects, scholars realize that the second incunabular period, much like the first, will not be a simple linear change succession. Just as the shift from manuscript to print involved a multifaceted series of complex social and practical transformations over decades, our current technological transition generates a wide variety of communicative, cultural, and political implications. As a critical point of entry, the comparison of the first and second incunabular periods offers insight into the ways in which past practices can help us approach our textual future. As a broad study of highly particular textual practices, the current work presents something of a paradox. However, through a series of focused historical readings and formal applications, this trans-historical study provokes questions that may lead to effective new work in the field. In Theories of the Text, leading editorial theorist D.C. Greetham points out the need to study the same three projects that I examine: William Langland's Piers Plowman, The Oxford Shakespeare, and James Joyce's Ulysses. By examining the editorial practices underlying each work, I develop a theory of editing based on a form of philological critique that engages with problems faced by many current research projects and which provides suggestions for further research.



Editing, Criticism, textual, Scholarly publishing