Archive for the ‘Manuscript Culture’ Category

T-PEN: A New Tool for Transcription of Digitized Manuscripts

October 22, 2012

One of the exciting turn of events for scholars has been the growing number of unpublished, hand-written documents now available on the world wide web. Textual scholars no longer have to travel to distant countries for view the essential manuscript(s) for their research. Instead, they can now sit themselves down in front of their laptop and display each successive page. This has moved many sources that were once difficult to access into the “completely accessible” category.

But does that make them usable?  Despite the desire to make many manuscript collection freely accessible, many digital repositories use “tiled-based” viewers in order to protect unauthorized copying of the collection. This is completely understandable, but those viewers sometimes place limits on how a digital surrogate can be viewed. They can even make it difficult for scholars to extract what they often want most: a transcription of the manuscript’s content. Moreover, the current practice of transcribing from digitized pages can easily permit mistakes to occur. Transcribers currently move from the image to a word processing application in another display window (either on the same screen or on a different monitor). That process can easily mimic the same mistakes that the original scribe could make: haplography (omission of content between similar or identical words; “saut du même au meme”), dittography (repetition of letters or syllables), duplication or omission (of letters, words, or lines), often caused by homoearcton and homoeoteleuton (similar beginnings and endings of words), and transpositions. Could it then be possible to make these digital manuscripts both accessible and highly usable?

T-PEN (Transcription for Paleographical and Editorial Notation) seeks to address both the accessibility and usability of digital repositories. Developed by the Center for Digital Theology of Saint Louis University, in collaboration with the Carolingian Canon Law Project of the University of Kentucky, this new digital tool is a sophisticated web-based application that assists scholars in transcribing these manuscripts. To reduce the likelihood of transcription errors, we took advantage of digital technology to place both the transcription and the exemplar in a manner that minimized the visual movement between the two as much as possible. We accomplished this with a simple but novel visualization of the lines of script in the exemplar, which we integrated with interactive transcription spaces. To build the tool, we developed an algorithm for “parsing” the lines of script in an image, and a data model that connected the image delivery of manuscript repositories with the actions of transcribers.

But we wanted T-PEN to offer more than just a means to ensure good transcription. We had, in fact,  three goals in mind:

  1. To build a tool useful for any kind of scholar, from the digital Luddite to those obsessed with text encoding;
  2. To provide as many tools as possible to enhance the transcription process;
  3. To help scholars make their transcriptions interoperable so that those transcriptions would never be locked into the world of T-PEN alone.

After two years of design, development, and intensive testing this tool is now available to the wider public. It was built in the first instance for those working with pre-modern manuscripts, but there is nothing in its design that would prevent early modern scholars from exploiting T-PEN for their purposes. T-PEN is a complex application and to explain every function would take several posts. Instead, I want to provide a brief overview of how someone can set up a transcription project, how they can use T-PEN to produce high-quality work and finally how to get transcriptions out of T-PEN and into other applications or contexts.

Choosing your Manuscript

T-PEN is meant to act as a nexus between digital repositories and the scholar. To date, we have negotiated access to over 3,000 European manuscripts and we are working on further agreements to expand that list. Our aim is to have a minimum of 10,000 pre-modern European manuscripts available for transcription. Even with that number, we will never be able to satisfy all potential users. We therefore enabled private uploads to extend T-PEN’s usability. Many scholars have obtained digital images of a manuscript and they have permission to make use of them for research purposes. Private uploads to T-PEN are an extension of that “fair use.”  Users zip the JPG images into a single file and then upload them to T-PEN. These type of projects can only add five additional collaborators (see project management, below), and they can never become public projects. Currently T-PEN can support around 300 private projects, and we are expanding our storage capacity for more.

T-PEN's Catalog of Available Manuscripts

Transcribing your Manuscript

Once you select your manuscript you can immediately begin your transcription work. T-PEN does not store any permanent copies of the page images, so each time you request to see a page T-PEN loads the image from the originating repository. If you have never transcribed the page before, T-PEN takes you to the line parsing interface. This adds a little time to the image loading as T-PEN parses the image in real time. When it finishes, you will see a page that looks like this:

T-PEN's Line Parsing Interface

T-PEN attempts to identify the location of each line on the page and then uses alternating colors to display those coordinates. As you can see, we make no claim of absolute perfection. We worked on this algorithm for  almost two and half years and after extensive testing, we’ve been able to promise, on average, an 85% success rate. There are a number of factors that prohibit complete accuracy and so we offer a way for the transcriber to introduce corrections herself. You can add, delete or re-size columns; and insert or merge lines as well. You can even adjust the width of individual lines if they vary in length. You can even combine a number of lines if you want to have them grouped together for your  transcription. Sometimes, manuscripts don’t merge well in our modern, rectilinear world: many handwritten texts were written at an angle or were so tightly bound that the page could not be photographed as flat. T-PEN ultimately doesn’t care: what really matters for connecting transcription to a set of coordinates on a digital image. What really matters is that the left side of the line box aligns with the written text. That’s the anchor.

When you are satisfied with the line parsing, you can start transcribing. The transcription interface looks like this:

T-PEN Transcription User Interface

This interface allows you to transcribe line by line, with the current line surrounded by a red box. There are some basic features to note. First, as you transcribe the previous line is noted above because so often sentence units are split across lines. Transcription input is stored in Unicode and T-PEN will take whatever language set the user has enabled his computer to type. If there are special characters in the manuscript, the transcriber can insert them either by clicking on the special character button (the first ten are hot-keyed to CTRL+1 through 0).

Second, users can encode their transcription as they go. On this aspect, T-PEN is both innovative and provocative. Many scholarly projects that include text encoding often adopt a three-step process: the scholar transcribes the text and then hands it to support staff to complete the encoding, which is finally vetted by the scholar. However, there are many times in which semantic encoding of transcriptions has to include how the text is presented on the page. T-PEN innovatively allows scholars to integrate transcription (with the manuscript wholly in view) and encoding into one step. Often the best encoder is the transcriber herself. That innovation comes with a provocative concept, however. In digital humanities where TEI is the reigning orthodoxy, T-PEN is at least heterodox if not openly heretical. T-PEN’s data model does not expect,  nor require, a transcription to be encoded much less utilize TEI as the basis of structured text. Instead, T-PEN treats all XML elements as simply part of the character stream. T-PEN can support transcribers who don’t want to encode at all as well as those who are wholly committed to the world of TEI. For those who want to encode, a schema can be linked to a project to produce a set of XML buttons that can be used in the transcription interface.

Project Management

For those who simply want to start transcribing, project management will not be that important. For those who envisage a more sustained project (and perhaps a collaborative one at that), it will be vital. There are a number of components in managing a T-PEN project, but here I want to highlight two of them.

Collaboration. Like most digital tools, T-PEN allows you to invite collaborators to join your project. All members of a project have to be registered on T-PEN (but that’s free and requires only providing your full name and an email address). Managing collaboration has three features, of which only a few projects will use all three. There is first adding and deleting project members. Any member of a project can see who is also a member, but only the project leader can add or delete members. A project leader can even have T-PEN send an invitation to a non-T-PEN person and invite them to join (and once they do, they automatically become part of that project).

Collaboration in Project Management

Second, there is a project log to inspect. This log records any activity that changes the content or parameters of the project. This can be particularly helpful when tracking down how a transcription has changed in a shared project (and a user can display the history of each line in the Trasnscription UI). Finally, projects can make use of T-PEN’s switchboard feature. This is for transcription projects that may be part of a larger project, and where the transcriptions will be aggregated in another digital environment. Switchboard does two things for a project: (1) it allows different projects to share the same XML schema so that all transcriptions will conform to the larger project’s standards; and (2) it will expose the transcription through a web service to permit easy export to the larger project.

Project Options. The two more important options are button management and setting the transcription tools. As seen in the screen shot of the transcription interface, users can use buttons to insert both XML elements and special characters. Those buttons are created and modified as part of the project options. If there is an XML schema for the project, a project leader can link it to the project. Then in button management, the elements in that schema populate the XML button list. The button populator does not discern between metadata elements and elements found in the body of an encoding schema. Users then have to modify the button list to cull the elements that won’t be used during transcription. There’s an additional advantage to editing that list: each button can gain a more readable title. This can be helpful if the encoding schema exploits the varying use of the <seg>  or the <div> elements in TEI. When the possible deployment of the tag might be unclear to those with less experience with TEI, a more straightforward title can become a better guide to its use.

Special characters allow the user to identify characters in the UTF-8 system which may not be represented on a standard keyboard. These can be created by entering the correct Unicode value for the character. The first 10 characters are mapped to hotkeys CTRL+1 through 0.

Finally, the set of tools that are available on the transcription interface are set in project options. T-PEN has thirteen tools built-in and most of them were included to assist transcribers of pre-modern manuscripts. Some will be helpful to editors of modern texts. If those tools are unhelpful, then the user can expand that list of tools: all that is needed a name of the tool and its URL. Once attached to the project, the user will be able to access that tool in the transcription interface.

Getting your Transcription out of T-PEN

Digital tools often fall into one of two categories. “Thinking” tools are ones that allow users to manipulate and process datasets in order to test a certain idea or to visualize an abstract concept. They can also allow the user to annotate a resource as a way of processing the scholar’s conception of the object’s meaning or the hermeneutical framework it may require. These tools are invaluable, but they do not easily produce results that can be integrated into a print or digital publication. The second type is what I call the production tool. With these applications, the final objective is to produce something that can be integrated in other contexts. T-PEN falls firmly into this second category—although it has its own annotation tool with which a user can record observations about each manuscript page (and it is compliant with the W3C standard, the Open Annotation Collaboration). Scholars transcribe normally one of three reasons; to create a scholarly edition; to place those transcriptions in footnotes or in the appendices of a monograph; or to integrate an encoded text into a larger resource.

T-PEN supports four basic export formats: XML/plaintext, where the user can filter out one or more XML tags; PDF; RTF which is compatible with most word processors; and finally, basic HTML. For the first one, if the user has attached a header to the project, that header can be included in the export. There is an important caveat here:  T-PEN was not designed to be an XML editor. We do offer a basic, well-formedness check (which stops at the first error), but T-PEN does not offer full validation services. Most scholars who encode with T-PEN export their transcriptions to an XML editor for full validation of the file. The last three export formats include some simple transformation for text decoration (italics, bold, etc.). Users can also identify the whole transcription or specify a range based on the pagination (or foliation) of the manuscript.

T-PEN's Export Options

This post only covers the basics of T-PEN. There are more features available to the user. There is a demonstration video on YouTube  where you can walk with one of T-PEN’s research fellows as she begins a transcription project.  T-PEN is freely available, thanks to a major investment from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and a Level 2 Start-up grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. So go to t-pen.org and register for an account.

“The Past Has Arrived”: NYU’s Conference on Digital Media, Teaching, and Scholarship

May 5, 2012

Martha Rust (NYU) recently organized an inspiring conference on digital tools called “The Past Has Arrived: The Digital Middle Ages and the Renaissance.”  The tools discussed usefully supplement books in both teaching and scholarship.

Annotation tools like Digital MappaeMundi–now re-branded as DM–allow users to annotate and link images and texts.  In the image below, downloaded from the DM web site, purple annotation selects material on the twelfth-century world map from Sawley Abbey in Yorkshire (left screen) and links it to text on the right screen.  The text can similarly be formatted or annotated to include links to relevant sites, images, or glosses, such as entries in the Dictionary of Old English.  Martin Foys and Shannon Bradshaw (Drew) and Asa Mittman (Cal. State, Chico) presented an introduction, a technological context, and an application of this tool.

Image from Digital MappaeMundi

Visualization tools, such as Mapping Gothic France, allow users to view representations of medieval buildings in staggering detail.  MGF presents twelfth- or thirteenth-century cathedrals in France “in terms of sameness and difference found in the forms of multiple buildings within a defined period of time and space that corresponds to the emergence of France as a nation state,” according to its web site.  The photographs–and there are tens of thousands of them–are strikingly clear and the site is interactive, so that one can navigate the interior of cathedrals as if one were flying through them.  Those raised on Harry Potter will be particularly happy with this feature.  The views would once have been considered nearly unobtainable.  Click on the following screen shot for a larger image.

Screen shot of Mapping Gothic France home page

What’s striking about this project is that it supplements book technology.  “Architecture doesn’t fit tidily into the pages of a book,” co-administrator Andrew Tallon (Vassar) explains in an interview with Chronogram.  Indeed, this five-year project designed by Tallon and Michael Murray (Columbia) demonstrates how digital media can provide features that a book can’t or rarely offers.  Using MGF, students can manipulate maps to see the sequence in which Cathedrals were built, zoom in on architectural details, view floor plans, read narratives associated with a building, and even use a simulation tool to experiment with the physics of stone arches.

Michael Witmore’s keynote talk “What Is Access?” provided an overview of the history of Docu-Scope, which was designed to help teach freshman English but functions in surprisingly innovative ways to annotate texts.  It categorizes words into types, and generates charts of word strings that force a re-consideration of texts, such as Shakespeare’s plays, in new ways.  Witmore distinguished between archives–that maze of material books shelved within a given collection–and the archive available by a digitized database or tool.  Docu-scope might be said to re-shelve Shakespeare’s oeuvre by suggesting surprising points of contact between plays divided generically.  As noted in an earlier emob entry, Witmore finds points of contact between Othello and the comedies.  It also exposes what is odd about a given play.  The following screen shot downloaded, not from Witmore’s NYU talk, but from his blog, Wine Dark Sea, shows how Docu-scope found a high frequency of words denoting motion and spatial relations in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Those words appear underlined in yellow below (click on image to enlarge and clarify):

 

The preponderance of such motion words, once we see them, makes immediate sense in a play featuring fairies and other supernatural creatures that move in ways that humans cannot.  One of Docu-scope’s gifts is to help us see formal aspects of a text that we might not otherwise see.  In this sense, digital tools can provide access to linguistic features of a text less likely to be found by human reading.

Cataloguing tools was the topic of my discussion of EEBO InteractionsEEBO Interactions facilitates “relational cataloguing,” allowing entries to link to ODNB entries, or to related texts within EEBO, or to articles, or to spaces where bibliographical  and critical issues can be discussed.  In the past, an EEBO user might have found the following entry to be something of a dead end:

Clicking on the text bubble by the author’s name calls up the corresponding EEBO Interactions page, which identifies J.V.C. as a Catholic priest and provides brief biographical information.

Scrolling down the EEBO Interactions page, one would also find relevant links.  Because users can add pertinent information for either the author or the text title, those working on little known work can, if they wish, share their expertise and enhance catalogue entries. This kind of relational cataloguing capitalizes on current technology and points the way to the future.

Pedagogical tools were the focus of several talks. These included the Medieval Narrative Project, designed by Evelyn Birge Vitz and Marilyn Lawrence (both at NYU), which collects video clips of performances of medieval texts.  Other teaching aids included Second Life, which Martha Driver (Pace) had her students use to construct avatars engaged in medieval contexts.  The afterlives of these projects, which continued to be used beyond the end of a given course, suggest that students enjoyed imagining medieval life through this technology.

Theoretical and practical issues were also probed.  On the practical side, Consuelo Dutschke, Curator of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts at Columbia University, argued eloquently for the value of projects like the Digital Scriptorium, which, in addition to collecting images segregated by disparate archives into one database, also allows a “diverse community of medievalists, classicists, musicologists, paleographers, diplomats and art historians” to help strengthen cataloguing.  Similarly, Stephen Nichols (Johns Hopkins) and Nadial Altschul (Johns Hopkins), editors of Digital Philology: A Journal of Medieval Cultures, discussed some of the technical and pragmatic issues that emerged regarding digital publication, including the difference between a link to a work of art and its printed reproduction, or how royalties affect what can be included in digital publications.   More theoretical speculations included concerns expressed by Alan Galey (University of Toronto) regarding textual variation: how can interface design help organize text, textual notes, and commentary?  The Visualizing Variation project demonstrates how digital media provides innovative features, such as animated variants, for textual editing.  Nicola Masciandaro mediated on how digital tools produced “textual shapes” other than the article or the monograph.  Bill Blake discussed keywords, a topic he broached at the ASECS meeting in April and developed further here.  How can searching be conceptualized so as to explore, rather than reproduce an archive?

A final keynote delivered by Stephen Nichols on “The Anxiety of Irrelevance: Digital Humanities and Medieval Literary Scholarship” probed the ambivalence prompted by digital humanities projects.  He argued that there need not be a disconnect between the goals of Digital Humanities projects and those of traditional humanists, but that more attentive listening and understanding of questions at hand is necessary.  The day-long conference and the discussions that it fostered well into the evening, including at a lively dinner, helped advance that needed conversation.

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The Devonshire Manuscript: A Digital Social Edition

February 29, 2012

Readers are invited to participate in a promising and methodically thought-through experiment in social editing.

The University of Victoria’s Electronic Textual Cultures Lab‘s Devonshire MS Editorial Group invites contributions to a new project involving collaborative knowledge curation.  The project aims at attributing contributions and ensuring scholarly authority.

Guided by Ray Siemens, the ETCL’s editorial group is producing a collaborative electronic wikibooks edition of the Devonshire manuscript, which contains 185 items from the 1530s and 1540s, including complete poems, transcriptions, verse fragments, excerpts, anagrams, and notes by many authors and transcribers.

Because 125 of the poems are attributed to Sir Thomas Wyatt and have been transcribed and published in print, the miscellany was long considered exclusively as a source for his work.  Arthur Marotti notes, however, that this “author-centered view of the miscellany obscures its value as a document “illustrating some of the uses of lyric verse within an actual social environment” (Marotti, Manuscript, Print, and Renaissance Lyric, 1995).  In addition to Wyatt, other contemporaries contributing to the manuscript include Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, Lady Margaret Douglas, Richard Hatfield, Mary Fitzroy (née Howard), Lord Thomas Howard, Sir Edmund Knyvet, Sir Anthony Lee, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, Mary Shelton, and perhaps Anne Boleyn.

The Devonshire manuscript wikibooks site states that the purpose of the edition is to

preserve the socially mediated textual and extra-textual elements of the manuscript that have been elided in previous transcriptions.  These “paratexts” make significant contributions to the meaning and appreciation of the manuscript miscellany and its constituent parts: annotations, glosses, names, ciphers, and various jottings; the telling proximity of one work and another; significant gatherings of materials; illustrations entered into the manuscript alongside the text; and so forth.  To accomplish these goals, the present edition has been prepared as a diplomatic transcription of the Devonshire Manuscript with extensive scholarly apparatus.

The miscellany illustrates the social use of verse and provides what Colin Burrow calls “the richest surviving record of early Tudor poetry and of the literary activities of 16th-century women.”

Currently, a PDF version of the edition is under review at the University of Toronto’s Iter Gateway.  In July, the PDF and Wikibooks versions will be compared and a final edition will be published by Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies.

Readers are invited to participate in the editing of this interesting and complex manuscript.  Some immediate questions include the following:

  • How should blank spaces–often tellingly omitting one name to suggest another–be presented?
  • How can the manuscript’s structure be maintained, while allowing for efficient navigation?  For example, use of “forward” and “backward” buttons might misrepresent the complex spatial relationship among the poems, which frequently appear side-by-side in the manuscript.
  • What is the best way to ensure credit for Wikibooks editors?

Access to the digital facsimile is available to subscribers of Adam Mathew.  The link can be found at the bottom of the Devonshire Manuscripts’ wikibooks page.

Response to Collaborative Reading of Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript

August 4, 2010

First, I would like to thank Anna for organizing this reading of my book and all the reviewers for taking the time to read and evaluate it so carefully. This is my first book, and I had expected a two- to three-year wait before reading reviews of it. I certainly did not expect to have encountered a set of seven thoughtful reviews within two months of its publication — one of the many virtues of online collaborative reviews, a subject Eleanor recently discussed. I’ve learned a great deal from these reviews and the comments that followed. In fact, because everyone has raised so many interesting issues, I’m finding it difficult to begin. I will try to address one central issue raised by each reviewer, weaving into my discussion some of the responses to those review posts. I will necessarily have to omit some of the points that have been raised.

Dave Mazella began the discussion by asking the important question of how we talk about eighteenth-century book history: “do we have, or need, an alternative to the unitary term ‘print culture’ in our analysis of the eighteenth century?”. I’m glad to have the chance to address this question, since for the most part I avoided doing so in my book. In fact, I use the term “print culture” only once (205) and then with scare quotes. My avoidance of the term does not signal that I think it has no use in scholarly discussions; rather, I think its value depends greatly on the context of the larger scholarly project in which it is used. Macro-level investigations that chart the major shifts between the pre- and post-Gutenberg eras will depend greatly on an operative term such as “print culture” (obviously I’m thinking of Eisenstein here). But since my book was limited to not just Britain in the first half of the eighteenth century but also to a single author in that milieu, I thought that such a micro-level study would help to show us the limitations and even misconceptions that such macro-level terms imply when used in a more limited disciplinary context.

To put this in more concrete ways: we should not expect that any coherent definition of print culture will encompass such widely different artifacts as a massive folio edition of Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion as well as a broadside poem or single issue of a newspaper. Permanence and ephemerality co-exist here, and the more that a conceptual term embraces paradox and contradiction the less utility it will have for the purposes of definition and argument. In addition, whenever examining any time period up close, one will find overlapping and competing “print cultures” that vary according to cost, format, genre, etc. Perhaps the ultimate lesson is that in such narrowed contexts the term has greater value in the plural form, evidencing a kind of multi-cultural media world.

And to answer Mazella’s question from another direction: it would depend on what else we know of other authors in the period, writing in other genres and not necessarily in metropolitan areas. I had hoped to suggest ways in which Swift was or was not typical of his age in regard to the use of print and manuscript, but I came to recognize that much more needs to be studied before one could begin to address that topic. Studying the examples that Eleanor and Al Coppola mention is one good place to start.

This issue connects to Eleanor’s question about the ability to conduct research in this field given the materials that have or have not survived, especially for non-canonical authors. When I started doing textually and bibliographically related research in graduate school, I had assumed that the major discoveries in this area have already been made and that there was little left to do. But I have come to learn that there is much more to find and many more questions to ask that haven’t been considered yet. In addition, there are now some great research tools for the study of manuscripts in our period, especially for manuscript verse. Eleanor alluded to Alexander Lindsay’s Swift entry for the Index of English Literary Manuscripts, a compendium that is limited to “major” authors from 1500-1900. But there are other resources to consult to learn about major and so-called minor authors from our period. Those interested in further study should consult the following:

I am not as aware of similar resources for non-verse material, but now and then something interesting will turn up while searching Archives Hub.

I would also like to acknowledge Eleanor’s especially perceptive reading of my title.

Ashley Marshall writes thoughtfully about the ways we might revisit Swift’s canon and his attitude toward his own canon, and suggests that Swift’s attitude might change, perhaps in unpredictable ways. I’m greatly interested in such issues as well, even though I mostly avoided dealing with them in my book. (I deliberately avoided addressing works that have a doubtful status in Swift’s canon; such doubtful attributions are receiving renewed scrutiny in the Cambridge Edition of Swift currently being edited and published). Ashley cites two examples: “Cadenus and Vanessa” and “On the Words ‘Brother Protestants and Fellow Christians.'” I think “Cadenus and Vanessa” deserves more investigation about its publishing and textual history, and I haven’t done the necessary research to comment on it at length — except to say that in publishing it in the joint Miscellanies Swift perhaps defused the appeal of those unauthorized collections that contained it.

The example of “On the Words ‘Brother Protestants and Fellow Christians'” shows just how variable a poem’s publication history can be. Ashely is correct that this poem appeared in Faulkner’s 1735 edition; it did so with this prefatory and canny remark: “The following Poem having been printed in London, we have thought proper to insert it here, not doubting but it will be acceptable to our Readers; although we cannot say who is the Author.” (A similar remark prefaced the lampoon “The Virtues of Sid Hamet” in the 1711 Miscellanies.) Bettesworth’s name was fully obscured by asterisks in Faulkner’s text, but the “Sweats-worth” rhyme still gives it away. And it’s worth noting that “On the Words …” was added quite late to Faulkner’s edition, as it appears in the final full gathering of volume 2. So we’re dealing with a situation in which a poem (written while Faulkner was printing the edition) appears in an authorized collection with a note explicitly questioning its canonical status (though with a nudge and a wink). Who exactly was involved in this decision? Did Swift suggest this poem’s inclusion? Or did he pretend he knew nothing about the poem, which shifted the decision onto Faulkner about whether to include it or not? In such situations, Ashley is right to wonder exactly how if at all authorial control is being exercised. Clearly, Faulkner ran a risk in printing the poem, and his boldness was repaid in 1736 when Bettesworth had Faulkner arrested for publishing some relatively mild comments.

A final thought about Swift’s canon: even if Swift did not think he was assembling a canon, some of those in his circle did. Here I’m thinking especially of Charles Ford, who was perhaps preparing an edition of Swift’s works long before Swift was (see the letters between Swift and Ford in 1733). We have here more material for a study of social authorship, a subject I pick up on below.

Randy Robertson rightly emphasizes the need for scholars, perhaps especially those working in seemingly dry subject areas such as textual studies, to craft narratives that engage their readers. And I agree that Robert Darnton is able to entertain his readers while also educating them in a way that I am still trying to master. Perhaps I did a better job with the narrative in Chapter 5 than in Chapter 4, but that is certainly for readers to judge. Often, and especially in the second half of my book, I am simultaneously working with two narratives: the narrative of those writing and publishing in the past and the narrative of reconstructing their activities and the complex textual histories that resulted. At times I found it a challenge to attend to both narratives; in a sense, I had to be true to the information available to us, including the often fragmentary nature of that information, and tell a story that would maintain the reader’s interest.

One issue I struggled with while trying to create appropriate narrative frameworks for these chapters was that I often lacked knowledge about how these texts (whether in print, manuscript, or a combination of both) were received by their readers. In Chapter 6 I attempted a necessarily speculative model about that reception and in Chapter 2 I could draw from readers’ recreations of Swift’s writings, but elsewhere I thought I didn’t even have a basis upon which to construct a speculative model. It seems to me that in order to create a compelling narrative in book history, one needs the perspective of both the producers (writers, publishers, etc.) and the consumers (“regular” readers, the political authorities, etc.). Attending to both will provide a dramatic element to sustain the narrative, and this may be one reason why Darnton’s writings are so enjoyable to read (in addition to his own skill as a writer).

While commenting about “The Legion Club,” Al Coppola wonders about the status of the final couplets added to the poem, shrewdly referring to their inclusion as “a moustache on the Mona Lisa.” I suspect those couplets will always remain a bit of a mystery as to who was responsible for adding them. I gave my arguments for why I believe Swift was responsible, though Coppola is right to explore other possibilities. I wish I knew of some way to solve this puzzle with greater confidence, but I don’t.

Coppola’s remarks gave rise to some interesting comments on the nature of social authorship as it relates to Swift. I’m glad that this topic generated such interest, since we need to do much more to situate works by Swift and other canonical authors in relation to works by lesser-known figures. For my current project, James Woolley and I are editing Swift’s complete poems for the Cambridge edition, and we plan to include the poems that Swift’s poems responded to (Harold Williams had also included such poems) as well as some poems that were part of a verse exchange that Swift’s verse participated in. We hope that doing so will allow readers to examine Swift’s poems in dialogue with those of his contemporaries, including those contemporaries whose identities are not known. We’re also going to pay careful attention to canonical issues and the extent to which we can attribute specific poems to Swift with varying levels of confidence and uncertainty. James has written of the need to free ourselves from “the tyranny of the individual talent” and take seriously the possibility and even likelihood that one of Swift’s contemporaries may have written a poem otherwise attributed to him (“The Canon of Swift’s Poems: The Case of ‘An Apology to the Lady Carteret,'” in Reading Swift: Papers from the Second Munster Symposium on Jonathan Swift, p. 246). In a brief entry on “Attribution” for the recent Oxford Companion to the Book, I referred to “the centripetal force of the major author” to describe the power that a major figure exerts on contemporary works of uncertain authorship. I also wrote that “scholars who offer claims of attribution would do well to remember that the vast majority of works are written by minor authors, including authors whose identities have long vanished from historical memory.”

A recurring phenomenon in studying historical reader response is the way in which readers adapt and use an author’s works for their own purposes, whether or not such purposes align with those of the author. That phenomenon is no less operative among readers of scholarly works today. I write this in part to justify David Brewer’s interest in taking my research on a ride of his choosing, while graciously welcoming me aboard. I would be very interested in knowing with greater clarity just which printed texts prompted readers to take up pen and annotate. Then as now I suspect some readers did not want to “mar” their personal copies; others perhaps couldn’t help doing so. It’s worth noting that for some time collectors (and thus libraries) viewed such annotated copies as less desirable, a trend not followed by collectors such as James Osborn, as can be seen by viewing the many items he collected now at the Beinecke Library. A brief research visit to the Beinecke will remind us how much more work there is to do with eighteenth-century manuscript materials (including annotated print copies). So one wonders if the surviving evidence in libraries is to some extent biased in a way that obscures the act of annotation. Interested readers might consult H. J. Jackson’s Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books, and (I hope) work by David in the near future.

Are there any copies of Tristram Shandy that in fact contain a sketch of the Widow Wadman on the blank page? I believe that David has researched this topic.

I’m also grateful to David for alerting me to yet another annotated copy of Swift’s “Verses.” James and I are always interested in learning about these. The ones that have escaped our attention are likely to be in libraries with good general collections but too rarely frequented by eighteenth-century specialists.

I’m somewhat relieved that David’s discovery doesn’t dramatically alter my argument, though as Anna notes, that is a possibility and one that I expect to happen at some point. I’m very grateful to her for making this truly collaborative reading possible. I’ve learned much from each of you, and want to thank you again for devoting part of your summer to my book.

Steve

Karian’s Chapter 6: The Authorial Strategies and Material Texts of “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift”

August 2, 2010

Steve opens his final chapter with the frank confession that “as complicated as the textual histories of ‘On Poetry: A Rapsody’ and ‘The Legion Club’ are, that of ‘Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift’ (1739) is even more complicated”: “the early texts of this poem survive in a bewildering array of print, manuscript, and blank space” (166). Given that this chapter is likely to get more use than the preceding two (simply because it’s the only one which discusses a poem that makes it into the undergraduate classroom with any regularity), one might think that such bewilderment would be off-putting: a limit case, perhaps, from which we would gladly back away. I’d like to contend something close to the opposite. That is, the real utility of Steve’s patient survey of the “bewildering array” of versions of the “Verses” (beyond its lucid sketch of a ridiculously complicated phenomenon) lies precisely in the picture it paints of a world in which print, manuscript, oral performance, geography, and the varying degrees of knowledge and interest which readers bring to a text all not only intersect, but conspire to produce a situation in which “variability” is “integral to the work’s existence” (184). The “Verses,” for all their complications, are thus not a limit case so much as what Italian microhistorians like to call the “exceptional normal,” an instance whose apparent oddity lays bare the norms and rules of a much more widely played game. Steve doesn’t go this far and perhaps for his purposes he doesn’t want or need to do so. But the potential to use the “Verses” as a means of better grasping the “variability” “integral” to all sorts of eighteenth-century texts certainly exists and I, for one, would like to see what happens if we presume the normality, even the quotidianness of “bewildering arrays.”

I think the best way to launch, however speculatively, this line of thought is to start with the second half of Steve’s chapter, in which he reconstructs the busy life led by the “Verses” across the 1730s. Here’s the short version. It would seem that Swift first showed a manuscript of the “Verses” to his friends in Ireland, some of whom (like Laetitia Pilkington) memorized significant chunks of it and then repeated them around town to, in Swift’s words, “provoke peoples curiosity and a longing they had to see it in print” (Swift to Lord Carteret, 23 April 1733, quoted on 175). Then, once the poem had some oral currency in Dublin, Swift wrote a burlesque of it, “The Life and Genuine Character of Doctor Swift” and got it published, first in London and then in Dublin, with all sorts of non-Swiftean poetic and typographic flourishes, like italics, dashes, and triplets, in order to throw off those who might suspect its true authorship. Here, obviously, geography matters: Swift was attempting to trick those “Dubliners” who had “heard parts of the poem recited” into thinking that they “recognized the ‘Life’ as an inept reconstruction of the ‘Verses’” (179), whereas readers elsewhere would most likely regard it as a clumsy stand-alone attempt to ventriloquize the Dean. Several of Swift’s English friends then arranged for an edition of the “Verses” themselves (in part to counter the supposedly fraudulent “Life”), but, for various reasons, altered or omitted a number of lines and all of the notes from the text as, we think, Swift had written it, and inserted several (typographically glaring) passages from the “Life.” Finally, George Faulkner brought out a Dublin edition which included some of the material left out of the London edition. However, the printed editions all contained extensive blanks, both in the verse and in (in Faulkner’s version) the notes, which were to be filled in with some combination of guesswork and copying from various quasi-authorized manuscript additions to other copies in circulation. The result, as Steve’s figures 9 through 14 show, is indeed “variability”: “no two of the thirty-seven known annotated copies are exactly alike” (184).

Now Steve does a splendid job sifting through this mess (which is far more complicated than my little summary can convey) and showing what is lost when we read or teach the “Verses” in a modern edition which supplies all that in the initial editions was left blank or completed by hand. For example, Faulkner’s edition insists that “The          S—-, if you nam’d, / With what Impatience he declaim’d!” Depending on the copy one consults, these blanks are filled in as the “Irish Senate,” the “British Senate,” the “Bench or Senate,” the “cheating South-Sea,” or the “Whiggish Spirit.” All fit the meter; all are plausible objects of Swift’s “Impatience.” “Irish Senate” is probably what Swift actually wrote, but to simply print that in a modern edition forecloses the other possibilities in a way that is profoundly unfaithful to the experience of anyone encountering the poem in the late 1730s. So far, so good and it would certainly be enough to stop here, having (once again) demonstrated the abiding inability of most modern editorial practices to accurately represent the complexity of early modern textuality. But we’ve heard that critique before and most of the remaining problems are sufficiently intractable that I suspect further critique isn’t going to get us very far, so I’d like instead to see if we can push a little harder and come up with some useful ways of thinking about what I take to be the real implications of Steve’s work, the places Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript can take us (whether or not Steve wants to come along for the ride).

As an initial gambit, I’d like to pose two questions which come out of what Steve does in the second half of this chapter: 1) “When presented with a printed text (full of blanks or otherwise), what could induce readers to pick up their pens and write?” and 2) “Why should they do so so dramatically more with the ‘Verses’ than most other texts?” Seriously considering the first can, I think, help us better grasp the sheer “variability” at work here. It’s not just a matter of differing levels of knowledge or access to an authorized- or authoritative-seeming copy which one can transcribe; it’s also a matter of will and desire. If one gets a reference (say, that the two-syllable blank which rhymes with “Thing” and refers to someone who has a consort can probably be filled in with “the King”), then why bother writing it down, especially given the less than spontaneous technology of eighteenth-century pens? That is, Peter Stallybrass is probably right that print’s “most radical effect was its incitement to writing by hand,” but that incitement is remarkably variable. Compare Steve’s Figure 9 (from a copy at Penn) to the same page in a copy owned by Ohio State and to the British Library copy which was filmed and scanned for ECCO:

The Penn copy plausibly fills in the asterixed-out lines, but leaves the dashed-out names and the triple asterix standing in for “the Queen” blank. The Ohio State copy completes the names (perhaps incorrectly), but not the royal title or any of the whole lines of verse. And the British Library copy remains resolutely blank. How can we even begin to explain the differences between these copies, given that they are differences not simply of degree but of apparent interest as well? Yet it’s exceedingly difficult to gauge that interest on the basis of what made it onto the page, since there’s no reason to presume that, say, the readers of the Penn and British Library copies were incapable of coming up with a trochaic woman’s name beginning with S (whether it be “Susan,” “Suffolk,” or anything else). Perhaps they were; perhaps the allusion was so obvious as to be unworthy of being written down; perhaps actually recording one’s guess verged too close to libel (note how the Penn copy is still dashing out some of its more charged words); perhaps something else. I suspect that in most cases we can’t ever know with any certainty, but until we try, however speculatively and tentatively, to account for not only the complex relationships between “Print” and “Manuscript” as totalized entities, but also the emotionally fraught, idiosyncratic, geographically and generically varying reading, writing, and listening practices out of which those abstractions are created, we will continue to fail to do justice to “arrays” far less ostentiously “bewildering” than the “Verses.” Such an endeavor will, of course, be the work of many hands and it’s wholly unreasonable to expect Steve to have fully cleared the path. But he’s gone further than a casual reading of this chapter might suggest and I think that at least the beginnings of the kind of work I’m calling for (and, I hope, in my other writing engaging in) can be seen in his wonderfully shrewd passing comments on the ways in which the sheer size of the blanks (e.g., in figure 12) solicits a roughly proportionate amount of penmanship, even if it’s only squiggles as a kind of “etc.” by other means:

Perhaps we could start with something like “the blank proposes, but the pen disposes” and then start to figure out the circumstances under which such proposals are compelling or attractive (and when a blank even registers as such)?

Doing so will, of course, require us to pay close attention to the generic and rhetorical occasion of the blank-filling, since, as anyone who’s ever gone trawling for marginalia can testify, manuscript additions to printed texts are, shall we say, distributed rather unevenly. There are far more annotated almanacs and arithmetic books out there than annotated works of the sort which people in English departments tend to care about. But even within the latter category, the distribution is far from uniform: topical and satiric works, especially verse, get a lot more scribal attention than, say, most novels. Here’s where I think we could usefully bring in the otherwise anomalous first part of Steve’s chapter: his discussion of “Authorship in the ‘Verses on the Death’.” It’s an insightful account of the structure of the poem and usefully explains many things which have long puzzled us (e.g., why the speaker at the Rose should claim to be “no judge” of Swift’s “works in verse and prose” and yet spend most of his 180-plus lines praising their effects). But it’s curiously unintegrated into not only the rest of the chapter, but the book as a whole, unless (and this remains almost entirely implicit) we presume that it is no accident that the work which incited so much writing by hand was a work which meditates on the ways in which authors are entangled with and ultimately dependent on their publishers and readers. If so (and this is very much the ledge on which I want to go out; Steve need not accompany me if he doesn’t want to), then it would seem that one of the factors which might predict a particularly “thick” clustering of manuscript augmentations would be whether or not a text is concerned with authorship or otherwise rhetorically doubling the situation of its own reading. That is, it would seem (on the basis of Steve’s findings and my own ongoing research) that authors were particularly good to think with and that, in turn, seems, at least in some cases, to have translated into their being good to write with. Determining the logic underlying which cases were or were not useful or compelling in this way is a project still beyond us, but once again, I’d like to suggest, Steve’s work can at least cast some light down the proper path if we take seriously his closing contention that the various ways in which readers filled in the blanks of “The           S—-” “may reflect the readers’ own sense of which objects deserved the most abuse” (203), since the structure of not only that line but the entire poem makes the blank-filling tantamount to enlisting Swift on one’s own side, whether it be against Parliament, the Bench, the Bubble, or Sir Bob. If so, then one of the ways in which we can make sense of the “bewildering array” we find is to try to reconstruct not only the actual sociability which produced a given copy (e.g., who jotted down what after encountering which other copy or recitation), but also the imagined sociability between a particular reader, other readers, and the author—which obviously can, but need not, overlap with “what really happened.”

So how, ultimately, after taking Steve’s “bewildering array” and piling conjecture upon conjecture on it (perhaps making it all the more “bewildering” in the process), can I claim that the “Verses” represent a case of the “exceptional normal”? Two answers. The first is simply by fiat: as with all forms of conjectural historiography, the proof of the pudding will lie in the eating. If we can see things about “the normal” state of early modern textuality which we would not have otherwise been able to notice by treating the “Verses” as if they were the key to all (or at least some) mythologies, then they’ve done their work and so are “exceptional,” at least in this sense. And if we can’t, then they’re not, at least in this line of inquiry or these hands. But I would also appeal to the archival experience of the readers of EMOB (including Steve himself) and ask them to recall how many times they’ve encountered a printed text marked by an eighteenth-century hand or an account of a somewhat garbled oral transmission as a part of polite (or impolite) sociability or the trace of a reading which is clearly shaped by the uneven geographic dissemination of information. Such things have been a routine part of every visit to every rare book room I’ve ever made, not to mention a good chunk of my use of full-text databases, my perusal of countless letters and diaries, etc. In short, the world of the “Verses” looks a lot like the world of eighteenth-century reading practices, as I’ve come to understand them over the last decade and a half. If that corresponds with your own sense of this world, then I hope you’ll join me in applauding not only Steve’s very substantial accomplishment in this book, but also the even more promising vistas that his inquiry opens up. Like, apparently, the figure of “Dr. S—-, D.S.P.D.,” he’s awfully good to think with.

Karian’s Chapter 4: Censorship and Revision in ‘On Poetry: A Rapsody’

July 30, 2010

Randy Robertson sends the following review of Chapter 4 of Karian’s Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript:

In his new book, Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript, Stephen Karian studies the role that the manuscript medium played in the circulation of Swift’s work, thus caulking a significant gap in eighteenth-century scholarship. The “Print” of the title is an important but secondary consideration for Karian: after the first chapter of Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript, which is devoted to Swift’s printed oeuvre, the printed works usually provide a context in which to evaluate the manuscripts. To round out his project, Karian will publish an online digital archive, the Swift Poems Project, which “attempts to inventory and transcribe all texts of all poems by or related to Jonathan Swift through the early nineteenth century” (5), an impressive and valuable undertaking.

In chapter four, “Censorship and Revision in ‘On Poetry: A Rhapsody’,” Karian examines some forty-eight lines that the Earl of Orrery inserted into his printed copy of the poem. Karian notes that the extra lines “exist in manuscript form in seven contemporary copies and are always appended to a printed text” (103; cf. 115). He assumes, plausibly, that Swift was the author of these lines (Orrery says as much elsewhere), and he suggests that Orrery provided his authoritative copy of the poem to others for transcription (119-20). These forty-eight lines include pointed criticisms of the king. Here is a sampling:

How well his publick Thrift is shewn?
All coffers full except his own.

Still more daring is a thirty-six line verse paragraph that was supposed to appear after line 414 of the printed poem:

Perhaps you say Augustus shines
Immortal made by Virgil’s Lines,
And Horace brought ye tunefull Choir
To sing his virtues on ye Lyre,
Without reproach of flattery true
Because their Praises were his due
For in those Ages Kings we find,
Were Animals of human kind,
But now go search all Europe round
Among ye savage Monsters crown’d
With Vice polluting every Throne
I mean all Kings except our own,
In vain you make ye strictest View
To find a King all ye Crew,
With whom a Footman out of Place
Would not conceive a high disgrace
A burning Shame, a crying Sin
To take his morning Cup of Gin:
Thus all are destin’d to obey
Some Beast of Burthen or of Prey . . . .

On it goes in similar vein, and one can well understand why the passage was not included in Huggonson’s printed text of 1733; indeed, what Karian calls the “full text of the poem” was not published until 1758 (120).

It is curious that Karian is so tentative in suggesting that the lines were censored rather than merely excluded from early editions of “On Poetry,” referring to the claim at one point as a “hypothesis” (119). Not only is the omitted passage an obvious attack on George II—the line “I mean all Kings except our own” is transparently ironic and would have provided a flimsy bulwark against prosecution—but in a separate transcription of the lines, Orrery tells us that the passage consists of “Verses by Dean Swift, which ought to have been inscribed in the Rhapsody, if it had been safe to print them” (119). In a letter of 1750, eight years before a full edition of the poem was published, Thomas Birch reports the existence of “a Copy of the Rhapsody much more complete than the printed one, but too licentious for publication” (121). That the lines in Orrery’s copy were censored seems beyond dispute.

Sir Walter Scott had surmised in his 1824 edition of Swift’s Works that Swift himself was responsible for suppressing the lines. Karian rightly points out other possibilities: it may be, for instance, that the printer John Huggonson censored the offending lines. Swift’s booksellers had blotted and altered his works in the past—Gulliver’s Travels is perhaps the signal example—and, as Karian notes, Huggonson may have learned of the government’s intention to prosecute the publishers of Swift’s “Epistle to a Lady” before he printed “On Poetry.” Mary Barber had carried both poems with her to London for publication, and, in the event, the attorney general charged that the “Epistle” “intend[ed] to … scandalize and vilify … our Lord the King and his administration of the Government of this Kingdom and also to scandalize and discredit the Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Walpole … and also to traduce and vilify the Honourable members of the then House of Commons of this kingdom” (118). Huggonson may have concluded that he needed to prune the poem or risk imprisonment.

So much for censorship; Karian also addresses lines that he argues are later additions to the poem rather than part of Swift’s original manuscript. The lines appear in written form, along with a full transcription of the poem “Epistle to a Lady,” bound into volume two of Faulkner’s 1735 edition of Swift’s Works; Faulkner had printed the “Epistle” but cancelled it owing to its dangerous content. Apparently, the eight-leaf gathering that contained these extra lines of “On Poetry” and the transcript of the “Epistle” was “bound in with the original binding” (126). If, as was usual by this period, the book was bound before sale, the gathering was probably added just before publication, which dates the additional lines in the “Rhapsody” to 1734 or 1735 (126). Swift had finished the original version of the poem, however, in 1733.

Among the lines appended to “On Poetry” is the following couplet on the thresher turned poet Stephen Duck:

And may you ever have the luck
to Rhime almost as well as Duck.

As Karian observes, although Duck was a favorite of Queen Caroline’s, the lines are scarcely seditious, so rather than being censored from Faulkner’s edition, they were probably inserted into the volume after it was printed. Karian examines the other additional lines and concludes, more or less convincingly, that most of them were afterthoughts. He thus sharply distinguishes the forty-eight lines that were part of Swift’s original manuscript from the lines that were added in 1734-1735. He does not prove—to my satisfaction at any rate—that Swift was actually the author of the latter set of lines.

Karian also sets out to resolve a few bibliographical knots in the printing history of “On Poetry.” He raises the twin questions of when and how Faulkner obtained the forty-eight “extra” lines that he printed in his 1762 edition of the Works. Previous scholars have maintained that Faulkner had them in his possession from the early 1730s and simply cancelled them from his 1735 edition, but Karian remarks that “because some variants in Faulkner 1762 can be found in Hyde [1734] but not in Faulkner 1735, Faulkner’s 1762 source does not seem to derive directly from Faulkner 1735. The simplest explanation for this pattern is that Faulkner’s 1735 and 1762 texts derive from a common ancestor, now lost, and that that ancestor derives from Hyde” (123). As for the question of why Faulkner’s 1763 editions of the Works contain the censored version of “On Poetry” while the 1762 edition contains the full version, Karian neatly cuts the Gordian Knot: “Perhaps by the time [Faulkner] came to print volume X of his 1762 18mo edition, he had already printed ‘On Poetry’ in his 1763 editions. Therefore, despite the year on the title page of the volume, the 1762 text of ‘On Poetry’ may be Faulkner’s final printing of the poem” (125).

Karian’s discussion of “Upon Poetry: A Rhapsody” extends the insights of Margaret Ezell, Arthur Marotti, and Harold Love, who have taught us to look closely at the social contexts of manuscript circulation and who have highlighted the ways in which the censorship of manuscripts was far less rigorous than the censorship of print. He adds to their contributions a nice point about the intersection of print and manuscript in Swift’s corpus—especially in his poetry, manuscript supplemented and even completed the printed poems in some instances, at least for a coterie of Swift’s friends and acquaintances.

Although I profited from reading Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript, I cannot say that I always took pleasure in reading it. It reads, at times, like a textual introduction to an edition of Swift’s manuscripts. Books on bibliography and book history inevitably wade into technical issues that require patience to untangle. Yet surely a narrative structure of some sort would have enhanced the appeal of Karian’s book.

I hasten to add that Karian is hardly alone in producing occasionally dry scholarly work. Critics and scholars need to get better at telling stories; in the field of book history, Robert Darnton provides a superb model, combining a flair for narrative with scholarly rigor. Of course, one cannot fault Karian for not being Robert Darnton, and one can credit him with having written a well-researched and useful book.

–Randy Robertson (Susquehanna University)

Karian’s Chapter 2: Manuscript circulation through 1714

July 28, 2010

Eschewing a colon and subtitle so common in the naming of academic works, Karian’s title Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript captures both his book’s subject and its logic. While habit of mind suggests an inverse order in presenting the two forms of media—“manuscript” and “print”—the transposition serves Karian’s purposes well. From the outset the titular ordering subtly disrupts traditional thinking about relationships between manuscript and print. Rather than connoting a stage of production that precedes print, manuscript here participates in an integral, complex relationship with print. As Karian explains, “For Swift, manuscript both competes with and complements print” (46).

The book’s organization enacts its title’s word order by devoting the first chapter to Swift’s print publication and ensuing chapters to his use of manuscript. Chapter two charts the role manuscript circulation played in Swift’s early career as a writer through 1714. Yet, it also supplies the rationale and methodology for such study. Noting that he is the first to undertake a study of Swift’s career-long involvement with manuscript, Karian establishes the need and merits for reconstructing this history. Swift’s career as an author is so intricately intertwined with manuscript that attending to print publication alone yields an inevitably incomplete understanding of his textual production. Besides affording a more comprehensive picture of Swift’s corpus, attending to the manuscript component also offers insights about readers’ responses to his works and his shifting status as an author during the period (44).

As Karian describes his methods for studying manuscripts, the challenges and labor involved suggest cogent reasons for the scholarly neglect of Swift’s manuscript circulation that extend beyond the privileging of print. Problems tied to the loss or destruction of manuscripts, uncertainty about the manuscript’s origins (is the handwritten text derived from manuscript transmission or from a printed text?), inability to identify the producer if the hand is unknown, issues related to dating, and the like underscore the amount of ingenuity and work such a task necessitates. Karian is a scholar up to the task, possessing intimate knowledge of bibliography, Swift, book-history matters, and textual criticism. He is also a careful scholar as illustrated by the pains he takes with presenting and assessing evidence, employing appropriate qualifiers in making claims, and recognizing freely that future discoveries may alter his conjectures and conclusions.

Because he is interested in only manuscript circulation that is independent of print, Karian employs textual collation and other tools to identify and eliminate those manuscripts whose roots are printed texts. His scope is also confined to “the initial stages of manuscript circulation (i.e., stages contemporaneous with the initial reception of a work),” noting that a late manuscript may nonetheless be relevant if its base text is an earlier but now-lost manuscript (47).

Beginning with the early 1690s and ending with the year 1714, chapter two presents several early phases in Swift’s use and views of manuscript production and his authorial development. Swift’s involvement with manuscript circulation dates from the start of his authorial career and coincides with his pursuit of print. Yet within this expanse of roughly two and half decades, only the years 1708 to 1710, a period book-ended by “his emergence as a known author” and the appearance of “his first authoritative collection,” record the circulation of his manuscript work to any large degree (70).

Although Swift partook in coterie manuscript circulation during the 1690s, his main involvement with manuscript circulation “may have been primarily for the service of others” (48). During his time in Lord Berkeley’s household (1699-1701 and intermittent visits through 1709) Swift gravitated toward social verse suited to the easy rapport he enjoyed with the family and their circle—a rapport that the manuscript works often capture. This period cultivated a conversational tone in his compositions that endured over the course of his career; these social verses also displayed his talents at impersonation. In discussing these works Karian offers some perceptive comparisons between the different effects rendered by the original scribal medium and the later printed form (52-53). This same perceptiveness found in his comparisons of the two media and his use of print as evidence carries over into his discussion of readers.

Remarking that the circulation of these verses was probably confined to the Berkeley circle until 1708, Karian plausibly suggests that the interest in Swift’s works generated by publication of the Bickerstaff papers and, particularly, A Tale of a Tub spurred, in turn, the wide circulation of Swift’s unpublished works between 1708 and 1710 (52-59). Among these manuscript works were ones Swift had composed and shared while residing with the Berkeley household. Although Swift no doubt had a large hand in this wider dissemination of his unpublished works, their circulation was not entirely within his control. Karian attributes the waning of Swift’s manuscript circulation after this period to several factors. For one, Swift’s experience with fame and Curll’s subsequent unauthorized printed editions of his works made Swift highly wary of losing control of his unpublished writings, resulting in his exercising a far tighter rein over them. Another factor was the 1711 publication of Swift’s authorized Miscellanies in Prose and Verse; its appearance satisfied the demand for his work that manuscript copies had formerly exclusively filled (67). From 1711 through 1714 Swift was employed writing propaganda for Queen Anne’s ministry. This role resulted in yet another form of ‘publication': the private distribution of print. By distributing printed works gratis to a select few, the practice merged “the typographic element of print with the coterie climate associated with manuscript” (67). That Karian situates this practice within the context of manuscript and print enhances his discussion and enables him to offer broader points. Not only does the private distribution of print destabilize, as Karian asserts, “the public-private binary so often applied to print and manuscript” (70), but it also illustrates an aspect of the symbiotic relationship between the two media.

While this chapter provoked a number of thoughts and queries, I will pose just a few here and perhaps offer others in later discussions.

  • Swift’s counterfeiting his hand for social raillery (51) and his employing transcriptions for both “politically controversial works” (66) and pranks “because [Swift's] hand was known” (66-7) seem worthy of pause. As Steve has rightly pointed out, “The typography of print standardizes the special features of a counterfeit hand or manuscript with two hands” (52). Yet I also find it quite interesting that the discussion of Swift’s being more angered by “Curll’s naming him” than by Curll’s “publishing works without Swift’s permission” (65) prefaces a return to discussing counterfeit hands and transcriptions. Perhaps this sequence is coincidental, but the issues of naming and hand seem not unrelated. One might argue that these incidents reveal deeper cultural attitudes about agency, identity, hands, and names as rendered and negotiated by manuscript and print. In terms of manuscript handwriting could act literally to “name” or identify a person. Although manuscript had come to acquire new meanings by Swift’s time, the practices associated with the word manuscriptum in the sense of its original meaning that I noted in commenting on Dave’s post (“documents which derived evidential value from being written by a particular person”) were still in play. The second “witness” called in Algernon Sidney’s 1683 trial was his handwritten draft of his “Discourses upon Government.” This sense of document as witness lingers today as a specific term used in textual criticism. That Swift, in an effort to protect unauthorized connecting of his name to unauthorized publications of his works in print, draws his manuscripts closer to him and becomes far more wary of their circulation, seems a conflation of name and hand.
  • Steve’s examination of Swift in print and manuscript demonstrates the crucial importance of considering not just print but manuscript circulation as well in ways that seem quite different from those presented in Margaret Ezell’s significant study, Social Authorship and the Advent of Print. Yet I was struck not only by the challenges Steve tackled in studying Swift’s manuscript production but also by the relative wealth of material available. As Steve notes, Lindsay has compiled over 500 manuscripts related to Swift, and that’s just one source. Swift’s canonical status today and his celebrity at the time have contributed to the preservation of such a large number of manuscripts, notwithstanding the number that has been lost to us. So I wonder the extent to which such a study could be undertaken for other eighteenth-century authors who exist on the margins of the canon? Perhaps the extreme paucity of manuscript materials I have been unable to uncover for my project is driving my query, for in comparison there seems to be an abundant wealth of materials.
  • I was quite struck by the type of detective work that provided the evidence for many of this chapter’s (indeed the entire work’s) arguments and by the case reconstructions that assembled this evidence. Part of the method employed reflects a willingness to search beyond traditional routes for evidence as well as to assemble sources in fairly fresh ways. While this type of work has always been with us (and indeed seems characteristic of eighteenth-century scholarship as well as bibliography), our digital environment appears to be fostering new areas of evidence-gathering across disciplinary boundaries that is invigorating painstakingly detailed investigations. Perhaps this roaming brought to mind other possible sources of evidence. Though perhaps outside the scope of or not even useful to Karian’s project, I was wondering about the use of paper as evidence in such a study of manuscript circulation. It seems as if investigating this aspect of materiality might result in unusual findings. I was also wondering about economic issues. For example, today one might prefer a photocopy or PDF of a selected portion of a work rather than purchasing an entire work. Would one prefer to write the verses one desired from a friend’s copy of Swift’s work rather than buy his or her own? While the publication of Swift’s Miscellanies did seem to offer one of several plausible explanations for the diminishing circulation of Swift’s manuscript works in 1711, I nonetheless found myself weighing just how strong a manuscript market might remain among some segments of potential purchasers if costs were considered.

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