University of Virginia Library

Textual-Critical Evidence of Printer's Copy for Sp2: Verse Sections

The collations of the Variorum editors for verse sections of the Canterbury Tales support the conclusions above, although some of their claims are unnecessarily understated. All are based to some extent upon Pearsall: "The conclusion seems clear that SP2 was reset from ST ... but SP2 has been so extensively edited that the evidence cannot be so decisive as it usually is with early printed editions" (Nun's Priest's Tale, 114). Only Baker in his edition of the Squire's Tale is categorical about the 1561 edition as printer's copy; yet the evidence is far stronger than other editors seem to believe.[12] In only


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one or two instances is the substantive variation such as even to suggest that either printer's copy or textual source for the 1602 edition was anything other than a copy of the 1561 edition, and even these examples are capable of alternative explanation. Original manuscript readings supposedly "restored" in 1602 are, as Pearsall states, "commonplace" and "widely attested."[13] The manner of presenting statistics in these volumes occasionally implies some uncertainty about the printer's copy or copy-text for the 1602 edition. But at least for the Tales already collated by the Variorum editors (the General Prologue is a special case), there should be no hesitation whatsoever, as examination of the exceptions cited by these editors quickly reveals.[14]


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Where some question remains is in the General Prologue. The evidence presented by Lounsbury in 1892 and the more detailed collations recently published by Andrew show that the situation is not the same as in the texts of the Tales. To begin with, printer's copy, which editors of other Canterbury Tales sections describe simply as ST, must be defined more carefully, since Stow's edition contains two versions of the General Prologue, one with woodcuts (STw) and one without (ST).[15] Andrew quite correctly concludes that the only version "behind" the 1598 edition is ST, not STw (Andrew calls this a "copytext," 94) and the same is true for the 1602 edition; that is, particular readings of STw can be disregarded.[16] I extend this here by suggesting that we are dealing not with a textual copy-text (ST rather than STw) but more likely a specific copy of ST--a specific copy that may have served as printer's copy for both Speght editions.

More than in the Tales, the General Prologue shows apparently mixed filiation--a conflation of ST and SP1. Andrew follows Lounsbury and concludes: "It seems then that ST and SP1 had nearly equal influence on the GP text of SP2" (100). The influence Andrew notes here is textual, and the word "equal" misleading. The statistics Andrew provides supporting this statement actually show that these two texts (ST and SP1) influenced SP2 in demonstrably different ways.[17] Printer's copy for SP2 is ST. Any substantive agreement of SP1 and SP2 against ST is coincidental, or possibly the result of an


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editorial change made in the particular copy of ST that served as printer's copy for both.[18]

Lounsbury noted that Speght states in his introductory note "To the Readers" (1598) that he did not involve himself in the edition until late in the printing process: "three parts thereof alreadie printed." The various sections of the book should thus differ textually, reflecting Speght's care (or interference) (Lounsbury, 270-271). What Speght's work amounted to is unknown, but it could well account for the apparent mixed textual affiliation of the General Prologue. The copies Speght refers to when he claims the text is "by old written copies corrected" ("To the Readers" 1598) or "by old copies reformed" (1602), are probably no older than 1561 (so Pearsall, "Speght," 86-87).