University of Virginia Library

Certainly at least some work had already been done before these sheets were sent, as witnessed by the corrections and afterthoughts inserted in this and in the other two copies of the typescript. More work was to be done later: as Greg observed, the papers which derived from these lectures constitute his friend's “most important contribution to what I should have annoyed him by calling the bibliographical criticism of dramatic texts.”[8] During his talks at Cambridge McKerrow had touched points that he clearly considered of great importance. One in particular was a topic on which he had dared to disagree—and disagree in public—with some close friends and important scholars such as Alfred W. Pollard and John Dover Wilson, namely type-setting from prompt-book. This was much more than a merely theoretical discussion, since it involved a new way of looking at the printing of Shakespeare's plays and, most importantly, a new way of editing them.

McKerrow was later to make his disagreement public again. In 1931 he read a paper on “The Elizabethan Printer and Dramatic Manuscripts” before the Bibliographical Society.[9] While using some material from the Cambridge lectures, on this occasion McKerrow avoided the more general parts and focused on dramatic manuscripts, and in particular on “foul papers” and “prompt-book.” Another paper, “The Treatment of Shakespeare's Text by his Earlier Editors, 1709- 1768,” read as the Annual Shakespeare Lecture before the British Academy in 1933,[10] went back to an important point touched at the beginning of the first Cambridge lecture. This was the debt, for good or bad, that twentieth-century textual editors owed to earlier editors from Rowe to Capell, a theme also dealt with briefly in the Prolegomena for the Oxford Shakespeare of 1939.[11]

One may or may not want to read between the lines and look for the polemical accent in these papers. At any rate, it was with the Cambridge talks


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that McKerrow started to react openly against some of the most influential trends in editorial theory and practice. Greg, whose Calculus of Variants had appeared in 1927, was privy to his friend's ideas and shared his projects, including his emphasis on bibliographical investigation. One may detect in these lectures some movement from essentially a “best-text” approach that McKerrow had employed twenty-four years earlier in his edition of The Works of Thomas Nashe (where he had coined the term “copy-text”) and that was to receive classic exposition the same year as his talks when the romance philologist Joseph Bédier published his notes on editing the Lai de l'ombre and thereby posed perhaps the most durable challenge to Lachmannian principles.[12] Occasionally McKerrow can now be seen as pointing to the position he would take eleven years later in his Prolegomena, where he foreshadows Greg's point about authority being divided between an early and a later edition.[13] Greg concluded his obituary of McKerrow with the observation that “had he ventured more he would have been greater still.”[14] While McKerrow's cautious attitude may ultimately have restrained his role in the development of twentieth-century editorial theory, his distrust of excess not only was salutary but also was accompanied by radical innovation. His Sandars lectures testify vividly to the temper of his work.

Even if outdated on certain specific points, McKerrow's teaching, especially on Elizabethan printing, is in many respects still valuable, and certainly fascinating. Later accounts such as Percy Simpson's Proof-Reading in the Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1935) or Charlton Hinman's famous study The Printing and Proof-Reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare (1963) have contributed to casting a new light on the practice of Elizabethan and post-Elizabethan typographers, and Philip Gaskell's A New Introduction to Bibliography (1972; repr. with corrections, 1974) has taken the place of McKerrow's book as a classic account of printing methods. More recent publications, including Peter Blayney's The Texts of “King Lear” and their Origins (1982), J. K. Moore's Primary Materials Relating to Copy and Print in English Books of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1992), and H. R. Woudhuysen's Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts 1558-1640 (1996) may help to answer questions that McKerrow's lectures left unresolved.[15] But for a present-day audience these lectures are still a joy to read. While preserving the freshness of a talk, they are of historical importance in providing a concise survey and a vivid picture of bib-


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liographical studies in the late 1920s. These thoughts of a great scholar also offer an inspiring vision of what bibliographical analysis might achieve.

2. A Note on the Present Edition

In 1930 McKerrow deposited carbon copies of the typescript of his talks in the British Library (MS Add. 41998; henceforth L) and Cambridge University Library (860.b.87; C).[16] The original typewritten pages came to Trinity College Library, Cambridge (MS Add. b. 111; CT) probably at a later time.[17] All copies consist of three groups of leaves, 103 folios in total, 260 x 210 mm. Each set has a general title-page as well as three section titles (each containing the general title and the appropriate lecture number). The text pages are numbered 1-37, 1-28 (with 5a following fol. 5), and 1-33, and the paper is watermarked “Rymans Linen Bank.” The typescripts are double-spaced, and single catchwords (followed by a virgule) occur at the bottom of each page.

McKerrow did not type these pages himself. Mistakes like “Fucioss” for “Furioso” (II, par. 17) and “Euphnes” for “Euphues” (II, par. 15), as well as blank spaces left in the typescript and later filled in by hand (e.g. with “poetaster” on II, par. 29, or “worst” on III, par. 27), suggest that the typist sometimes had difficulty with his handwriting. McKerrow corrected all three typescripts, quite probably on more than one occasion, overlooking a few misprints in one or the other and sometimes inserting minor revisions, especially in CT. [18] CT also preserves marks that seem to indicate it was the copy McKerrow had in front of him when he read the paper—stresses on words he did not feel confident that he would pronounce correctly (e.g. “compénsatory” on I, par. 15), indications regarding the duration of the lecture (such as “¼” or “½,” visible at various points in this copy), and underlinings (as of the word “can” on II, par. 16) to stress emphasis when speaking. The carbon copies (C, L) do not preserve any such marks.

In editing these lectures, my goal has been to present the text as revised slightly by McKerrow on the surviving typescripts. Even if some of the alterations were made, as is likely, after the delivery of his talks, the lectures with those modifications incorporated still reflect his thinking in 1928, with a little stylistic polishing, and in any event do not affect the substance of what he had to say. The current text generally adheres to that presented by the CT typescript and its manuscript markings, with some small changes incorporated from the other typescripts and with some minor editorial emendations.[19]


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Such editorial adjustments are few, but they occur as early as the title. On the general title-page of all three copies, the name of the lecture series appears—without correction—as “The Relationship of English Printed Books to Authors' Manuscripts in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries” (my italics). Because “during” is the reading on the three section titles, and “The Relationship of English Printed Books to Authors' Manuscripts during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries” is the expression used at the beginning of the talk when referring to its title, one may assume that this is certainly what McKerrow intended.

Although most of the changes by McKerrow and by the current editor are recorded in the notes, certain alterations have been made silently. Among these are the correction of misprints, the insertion of punctuation necessary to the sense (especially dashes or commas needed to end parenthetical statements), and the addition of italics. The typescript is inconsistent in whether it places single letters and diphthongs in quotation marks when they are referred to separately (the variability may have to do with the weariness of the author or typist in recording all of them in sections dealing with spelling). For clarity these too have now been provided, without further note. Other irregularities, however, have been allowed to stand. No further effort has been made to regularize the typescript's alternating use of single and double quotation marks, its idiosyncratic punctuation—especially the varying position of punctuation with respect to quotation marks—or abbreviations such as “M.S.” and “MS.” that are used indifferently throughout.

McKerrow's own notes are printed here at the foot of the page, while variant readings and editorial observations on specific issues have been included respectively in the “Textual Notes” and in the “Editorial Commentary” at the end of the text. The articles McKerrow derived from the lectures have been compared against the talks themselves; given the purpose of the present edition, only some of their passages (those most clearly taken from the text of the lectures) have been quoted in the Editorial Commentary, where significant differences have been discussed.

C. M. B.