University of Virginia Library

Work in Tangible Media

6. Painting, Drawing, and Calligraphy

One might at first believe that critical editions of paintings (as opposed
to writings about the textual histories of paintings) would be extremely
rare, since editorial emendations would alter the unique art objects, forc-
ing viewers in each instance to look at the emended text, and it alone.
Such results, one might imagine, would not often be permitted by own-
ers of paintings. (An editor could of course make alterations on a photo-
graphic or other reproduction of a painting rather than on the original,
or alternatively could make a photographic record of the appearance of
the original before beginning editorial work, but either way one or more
of the versions would simply be reproductions, not the work expressed
in the materials intended by the painter.) To some extent, this surmised
rarity of scholarly editions of paintings is correct, for even when permis-
sion to edit is given, there can be only one edition at any one time: each
successive edition would obliterate the one that went before (except in
the form of a photographic or digital record). The freedom of editors to
create new editions is inevitably restricted in the case of works in tangible
media—certainly as compared with the theoretically unlimited freedom
editors have to edit works in intangible media, where documentary evi-
dence need not be destroyed in the process.

In another sense, however, there have been many more scholarly
editions of paintings than might have been expected, for cleanings and
"restorations" now routinely take place in museums. The technology for
analyzing the underlying layers and chemical makeup of paintings (in-
cluding infrared reflectography, Raman microspectrometry, and digital
imaging) and the skill of the restorers who remove substances from, and
add them to, paintings have become so sophisticated that museum cura-
tors feel justified in allowing the editing of paintings to take place. Such
editions often have a more dramatic effect on the text than occurs in edi-


Page 20
tions of works in intangible media: a cleaning, after all, affects the entire
text, every square inch of it. Despite the impressive expertise that now
generally underlies these operations, there are grounds for raising disqui-
eting questions about them.

In the first place, the goal of both cleaning and other kinds of restora-
tion is normally final authorial intention—to bring the text of a painting
back to what it was when the painter considered it finished. But this is not
the only moment in the history of a painting that is of interest, and some
would argue that it is not the moment of the greatest interest. However
one feels about this matter, the fact remains that every painting, simply
because it is a physical object, inevitably undergoes alterations over the
years resulting from the atmospheric conditions under which it has been
kept, and sometimes from accidental damage as well. The present state of
each painting is a summation of all that has gone before and is the base on
which its future evolution will rest. Unless the painting is recent, it surely
will not look as it did when it left the painter's hands; but it probably has
not looked that way for a considerable time, and many viewers will have
responded to intermediate states. Any old painting that has been the sub-
ject of commentary over the years will have presented a different appear-
ance to different writers. Since modern technology allows the recovery
of a great deal of the evidence that lies beneath the top layer of dirt and
paint, textual critics can write accounts of the evolution of a painting and
can offer illustrative reproductions of various stages in its history without
taking any intrusive action that affects the physical object itself. Some
people would therefore say that the editing of paintings should not take
place at all (except perhaps to stop physical deterioration), leaving the
body of evidence embedded in the object to remain untouched for future
textual critics to examine, perhaps using even more advanced technology,
and in any case perhaps arriving at different conclusions.

This position values the physical evidence of the object and the con-
stantly changing appearance of the work over the text of the painting as
intended (at some point) by its creator. But the interest in artistic intention
is great enough to cause many people to feel that the recovery of intended
forms of paintings is worth the price of losing some of the accumulated
evidence reflecting the history of the object. In instances where this view
is dominant, there is still room for disagreement about the precise goal
and about whether that goal has been achieved. An artist's intentions may
change, not only during the process of original painting but also at a later
time (after the painting was considered "finished"), and the layers of paint
reflecting these changing intentions may be recoverable. Only one stage
can be selected; and even if agreement were reached as to which is the
most appropriate, there would probably still be disagreements as to how
much needs to be removed from the present surface in order to reach


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the level that represents the desired stage. Was a given layer of paint, for
example, applied by the original painter, perhaps overpainting a previ-
ous "final" layer, or was it added by a later painter in order to make the
painting conform better to a later taste? Can one tell the difference be-
tween atmospheric contamination and the residue of the artist's method
of obtaining a particular color or finish?

These uncertainties are analogous to those attaching to critical edi-
tions in every field, since any text that emerges from acts of judgment,
however learned they may be, can be questioned by equally informed
persons who would have made different judgments. Uncertainty, in other
words, is unavoidable and has not prevented restoration projects from
being undertaken for major works. One of the best known examples is
the Vatican's long and painstaking program (beginning in 1980) of clean-
ing Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. The idea of removing the
candle soot and other pollutants that have darkened these paintings
may sound admirable in the abstract; but only the naïve could imagine
that the process would not be problematic, and there have in fact been
serious criticisms made by James Beck, Tuti Scialoja, and others. They
have raised points that relate both to the long-term effects of the clean-
ing and to the determination of artistic intention. They say, for example,
that the surface dirt and wax may have served as a preservative and that
removing them may expose the paints to potentially destructive modern
pollutants. There is also the possibility that Michelangelo himself used
candle soot and animal fat as darkening agents to create shadowy effects.
Furthermore, arguments have been made that removing paint added af-
ter the plaster was dry, as if it were overpainting by another hand, may at
some points destroy Michelangelo's final touches, since he may sometimes
have regarded the paint he placed on the wet plaster as a first draft. Thus
the restorer's every act of alteration is an act of judgment; but unlike the
rejection of a reading in a literary text, it cannot be reversed. (Two of the
many instances of the Times coverage of the controversy over the Sistine
restoration are articles by Douglas C. McGill on 6 November 1986 and
by Mary Davis Suro on 4 January 1987.)

If these problems illustrate some of the issues inevitably raised by criti-
cal editing, another kind of problem—not inevitable—has also come up
in connection with part of the Sistine work: lack of coherence in formulat-
ing the goal of the restoration. Over the years, various forms of drapery
were painted on forty nude bodies in the Last Judgment; but only the sev-
enteen coverings added after 1750 were removed in the restoration. In
defense of this retention of some of the coverings, Kathleen Brandt has
said that the drapery was added "at the request of the patron, namely
the papacy," and that it constitutes "a chart of notions of decorum over
time." (See John Tagliabue's article, 9 April 1994.) But this reasoning


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would logically lead to preserving all forty of the additions. Even if one
were to find a better justification for the significance of the 1750 state of
the work, there would still be the inconsistency between the handling of
this fresco and the others (in which the artist's final intention is the aim).
One cannot—in a painted work or a printed text—simultaneously re-
flect authorial intention and the accretions that emerged from later social

The current reputations of artists have a great deal to do with which
accretions to paintings get preserved. No one would be likely to raise
great objection to the removal of any of the added draperies in the Last
, since they are by lesser painters than Michelangelo, nor would
anyone wish Michelangelo's work to be removed in order to reveal the
frescoes of Perugino that lie beneath. When the National Gallery in Lon
don undertook to restore Bellini's The Feast of the Gods, completed in 1514,
it decided to concentrate on the painting's appearance in 1529, since
Titian made major additions to it at that time, and the idea of removing
work by Titian could not be contemplated. Preserving the 1529 form of
the work can be justified not simply on the grounds of Titian's stature but
because it also keeps the portions of Dosso Dossi's intermediate revisions
that were not covered over by Titian and thus reveals the social attitude
toward painting texts in the sixteenth century, when an owner of a paint-
ing was less concerned with maintaining its integrity as the work of a
particular artist than with causing it to evolve in conformity with current
taste. But of course the work that illustrates this important historical point
cannot be regarded as a work by Bellini. The National Gallery's 1990 ex-
hibition of the restored Feast admirably showed how modern technology
allows some knowledge of a painting's textual history by displaying X-ray,
infrared, and ultraviolet photographs of the underlying images along-
side the presumed 1529 state of the oil. (On this exhibition, see Michael
Kimmelman's 21 January 1990 piece.)

One of the Louvre's great possessions, Veronese's Marriage at Cana,
can serve as an epitome of the concerns and occurrences attendant on
cleaning and restoration. The recent cleaning (1990–92) removed yellowed
varnish, revealing bright colors not seen by viewers and commentators
for a very long time. The restorers, using information obtained by X-ray
and chemical tests, removed paint that they considered had been added
by a different painter, thereby arousing a storm of protest from a group
of artists. The most controversial decision was to change the color of the
coat worn by a major figure in the foreground: the red layer was taken
away, exposing the green one underneath. Critics argued that only the
lower part of the red coat showed brushwork uncharacteristic of Veronese
and that this area had been subjected to earlier repair; they also noted
that the coat is red in the earliest known copy, made in 1607 (nineteen


Page 23
years after the artist's death). If the red was indeed Veronese's, part of his
intended text is now lost, whereas evidence of his earlier extensive altera-
tions, moving and inserting figures, is safe by being on a lower level and
has been made visible by X-ray pictures. The X-ray investigation also
made clear some of the vicissitudes endured by the physical object, for
it has many repaired nail-holes, and it retains the signs of having been
unstitched horizontally (to form two sections for ease of hanging) and
then—fifty years later— of having been stitched back. As if to continue
the punishment, an accident occurred when the canvas was being rehung
in June 1992, resulting in several gashes, three of them about three feet
long. An unexpected job of restoration was then required, in which the
cut threads were individually glued together and retouched. (See Marlise
Simons, 17 November 1992.) The object therefore tells the story of acci-
dental and intentional mutilations, of the artist's changing intentions, and
of several restorations. If the story is particularly dramatic in this case, the
combination of elements that make it up is not at all uncommon as the
underpinning of the texts of paintings that we now see.

We are by now accustomed to significant textual revelations being
brought about by modern technology applied to paintings. Even in the
absence of surviving preliminary studies, we are beginning to have for
some paintings the kind of evidence of revisions that literary scholars
have long had for verbal works in the form of rough-draft holographs.
(The same technology is of course being used in the literary field to un-
cover words invisible or illegible to the naked eye.) Fortunately, museum
exhibitions are also increasingly paying attention to the textual criticism
of paintings, as in the Bellini and Veronese instances—or in the 2004
exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, showing that under the surface
of Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte—1884 is evidence not only of his
extensive revisions of figures and colors but also of his brush work, which
originally consisted of conventional strokes, not pointillist dots. (See the
report by Holland Cotter, 20 August 2004.)

More discoveries will come, relating not only to oil paintings but also
to works in watercolor, tempera, charcoal, and other media capable of
covering up earlier drafts. Revisions in some media, like ink or pencil,
may be more likely to involve erasure than cover-up, but such evidence
as there is will be uncovered in those cases as well. Textual criticism of
calligraphic art must also take into account the linguistic text formed by
the characters, just as if the work were a concrete poem, which in some
ways it is. Regardless of the amount of textual evidence available, all
visual works that consist of the actual surfaces on which the artist made
marks are ontologically the same and thus pose the same problems for
textual criticism and scholarly editing.


Page 24

Since these works are so often presented in frames, it is perhaps worth
adding that the same observations apply to frames as to the visual ele-
ments in the presentation of tangible verbal texts: they very often have
an effect on audience response, but they are not always intended as parts
of the works. Frames, even if designed or selected by the creators of the
works they enclose, may not be regarded by those creators as textual ele-
ments in the works, though they must be taken into account in analyzing
the history of responses to the works. And many of them are deserving of
study as works of art in their own right.

7. Sculpture, Craft, and Installation Art

The extent to which some of the evidence for the textual history of
a piece of sculpture can be found in the object itself varies according to
the material out of which the work is made, just as it does in the case of
two-dimensional works (that is, essentially two-dimensional ones, despite
the three-dimensional surface of paint or collage). Sculptures produced
by cutting material away, like those in marble or wood, do not readily
provide evidence of previous drafts. Any cuts that the sculptor regarded
as mistakes are obliterated by new cuts or were made to fit into a revised
plan for the area involved. Analysis by a textual critic may suggest likely
spots where such alterations occurred, but no editorial emendation would
follow because the artist's final intentions are reflected in those altera-
tions. (It is as if a writer, having made a slip of the pen, incorporated the
accidental reading into the final form of the sentence—an analogy that
can have an exact sculptural parallel, when a letter-cutter makes a mis-
take in carving an inscription in stone or wood.) And no one would be
likely to propose recreating a hypothetical earlier intention at the price
of destroying the final one—or would be allowed to undertake the task,
if proposed, in any form other than a replica. On the other hand, sculp-
tures produced by casting or by a process of building up or adding on, as
with some works in metal, glass, or other materials (where separate units
are affixed to each other), may on occasion offer more internal evidence
of revision, but rarely on the scale of what technology has uncovered
beneath the surfaces of paintings. External evidence, as in sketches or
models, may of course exist, as it may for works of any genre; and such
evidence, when it exists at all, is more likely to be the only evidence than
is the case with painting.

The issues faced by editors of sculpture were discussed in a front-page
article in the New York Times on 15 July 2003, written by Alan Riding to
explain the international controversy aroused by plans to clean Michel-
angelo's David. Riding asked, "Should the marble colossus be restored to
its original perfection or simply cleaned of grime? Or should it learn to
live with the inevitable streaks and blotches of venerable old age?" These


Page 25
two questions, though not carefully phrased, allude to the two basic ap-
proaches available to all editors: the critical approach, in which altera-
tions are made with the goal of recreating a previous version of a work
(as intended at some past moment but not fully realized in any surviving
artifact); and the documentary, in which no changes are made to the
inherited state of a work, thus preserving the cumulative effects of its his-
tory. The former, as set out by Riding, subsumes two activities, restoring
and cleaning. But it is important to understand that cleaning is a form of
restoring, for its goal is the restoration of a work's earlier appearance. And
Riding's use of the word "simply" in connection with cleaning implies,
incorrectly, that it is necessarily less intrusive or less a matter of judgment
than the kind of restoring that involves additions. In cleaning marble, for
example, a decision has to be made not only about how much to take off
but also between a dry method (using brushes and rubbing) and a wet one
(using poultices), each of which has a different effect on the pores of the
stone and produces a different look.

Even though cleaning certainly involves critical judgment, there is un-
deniably a widespread perception that a restoration consisting of cleaning
alone is more conservative (that is, safer) than one that also includes such
actions as filling cracks and nicks or supplying a replacement element (like
the marble and plaster substitute toe that was added to the David in 1991).
The argument that a less intrusive procedure (whatever it may be) is more
justifiable can perhaps be supported on practical grounds for works in
tangible media, though it can never be supported logically. It is reminis-
cent of the claim made with pride by some literary editors that they have
tried to keep their alterations to a minimum. But in a critical edition one
must make whatever changes are necessary to bring about the desired
goal, and there is no virtue in doing less than that out of respect for the
misguided notion that a small number of changes is desirable in itself. But
such editions do not affect the documentary evidence, whereas in the case
of sculpture and other works in physical media there are good practical
grounds for protecting such evidence at the price of editorial illogic.

In any case there would be no possibility of restoring the authori-
ally intended texts of many sculptures, particularly those kept outdoors
and made of materials that can be irreversibly affected by exposure to
weather. When Riding asked whether the David should be "restored to
its original perfection," he knew that he was not describing a realizable
goal, for later in the article he quoted a restorer who pointed out that
"there is not one millimeter of its original surface left"—partly as a re-
sult of weather damage, partly because of an 1843 cleaning that used
hydrochloric acid. The application of a new surface, though a theoretical
editorial possibility, would surely not be permitted, and it probably should
not be permitted, because one could persuasively argue that in this situ-


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ation the editorial emendation is too conjectural to force on all viewers
of the work (unlike what happens with editorial conjectures in literature,
which leave readers free to experience the work without them). Even in
cases where the surface is not severely damaged, bringing a work back to
"its original perfection" would always be conjectural, as critical editing
necessarily is, and Riding's statement—like any expression of the goal
of critical restoration—should include wording that acknowledges the
contingencies inherent in such an aim. One must also remember, when
speaking of sculpture, that weather-produced alterations may sometimes
actually produce authorially intended texts, for sculptors may take into
account the changes (as in the colors of metals) that their materials will
undergo. Although there is always reason to be interested in textual shifts
over time, even when not intended by the creators of works, here is a situ-
ation in which some later changes—brought about by the course of time
and not by a scholarly editor—can be accepted as representing authorial

The attempt to restore the intended texts of some modern sculptures
poses an additional difficulty in that these sculptures may contain a wider
range of fragile materials than earlier sculptures do. When such elements
show deterioration or damage, conservators hope to find replacement
parts; but identifying the source of the materials and trying to learn whether
they are still available are not easy tasks. For this reason Carol Mancusi-
Ungaro, now the director of conservation at the Whitney Museum, began
in the mid-1980s a video oral-history project in which artists (painters as
well as sculptors) are asked to give advice on the conservation of their own
works (see Randy Kennedy's account, 29 June 2006). These conversations
are valuable documents in ways that go beyond their original purpose,
for artists' comments on the specific materials they used naturally lead to
broader reflections on what they meant to convey in their works. But the
textual usefulness of these interviews is not as straightforward as some
might imagine. Any specific identifications of materials and their sources,
when an artist's memory is accurate, can indeed be helpful in restoring a
text; but one must remember that any recommendations as to what ought
to be done reflect the artist's thinking at the time of the conversation and
may, if carried out, produce a new version of the work. The result of an
interview, then, may be to provide one more stage of authorial intention
for the conservator-editor (who can select only one) to consider.

There are of course many other three-dimensional objects, the prod-
ucts of human creativity just as sculpture is, that are not usually called
"sculpture." Conventionally these objects have been regarded as examples
of "craft" or "design" or "decorative art" rather than of "fine art," but
this distinction does not have an ontological basis, or even one founded
on the genres of works involved. Fortunately art museums, and not simply


Page 27
museums with anthropological interests, have increasingly recognized the
importance of "crafts," and specialized craft museums have also been es-
tablished. For present purposes, it is not necessary to worry about these
divisions, for the same points can be made about the texts of such objects
as about the texts of those usually called sculptures. This point, though
not stated in terms of "texts," was at the heart of a 1990 conference held
at the American Craft Museum in New York (and reported by Roberta
Smith on 22 January 1990), where George A. Kubler reiterated (in the
words of an earlier book of his) that "the idea of art can be expanded to
embrace the whole range of man-made things." Because many of those
things usually regarded as craft are utilitarian objects, the study of their
original states can be particularly difficult, owing to the wear that comes
with use and to the fact that people rarely hesitate to alter their utensils,
furniture, and clothing when alterations will improve (in their view) the
functioning of the objects.

One may justifiably be interested in the authorially intended texts of
such objects (whether created by anonymous artisans or famous silver-
smiths, cabinetmakers, and couturiers) as well as the texts that evolved
through use and the passage of time. The textual stages that are tradi-
tionally preferred vary according to the medium: curators of silver wish
to remove tarnish (as grime is lifted from paintings), whereas specialists
in old furniture prize the patina it acquires over time. These are simply
matters of convention, for every stage in the life-story of every object is
of historical and aesthetic interest. Even so, there is a particular appeal in
the current state of any utilitarian object, since it bears the traces of the
object's shared life with human beings. For this reason Brian Murphy, in
his 2005 book on Persian rugs, The Root of Wild Madder, takes the view that
wear and what might be called imperfections (such as awkward repairs)
are not objectionable. As Kubler eloquently put it at the craft conference
(making the case in fact for the social approach to all art): "to be in use
among the young who transmute and re-enact the work of the dead is the
best of all eternities." None of this negates an interest in the earlier (or
earliest) states of objects; but it does suggest that the destruction of later
evidence in an effort to bring back an earlier state may often be harder to
justify for "crafts" than for "arts" in the minds of many people.

Stained-glass art, often classified as a craft, can afford unusual op-
portunities for uncovering post-production textual histories, especially
in such complicated structures as windows made up of many individual
pieces of glass held together by lead strips. The sophisticated research
now being done is illustrated by Drew Anderson's detailed reports on the
Gothic windows at the Cloisters in Manhattan. After comparing current
and earlier photographs of a window digitally and making rubbings of
each piece of glass, Anderson describes the deterioration, amateur repairs


Page 28
(such as the insertion of any piece of glass that came to hand and the
enlarging of the lead to hold it in), and previous conservation efforts that
have occurred at each spot in the window. He is thus reading the windows
in much the same way that analytical bibliographers read the physical
evidence in books—a point that is particularly apt since medieval picto-
rial windows were meant to function in part as books, conveying biblical
stories to those who could not read. Textual critics must always try to
extract the story that the physical details tell, as preparation for evaluat-
ing the text of the work. "Each window tells its own story," Anderson
says. "And the more you work on them, the more you find out" (quoted
by Carol Vogel, 17 June 2006). This knowledge helps one to appreciate
the work, whether or not any editorial alterations seem advisable; and in
the case of stained-glass windows, attempting to recreate their original
condition would often be incompatible with preservation, since cleaning
can alter the colors. The situation once again illustrates how, with works
in tangible media, practical considerations may limit the editorial activity
that follows from a detailed knowledge of textual history.

Installation art, another form of sculpture, poses a few additional tex-
tual problems. Because installations are likely to consist of a variety of
objects and because the spatial relationships among them are crucial to
the work, the task of moving an installation (if it is not a site-specific one)
to a different location is especially challenging. Although it is possible to
recreate an installation precisely, so long as all the same objects remain
available, it is likely that there will be small textual differences (at least)
in each reinstallation. If the artist supervises reinstallations, any differ-
ences may constitute authorially intended versions, unless they result from
concessions made in deference to a particular space, in which case they
are analogous to adaptations for a special audience. Exact reinstallations
require exact measurements of the original installation; photographs are
obviously not adequate, and any sketches or notes by the artist do not
necessarily predict or record what the artist actually did in setting up
the original installation. Furthermore, installations are in many instances
mixed-media works par excellence, combining sculptural items, paintings,
photographs, videos or film loops, music or other sound, verbal texts in
visible form, and so on. Textual criticism and scholarly editing of such
works therefore involve the issues characteristic of each of the media in-
dividually, as well as the analysis of the texts that have resulted from the

8. Architecture, Interior Design, and Gardening

As a class, works of architecture undergo significant alterations at
the hands of their owners more often than any other works of art. The
changes go far beyond the repairs necessitated by aging and weathering;


Page 29
they often involve the construction of new rooms and wings, the recon-
figuration of existing rooms, and the attachment of decorative elements
and coverings to the exterior, perhaps totally transforming its appear-
ance. Because buildings are meant to be inhabited, they are like large-
scale utensils, which preserve the traces of daily use as well as conscious
alteration aimed at increasing utility. The architect's original intentions
are less important to many (probably most) owners than creating spaces
that they deem more convenient or attractive. The present text of every
house or office building is interesting (like the present state of all works
of art in physical media) as the momentary culmination of its interaction
with human beings. The textual history of a structure is often partly vis-
ible without any prodding beneath the surface, but a great many details
are always hidden from sight. Some of them can be learned in the course
of ordinary repairs, but uncovering others may require the destruction of
part of what is presently visible.

The decision as to whether such destruction is justifiable—whether
what is recovered is more desirable than what is lost—involves essentially
the same issues that arise with any other work of physical art, despite
the fact that buildings have a utilitarian function. There are increasing
numbers of owners of old houses who are eager not simply to preserve
what they possess but to restore it to what it was at a previous time, re-
gardless of whether the result will be more, or less, comfortable. Thus the
scholarly editing of buildings is not an uncommon activity, encouraged
by the historic preservation movement. Preservation at the most basic
level is of course the prevention of destruction, but it inevitably leads to
a second stage: since buildings require maintenance for survival, repairs
(textual emendations) must be made, and if they are to be made responsi-
bly, they must be directed toward a stated goal. As with all critical editing,
one must first decide what point in the textual history of the work is to
be the focus—the latest, the earliest, or some intermediate one. And after
the historical moment is settled on, one must determine what evidence
there is for recreating it—whether, indeed, there is enough to make the
attempt possible.

Among the factors that often affect the answer to the first of these
questions is the presence of alterations and additions made by a cele-
brated architect. The 1980s restoration of the main immigration building
on Ellis Island, for example, did not have as its goal the original 1900
state but rather that of 1918, when the Guastavino tile vaults were added.
(See Paul Goldberger's discussion, 14 August 1990.) Christopher Wren's
great addition to Hampton Court Palace in the 1690s destroyed a Tudor
courtyard, but no one would be likely to advocate returning the palace to
the form in which Henry VIII experienced it, since Wren's work would be
lost in the process. So when a serious fire in 1986 gutted the south wing


Page 30
of Wren's addition, any course of action other than restoration seemed
unthinkable. Surviving fragments (crystal, fabric, wood carving, and the
like) were pieced together with newly fabricated matching material. The
resulting mixture is not unlike what exists in the older parts of the palace
(or any other old building that has undergone repair). As Simon Thurley,
a curator at Hampton Court, said, "half of the 'Tudor' brick walls are
not really Tudor, and some are 19th-century" (quoted by Sherry Marker,
28 March 1993). The line between restoration and replica is not a distinct
one, for any emendation that involves new material can only produce an
approximation of the intended text, since the medium is physical and the
new material is a different physical object.

Determining the past time to be aimed for in a restoration is occa-
sionally taken out of the owner's hands if the building is located within a
designated historic district that has rules governing such matters. Gener-
ally the regulations insist on the preservation of the mix that existed at
the time the rules went into effect (with some alterations allowed by ad
permission); the focus, in other words, is on the social text—of each
house, as it has evolved, and of the neighborhood as a whole. The prob-
lems that can arise are epitomized by a case that occurred in the 1980s in
East Hampton, Long Island. The owners of an eighteenth-century house
in the historic center of the village removed a Victorian porch that had
been added, because they preferred the house to look as it had in 1790
and not to be an amalgam of the styles of two periods. They had unwit-
tingly failed to apply for a certificate of appropriateness, but it would not
have been granted in any case, for the Design Review Board argued that
the Victorian "Boardinghouse Era" was a distinctive part of the village's
history, and it ruled that the porch had to be built back.

This decision seems questionable—since the materials of which the
porch was constructed had been destroyed and since the porchless version
of the house does represent another period of East Hampton history—but
I am concerned less with the rightness of the decision than with what this
episode illustrates about the editing of buildings. Judgment is naturally
involved, as it is in all editing, and judgment is often affected by fashion,
by evaluations embedded in the cultural milieu. Thus Robert Hefner, a
preservationist employed by East Hampton, noted, "Thirty years ago a
restoration architect would say, 'Rip this porch off.' The philosophy was
to go back to the original form. Now preservation philosophy is more
refined and objective, taking into account historical periods" (quoted by
Michael Winerip, 20 July 1990). Although one might question "refined"
and "objective," there is no doubt about the main point: shifting scholarly
and intellectual predispositions influence editorial decisions. Preserving
the mixture of period styles that are the natural byproduct of a function-


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ing community may not be "objective," but it is certainly cautious, since
evidence of past living is not intentionally destroyed. One cannot help
but think of the contrast between East Hampton's firm (perhaps obstinate)
insistence on preserving the historical record and Colonial Williamsburg's
equally inflexible desire to erase the nineteenth century.

The question of what evidence there is for a restoration, when res-
toration (to whatever moment) is settled upon, involves recognizing that
surviving plans or other external documents cannot be accepted at face
value. A plan may of course indicate what an architect intended at the
time when it was drawn, but the building may have been built in a dif-
ferent way—because the builder did not follow the plan, or the architect
had second thoughts (possibly recorded on a now-missing plan), or the
client asked for alterations. Evidence of the inadequacy of plans turns up
all the time: to cite only one instance, when restoration of the ship Moni-
was being considered, it was found, as William J. Broad states, that
its "remains are often quite different from plans and period drawings"
(30 July 2002). Complex structures like buildings and ships, which in-
volve assembly from disparate parts, frequently contain within themselves
many indications of their own history; and sophisticated techniques are
now available to restoration architects for uncovering such evidence, as
when they determine the sequence and dates of multiple layers of paint.

When intrusive procedures (involving cutting, stripping, or even par-
tial demolition) are deemed necessary—whether the occasion is resto-
ration or remodeling—one is brought face to face with the actions of
human beings in the past with an immediacy not often matched by tex-
tual investigations into other arts. Whenever Paul Eisemann, a New York
carpenter, cuts into a wall, "he views it [according to John Freeman Gill]
as an opportunity to practice a kind of workingman's archaeology." Eise-
mann says that "buildings will talk to you if you listen"; for example, when
"you can see the original mortar on brickwork, sometimes you can tell
what group of immigrants did the work" (1 January 2006). As one undoes
past work—pulling out an old nail, for instance—one learns something
about the technique and attitude of the person who did the work in the
first place. When Verlyn Klinkenborg was taking apart the oldest room
of his house, he thought of the original carpenter and "how solidly he
did his job. He stinted nothing when it came to lumber and nails and,
especially, screws." Behind the walls "there is another house and another
set of lives." Klinkenborg, intrigued by the decisions of previous owners,
recognizes that future owners will equally marvel at his own decisions.
"The trouble," he says, "is that you can see only what remains—not what
has been erased. When I'm finished with my work, an era in the life of
this house will have vanished" (25 November 2005). This is the essence of


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textual alterations in physical media, but at least in the case of buildings
there still often remains enough evidence for detailed textual histories to
be recovered.

The wall decoration, furnishings, and arrangement of objects within
a house, or the landscaping and gardens that surround a house, may
or may not have been created by the same person who designed the
house. From the point of view of authorial intention, the extent to which
a house, its interior decoration, and its gardens can be approached as
a single work will vary with the circumstances; but from the social or
audience-response point of view, they are always inextricable, since they
are experienced together, and the ensemble affects one's response to each
element. One object that landscape architecture and interior design share
with other architecture is that of creating spaces to be lived in—they are
all "living rooms"—and thus gardens and room decorations, like houses,
often undergo textual alterations to accommodate their owners' changing
needs and tastes. Interior design, textually considered, involves the same
questions as installation art, for both create arrangements of objects to
be experienced within defined spaces—though interior design is more
frequently altered, since owners of houses usually regard it as a utilitarian
craft rather than a "fine" art.

The textual criticism of designed landscape must take into account
the primary fact that distinguishes it from the textual study of buildings
and room decoration: the predominant elements in such texts are living
plants that change continuously. The human-made inanimate objects in
gardens—like flagstones, sundials, and statuary—are no different textu-
ally from sculpture and craft. But whereas sculptors and architects of
buildings often take into account the effects that weather will have on the
materials they use, they do not have to think about variations that are
perceptible on a daily basis. The plan for a garden, whether on paper or
in the mind, provides a framework that subsumes the constantly changing
details of the stages of growth of the individual plants as well as the altera-
tions produced by necessary maintenance. Such changes are part of what
is intended (by the original designer or a later one who modifies the earlier
plan); the elements that are intended to be relatively more stable include
color, height, and massing, as well as the specific varieties of plants. Thus
the only editorial emendations that are at odds with what was intended
are those that change elements of this kind and their relationships. (That
the textual history of gardens has been flourishing is suggested by the
intense interest in the work of Gertrude Jekyll and Beatrix Farrand, by
programs of the National Trust in England and the Smithsonian Institu-
tion in America, and by the existence of the Thomas Jefferson Center for
Historic Plants at Monticello and Mac Griswold's Sylvester Manor Proj-
ect on Shelter Island.) Because plants are living and changing, they bring


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an element of the performing arts to the tangible-medium art of garden-
ing; for that reason, the relation of written plans or designs to gardens is
like that of scripts and scores to drama and music.

9. Printmaking, Photography, and Book Design

The ability of audiences in different locations to experience a work
simultaneously is primarily associated with works in intangible media,
where multiple copies of notation for recreating the works can be widely
distributed. But some works using tangible media can exist in a number of
exemplars if the artist chooses to create an intermediate object that pro-
vides the means for mechanically producing multiple copies. Sculptures
in liquefiable materials like metal or glass, for example, are sometimes
cast in molds; and when the process and results are supervised and ap-
proved by the sculptor, each resulting piece constitutes the work from the
point of view of authorial intention. The most voluminous category of
visual art intended to exist in multiple exemplars consists of those works
on paper that are usually called "prints." Before photography (to which
we shall turn in a moment), the intermediate objects used to "print" the
paper with ink could take various forms, offering three classes of printing
surface: a relief (protruding) surface, as on a woodblock, where the area
not to print is cut away; an intaglio (or sunken) surface, as on a metal plate
prepared for engraving or etching, where grooves are cut to hold the ink
that will be transferred to the paper; and a planographic (level) surface,
as on a lithographic stone, where the greasy lines of a crayon drawing will
hold the ink. These differing processes naturally affect the character of
the prints that result, and an understanding of them is therefore relevant
to textual criticism as well as to art criticism, for textual criticism (in any
field) can never be divorced from the effort to understand and appreciate
the works it addresses. But the differences among these production pro-
cesses need not be pursued here since the same textual issues are raised
by all of them.

The fundamental textual question to be asked about prints is how
each of several exemplars can equally be "the work." One answer, from
the point of view of authorial intention, is that if the artist approves these
exemplars and regards them as "the same," each one by definition is the
work. (The artist who makes the image sometimes does the work of pre-
paring the intermediate object and printing from it, though often one or
both of those operations are performed by others, subject to the artist's
approval.) But of course the exemplars cannot possibly be the same in ev-
ery minute detail, for no two physical objects ever are. Even without hu-
man intervention—that is, intentional alteration—prints may vary as a
result of inking differences, for example, or the deterioration of the block
or plate as a result of wear and the passage of time. The artist may reject


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and destroy certain copies, but even those that are saved and approved
are bound to have slight textual differences. What "the same" means
here can only be that the differences are so small as not to be regarded as
meaningful by the artist. Nevertheless, they may be noticeable to viewers,
whose responses may be affected. Alternatively, perhaps the artist does
not regard all the copies as essentially the same but is willing to consider
the variations as falling within the intended conception of a given work.
Either way, the idea that the work exists in each exemplar is shattered:
one ideally needs to see every copy in order to experience the full range of
textual nuance present in the "work," now taken to comprise the totality
of all the exemplars. (This point reminds one of the comparable necessity,
in studying the texts of verbal and musical works transmitted in printed
editions, of examining multiple copies.)

However impractical the goal of seeing every copy may be, it is worth
pursuing because the differences one will locate may go beyond the small
(but not necessarily insignificant) variants created by the printing process.
They may also include alterations made by the artist (or at the artist's
direction), reflecting early trials or changed intentions. Although a block,
plate, or stone may not carry clear evidence of the alterations made to
it, the impressions taken from it at various times do serve as a record
of the states (or some of them) that it has gone through. This point was
illustrated by a 2004 exhibition at the Frick Collection called "The Un-
finished Print," which gave viewers the opportunity of comparing prints
made from the same plates at different times (see Roberta Smith's ac-
count, 4 June 2004). One of the most dramatic examples consisted of the
first and eighth states of Félix Bracquemond's etched portrait of Edmond
de Goncourt, which are different enough that they could be regarded as
separate works. Although the title of the exhibition implied that states
prior to the last are "unfinished" (as some in the show clearly were),
there is no reason that more than one finished state cannot exist, each
representing the artist's final intention at a particular time. In the case
of Blake's illuminated books, Joseph Viscomi has brilliantly shown—in
his 1993 Blake and the Idea of the Book—that the impressions made at one
time, though differing in small ways, share certain characteristics that
link them together and distinguish them as a group from the impressions
made at another time. Thus a comprehensive examination of the impres-
sions taken from a given plate puts one in a position to judge (and it is
always a matter of judgment) which textual differences can be subsumed
under a single version and which create another version (or even perhaps
a distinct work).

The full textual history of an image created for printing includes forms
not intended by the artist, and they often exist in quantity, for a block
or plate can be used for printing (and be altered) by persons not associ-


Page 35
ated with the artist; and even if the block or print does not survive, there
has been the possibility, for the past century and a half, of reproducing
the image by various photographic means. An important distinction for
textual criticism is the one conventionally made between a "print" and
a "reproduction": the former is the direct product of the block, plate, or
stone on which an image was created, whereas the latter is at least another
generation removed, being a copy (photographic, xerographic, digital,
and the like) either of a print or of another reproduction. (The term "re-
productive print" is sometimes used to signify a print made from an object
that did not involve the collaboration of the original creator of the image,
as when a copyist engraves a plate after a painting, without the painter's
oversight; but of course such a print is still a print, not a reproduction, so
long as it is made directly from the plate.) Whether or not one is focusing
on authorial intention, this distinction is of intense textual significance,
since it refers to differences that profoundly affect viewers' responses.
A print pulled from a relief or intaglio surface, for example, has three-
dimensional attributes, whereas a reproduction of such a print normally
lacks them. Even a reproduction of a lithographic print shows differences,
if less dramatic. Yet the number of people who have experienced repro-
ductions of famous print-images is far greater than those who have seen
the prints themselves; and any study of the history of these works has to
take into account not only the prints, with all their variations, but all the
reproductions as well.

The art of photography raises the same considerations, since the pho-
tographic print is produced from an intermediate object, the negative
(reflecting choices made with the camera and the developing), and since
the handling of the printing process can lead to variant texts among the
finished prints. (Digital photography and printing employ different tech-
nology from traditional photography, but the textual upshot is that varia-
tions, including gross manipulation of the images, can be produced more
easily.) Furthermore, the distinction between prints and reproductions is
just as applicable (even though photography is the most common process
used for making reproductions), since a print is produced directly from
the artist's negative, whereas a reproduction is derived from a photograph
of one of the prints (or from another reproduction). A good example of
a photographer's changing intentions, as seen in variant prints from the
same negative, is offered by Ansel Adams. Late in his life, he reinter-
preted many of his earlier pictures by printing from the old negatives in
a way that replaced "elegance with melodrama," in the words of John
Szarkowski's 2001 exhibition catalogue, Ansel Adams at 100 (quoted in
Sarah Boxer's review, 1 September 2001).

For Adams, each act of printing could be seen in terms of the perform-
ing arts: "the negative," he said in 1943 (and often repeated the idea),


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"can … be compared to a musical score. It's ready for its performance—
the print. … it can be performed so as to recreate the original visual-
ized intention." But it can also be performed, as his own later printing
showed, in a way that reflects a different intention. Although a musical
work can similarly be performed in diverse ways, Adams's comparison of
photography and music cannot usefully be carried further and indeed is
seriously misleading. Because musical works use an intangible medium,
they must be recreated (performed) each time they are experienced (that
is, in their intended "live" form, not as a recorded reproduction). But
photographs, which use a tangible medium and are stationary, do not
need to be printed afresh whenever one wishes to experience them, since
prints made earlier are physical objects that can be handed down through
time. What "performance" means in the two cases is very different: in
music it is an integral part of the work, whereas in photography it is part
of the work's prehistory. And these points remain the same whether one
is talking about authorial intention or the intentions of others.

Another art form involving multiple exemplars—each of which is a
"print" of an image transferred from an intermediate object—is the de-
sign of printed books, magazines, and newspapers (and of their constituent
parts like advertisements). As with the kinds of prints just discussed, which
can preserve evidence of changes in the underlying plates and negatives
(and other such objects), books and periodicals from a single edition (a
single act of typographical layout and design) vary among themselves as
a result of changes, both intentional and accidental, in the type-formes
or plates used—changes that may occur during one printing session or
between such sessions. The conventional terminology used by bibliogra-
phers is different from that used by art historians, and both have their
limitations. In the book field, an "impression" (or "printing") comprises
all the units produced in a single continuous session (of however many
hours or days are required to complete the desired number of copies),
and a second distinct session, separated in time from the first, produces
another impression. In the study of art prints and posters, on the other
hand, each copy is called an impression—a usage that makes more literal
sense, since each one does result from a separate act of impressing (or at
least printing on) the paper. If the usage in art thus accords better with
the fact that each copy is (if only slightly) different, the bibliographical
usage more clearly accommodates another reality, that a group of copies
made in one limited period of time may share characteristics not present
in groups of copies made in other periods.

But the terminology, despite its awkwardness, should not prevent tex-
tual critics of any of these arts from dealing with variations. The existence
of differences among copies of any given edition of a printed book is
widely understood by editors of verbal texts, for whom such variations are


Page 37
part of the textual history of the works they are investigating. But every
edition can of course be viewed as a work of visual art, in which the art-
istry of type designers, papermakers, and (sometimes) binders is deployed
in a particular way by a book designer; and verbal variation is only one
of the many sources of difference among the exemplars of any such work.
(I am speaking here only of conventional books; artists also create quasi-
book objects that are best regarded as works of sculpture.) Even when
design drafts, pieces of type, type-formes, proofs, and other preliminary
materials survive, the primary evidence for the textual history of a piece
of book design is found in the finished objects themselves, since their
production over time allows them collectively to preserve a record of the
variations that occurred (or some of them). Approaching books as visual
art rather than as vehicles for transmitting verbal language brings us full
circle from where we began.

These notes are intended to illustrate a way of thinking, not to be com-
prehensive. Nor are the sections into which I have divided them meant to
be self-contained: certain issues are dealt with more fully under one head-
ing than under another, but many of those issues are equally applicable
to all the discussions. This interdependence reflects the fact that all the
arts are related and that thinking about the textual criticism of one art
can clarify the thinking about others, including those I have not touched
on, such as the olfactory and gustatory arts. After all, texts of every kind
of human creation are unstable (like the natural objects studied by scien-
tists), and it is this basic condition that textual critics in all fields are track-
ing. They are historians of metamorphosis, chronicling the changes that
have in turn affected the responses to human works at different times.

Textual critics' recognition of the inescapability of impermanence is
not at odds, however, with the urge to produce scholarly editions, which
are attempts to help an audience to encounter various past moments
in the history of a work, rather than merely to read about them. How
textual criticism and scholarly editing are carried out is contingent not
only on the surviving evidence but on the distinctive characteristics of
the different media in which works can be created. Yet the primary issues
are identical, and that is why textual study in any field can benefit from
being conducted with a knowledge of the questions that have arisen, and
the answers that have been offered, in other fields. Approaching every
human creation with an understanding of its textual history, seen against
the panorama of all other textual histories, helps us to appreciate the
humanity movingly embedded in each version of a work and to enjoy the
hard-won accomplishment represented there.


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