Thursday, March 05, 2015


Errors Repeat and Multiply in Every Edition

John Evelyn, letter to Edward Hyde (November 27, 1666), in The Letterbooks of John Evelyn, Vol. I: British Museum Add Ms 78298, edd. Douglas D.C. Chambers and David Galbraith (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014), pp. 423-426 (at 423-425; footnotes omitted):
The affaire is this: Since the late deplorable Conflagration, in which the stationers have been exceedingly ruin'd, there is like to be an extraordinary penury and scarcity of Classic Authors etc. us'd in our Grammar scholes; so as of necessity they must suddainely be reprinted. My Lord may please to understand, that our Book-Sellers follow their owne judgement in printing the antient Authors according to such Text, as they found extant when first they entred their Copy: Whereas, out of manuscripts collated by the industry of later Critics, those Authors are exceedingly improved. For instance, about 30 yeares since, Justine was corrected by Isaac Vossius in many hundreds of places most material to sense, and Elegancy; and has since ben frequently reprinted in Holland after the purer Copy. But, with us, still according to the old Reading: The like has Florus, Senecas Tragedys and neere all the rest: which have in the meane time been castigated abroad by severall learned hands, which, besides that it makes ours to be rejected, and dishonours our nation; so dos it no lesse detriment to Learning, and to the treasure of the nation in proportion. The Cause of this is, principaly the Stationar driving as hard and cruel a bargain with the Printer as he can; and the Printer taking up any Smatterer in the Tongues, to be the lesse looser; an exactnesse in this no wayes importing the stipulation; by which meanes Errors repeate and multiply in every Edition, and that most notoriously in some most necessary schole-books of Value, which they obtrude upon the Buyer, unlesse men will be at unreasonable rates for forraine Editions.
Id.(at 425):
My Lord, If this Paper find acceptance, I would be bold to add some other farther hints for the Carying it on to some perfection. For beside all I have sayd, there will neede paines in reading, consulting manuscripts and conferences with learned men; good Indexes, apt divisions, Chapters and Verses as the Dutch Variorum, Embellishment of Roman and Italique letters to separate inserted Speeches; especialy in Historians and Sententious Authors, which adds to the use, lustre, choyce of Succinct Notes, as difficult so the profitable, after more terse and profitable Copy, etc.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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