Digital Editions

Cover of Cora Kaplan's Olive
Cora Kaplan’s Olive, on sale new at Amazon for $137?! You could probably get a first edition for that!

I have been proof-reading the final version of the special issue of Women’s Writing on Dinah Mulock Craik this week.  It’s exciting to see it all coming together.  And though a typo or two doesn’t really bother me in a student paper (I think I’m more lax than a lot of my colleagues in that department), once I get into, there’s something tremendously satisfying about catching those last few typos for a publication.  For some reason, switching everything from American to British punctuation (forgot to tell the contributors about that one!) felt particularly good.  There’s something very zen about concentrating on moving commas and periods outside the quotation marks for two hours.  Plus, you get to feel productive.  And when you’re done, everything is finished and correct, a feeling one rarely gets from rewriting, say, a conclusion, which could always be better, couldn’t it?

One question that arose for me as I was proof-reading contributor’s bibliographies was which editions people cite as standard.  It’s pretty easy when it comes to an author like Charles Dickens, whose entire works are in print.  Scholars tend to choose the Penguins or the OUP editions, on the grounds that they want a reliable edition that is also easy for people to get ahold of and check out the passages they’re citing.

This is much more complicated when it comes to an author like Dinah Mulock Craik.  Sure, there are popular editions of The Little Lame Prince, and a Broadview edition of John Halifax, Gentleman.  And for those works that have never really been re-issued, like, say, A Brave Lady, people tend to use whatever copy is in their university library.  (Cornell had a giant run of Tauchnitz editions that I used in grad school when it came to popular books like G.A. Lawrence’s Guy Livingstone.)  I think Olive is a particular problem for Craik studies.  Cora Kaplan put out a great edition with OUP fifteen years ago, which the majority of people still cite, but it’s been out of print for over ten years.

Some of these editions obviously aren’t that easy for anyone to get ahold of, making it difficult for people to look up the passages you so brilliantly analyze.  So, my question is, if part of the selection criteria for editions we use is accessibility, should we be moving to editions that are available freely online?  If not the ones put out by commercial enterprises like Google Books, then maybe the ones digitized by universities themselves?

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