Annotation: D. C. Greetham’s “Introduction”

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Greetham, D. C. “Introduction.” Textual Scholarship: An Introduction. New York: Garland Publishing INC, 1994. 1-12. Print.

In his “Introduction,” Greetham asserts that the goal of his book is to simplify and clarify the process and components of textual studies. He defines “textual scholarship” as “all the activities associated with the discovery, description, transcription, editing, glossing, annotating, and commenting upon texts” (2). Greetham distinguishes this from “textual criticism,” which he describes as more “concerned with evaluating and emending the reading of texts” (2). He explains that his book is guided by two central ideas. Firstly, Greethan claims that textual scholars work from a “historical bias,” relying on past disciplinary evidence and additionally attempting to incorporate their own scholarship into “the context of that historical perspective” (2). He emphasizes that textual scholars not only study the textual product but also the process that gave rise to it. Secondly, Greetham accentuates that the skills of textual scholars from all different fields are important and relevant despite the strict disciplinary specialization and segregation in academia. He stresses that textual scholars should strive to learn as much as they can from one another.

Greetham asserts that the goal of his book is to teach the student the methods of textual scholarship, with the assumption that he or she “is already an expert in the specific field within which the texts are to be edited. He goes on to offer some helpful definitions of the important terms within textual scholarship. He begins with “enumerative, or systematic, bibliography” defining it generally as “the listing of books” and “the [only] bibliographical term which is commonly used to refer to manuscript as well as printed materials” (5). He then defines “analytical bibliography” or “new bibliography” as “involv[ing] the consideration of all those stages of printing…that might tell us something about how the text reached its present condition” (7). In this respect, Greetham argues that it is similar to “historical bibliography” or “the study of [texts] as part of a Darwinian evolution of a manufacturing process” and “descriptive bibliography” which he explains “uses the information gained in the practice of analytic and historical bibliography to prepare an account of the ‘bibliographical nature’ of the book” (7). Finally, he defines “textual bibliography” as “the employment of the technical information derived from analytical or descriptive bibliography in charting and evaluating the effect of the technical history on the text itself” (8).

While Greetham acknowledges that some scholars view these bibliographical acts as conclusive, most consider them merely steps to the actual project of producing a “reconstruction of an author’s intended text and/or the production of a critical edition displaying this intention or some other version of the text” (8). He claims that part of the business of textual scholarship, especially with regards to texts that have multiple editions and copies, is to range them “in some sort of order of relative authority” (8). Greetham then goes on to clarify “New Scholarship” and “social textual criticism,” which are both critical editorial schools that emphasize the importance process and social context over the actual textual product (9). Finally he explains that textual scholarship is encompassed within the broader field of “philology,” which he defines as “the study of historical perspective, of seeing a past culture whole and trying to re-create its ethos in one’s scholarly writing” (9). He suggests that analysis of language has been particularly important within this historical discipline.

Greetham concludes his essay, however, reminding textual scholars that to produce truly successful work they must combine historical and technical knowledge with persuasive critical evaluation and judgment. He ultimately hopes that readers of his book will come away with a knowledge of “the process of textual scholarship,” the ability to recognize and understand the basic vocabulary and “classes of identification” related to textual scholarship, and cultivate the skills necessary to produce a “reputable scholarly edition of a short work, with well-defined documentary limits” (11).