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By G. Thomas Tanselle

Textual criticism—the conventional time period for the duty of comparing the authority of the phrases and punctuation of a text—is usually thought of an venture initial to literary feedback: many of us think that the activity of textual critics is to supply trustworthy texts for literary critics to investigate. G. Thomas Tanselle argues, to the contrary, that the 2 actions can't be separated.The textual critic, in deciding on between textual variations and correcting what seem to be textual mistakes, unavoidably routines severe judgment and displays a selected standpoint towards the character of literature. And the literary critic, in analyzing the which means of a piece or passage, should be (though hardly is) serious of the make-up of each textual content of it, together with these produced by means of scholarly editors.

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Example text

Yet, curiously enough, there are some writers on the history of printed books who believe that too much effort has gone into bibliographical analysis, wishing that some of it had instead been devoted to the study of publishers' and printers' archives. They would gladly trade a speculative conclusion drawn from the analysis of physical evidence for what they regard as a solid fact taken from a printer's ledger. Some of them also think that the close analysis of physical details is as little related to their interest in the broad picture of the influence of books on society as if it came from a different scholarly universe.

No one is served, however, by the confused thinking that leads to the belief that one can alter the text of a document and still have a documentary text, or that one can aim to present the text of a work and at the same time refuse to consider emendations drawn from a variety of sources. There is no one correct approach, but there are many approaches that invalidate themselves. Choosing to reproduce the texts of documents is a recognition of the human drama enshrined in all artifacts. What every artifact displays is the residue of an unequal contest: the effort of a human being to transcend the human, an effort constantly thwarted by physical realities.

In the case of printed books, they seem to think it fair to assume that examples one has not seen are the same as examples one has already looked at. There are, of course, some readersthough not a large numbersophisticated enough to know that different editions (that is, different typesettings) of the same work are different physical objects and almost certainly exhibit different texts. But even those readers are likely to think that all copies of a single edition (which may comprise a number of separate press runs, or printings, but always from the same typesetting) are identicalidentical at least in text, if not in such seemingly extraneous appurtenances as binding and dust jacket, or even title page.

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