Sunday, 13 March 2011

Editions of Doctor Faustus

Now that the three copies of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus have arrived that I ordered a few weeks back I thought I'd do a post on them, and on all of the other editions that I have. As you can see, there are ten of them! (Just ignore Tydeman's Doctor Faustus: Text and Performance for now.) I will add a few details about each of them as I go through them.

Top row, from left:

[1] The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, edited by Frederick S. Boas (London: Methuen and Co., 1932). From The Works and Life of Christopher Marlowe series.

[2] Marlowe, Tragical history of Doctor Faustus Greene, Honourable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, ed. Adolphus William Ward, 4th ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1901). ¶ Amazing introduction, excellent notes and contextualising primary material, obviously the criticism and bibliography are very dated; based on the A text, sensibly edited (except, apparently, it is silently bowdlerised!).

[3] Marlowe, The Plays and Poems (London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., [1905]). Simpkin's Thin Paper Classics series. I only have this because I love these thin-paper editions.

Middle row, from left:

[4] Doctor Faustus: A 1604-version edition, ed. Michael Keefer (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview, 1991).

[5] Doctor Faustus: The A-text, ed. David Ormerod and Christopher Wortham (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1985).

[6] Doctor Faustus, ed. John D. Jump (1962; rpr. London: Methuen, 1965). Revels Plays series.

[*] William Tydeman, Doctor Faustus: Text and Performance (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, 1984).

Bottom row, from left:

[7] Doctor Faustus and Other Plays, ed. David Bevington and Eric Rasmussen (1995; rpr. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

[8] Doctor Faustus [Based on the A Text], ed. Roma Gill, rev. Ros King (2nd ed. 1989; rpr. London: Methuen, 2008). New Mermaids Series

[9] Doctor Faustus: A-and B-texts (1604, 1616), David Bevington and Eric Rasmussen (1993; rpr. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995). Revels Plays series.

[10] Doctor Faustus: A Norton Critical Edition, ed. David Scott Kastan (New York: W. W. Norton, 2005). ¶ Excellent on criticism, a useful bibliography; text and notes sensible; brief introduction.

I have been looking at the newbies (bottom row) in order to select a text for my Dark Hero course, but I have been progressively re-examining the others too. The only one that I haven't had a very close look at is the new Revels Plays edition [9], but it would have to be a lot more impressive than both the old Revels Plays edition [6] and the World's Classics edition edited by the same editors [7], in order to come close to the front-runner for my Dark Hero course: the Norton Critical Edition [10].

I prefer the text and introduction to the Ormerod and Wortham edition, though the actual notes to the text are not as extensive as most other editions. I also like the fact that the notes are on facing pages to the text. It is disappointing that more publishers do not adopt this approach, but the reason might be that it does limit what you can say. (Ward [2] has one hundred pages of notes on top of almost two hundred pages of Introduction and there are many places in the new Revels Plays edition [9] where the notes cover more of the page than the text. So, the convenient layout clearly wouldn't have worked for these editors.)

As I said, the Norton Critical Edition is front-runner. The introduction is very brief—a few pages—and the note on the editing of the text is spartan. Both are sensible and workmanlike, as is the editing. The value of this edition is in the convenience of having a sensible, if not ground-breaking version of the A and B texts, with all that ancillary material, including quite a few very important articles.

Any student with this book in hand, has enough to understand the academic debates about the play and could write a well-researched essay. With the best of the other editions, a student might come to understand most of the points of academic debate from one point of view (the view if the editor), and most of the textual issues, but they would have to go and find the articles which are in the Norton edition in order to get a more rounded understanding of the academic debates.

Still, the Norton edition lacks an account of religion and renaissance magic to match either the Ward [2] or Ormerod and Wortham [5] editions. But if, as I hope, some will students will really take to the play, perhaps they will also go looking for other editions until they find one that provides this sort of detail. (Don't tell me if you think I'm living in fantasy land.)

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Wearing out an eBook

Don't you hate it when you wear out an eBook, or when someone tries to palm off a worn out ebook file on you? And I don't mean when you drop the reader into the bath and the annihilation of your e-library flashes before your eyes.

No, I mean when the electronic-book file itself gets all tattered and torn, with pages you can't open without one of those rubber thumb things, or when the pages are so underlined and covered in comments that you can't read them any more, or when pages are missing, and when the book has that smell that ebooks get when someone has left them with their burger or their fish-and-chips. In short, when the file reaches that point when a conscientious electronic-book distributor would retire and replace it.

No? You don't? Well, HarperCollins have been worrying about this and have decided that—in order to avoid these problems, and in order to demonstrate the vast superiority of ebooks to actual books—their eBooks will be "available to one customer at a time until the total number of permitted checkouts is reached." They have determined "the total number of permitted checkouts" that "library ebook vendors will be able to circulate" is 26. That is right, 26, after that the license expires and a bright, shiny new electronic-book file must be purchased.

Josh Marwell, President, Sales for HarperCollins, told [Library Journal] that the 26 circulation limit was arrived at after considering a number of factors, including the average lifespan of a print book, and wear and tear on circulating copies

Of course, this announcement has no implications whatsoever for those who have been snapping up e-texts from "the sparkling digital pond" that Nicholson Baker talked about in Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper (New York: Random House, 2001). No, no, it is not a warning that replacing hard copy books or journals with digital files and then ditching the originals (individually or collectively) may not be a great idea. Because it is obvious that no other publisher of ebooks will follow suit or extend their duty-of-care in this way.

For (a lot) more on this, see here.