chapter  2
38 Pages

The Afterlife of a Novel: Post-Copyright Editions of Cecilia

First editions of an author’s works are usually regarded as the most important and therefore have been sought after and studied by scholars and bibliophiles alike (though these two groups are not necessarily mutually exclusive), for they mark the first entrance of an author’s work into the world and usually provide the closest representation of an author’s original intent. Although later editions may contain authorial corrections and revisions, the “novelty” of a work belongs only to the first. As it is transmitted through time, the text of a document tends to deteriorate through successive printings: if printed from movable type, errors may be introduced with each resetting; if from stereotype plates, the plates wear and are subject to accidents in transportation and storage; if through photographic offset, valuable information may be wiped away inadvertently when the images are “cleaned” for printing or may be removed purposely to adapt the images for a new impression; and if from a computer file, the data may become corrupt at various stages of the process. As a result of the quest for “newness,” accuracy, and authorial intent, little attention has been given to subsequent editions of an author’s work. Nevertheless, regardless of the quality of their physical documents, later editions indicate how an author and her work live through time in both the physical world and the cultural mindscape. These books are the embodiments through which subsequent generations of readers know and understand an author. They document both the history of literature and the history of the book, for through them one can read the chronicle of an author’s reputation, as well as that of printing, publishing, and reading practices.