Digital Critical Editions

Edited by Daniel Apollon, Claire Bélisle, and Phillippe Régnier. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014. viii, 357 pp. $65.00 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-252-03840-2.

For anyone who has considered the influence of digital technologies on textual editing of critical editions (and more broadly on the production of knowledge), Digital Critical Editions has something to offer. Part of the Topics in the Digital Humanities series, Digital Critical Editions originated in a French-Norwegian collaboration investigating how scholarly editors are dealing with the digital turn on a practical and conceptual level. The book contributors consider a number of challenging questions: What will be the consequences of widespread, rapid digitizing without application of the basic principles of critical editing? Does digital media make critical editions more accessible and therefore more democratic? And, what type of reading can be offered to users/readers of critical editions? As contemplated by Philippe Régnier in chapter 2, “[t]he passage from print to digital could eventually turn out to be as decisive as the passage from Stone Age to the Bronze Age or the one from manuscript to print” (59).

Digital Critical Editions is divided into three parts: 1) History, Challenges and Emerging Contexts; 2) Text Technologies; and 3) New Practices, New Contents, New Policies. Part 1 is philosophical in tone and includes consideration of the meaning of critical edition, different approaches to textual scholarship and their historical context, and the impact of hypertextuality on writing and reading. Daniel Apollon and Claire Bélisle write that, “‘critical edition’ refers to the specific study of texts with the intention to secure their transmission as faithfully, authentically, and completely as possible, including information about the processes that have made it possible to establish the selected and published text” (86). Part 2 focuses on technological tools and includes an introduction to markup for textual scholars who are new to the subject. Finally, part 3 moves the reader back into a theoretical frame and considers the historical development of practices of textual editing, the movement from the “book regime” to the “digital collection regime,” and lastly, explores the new political economy of critical editions.

Digital Critical Editions will appeal to a wide range of readers. Daniel Apollon, Claire Bélisle and Philippe Régnier write in the book’s introduction that Digital Critical Editions “is intended for those who are interested by all the different forms of textual criticism, whether they are researchers, editors, engineers, students, or simply readers who wish to fully exploit the potential of digital media” (7). As the extent of the impact of the digital turn on cultures and identities are still unknown, the authors’ investigation of the influence of digital technologies on critical editions will prompt many readers to pause and reflect on the moment in history in which we find ourselves and the direction in which we are moving. Digital Critical Editions includes 13 black & white photographs, eight line drawings, and one table, plus a section called “Bibliography, Online Sources, and Software Tools.” Digital Critical Editions can be previewed in Google Books from the University of Illinois Press website and can be purchased as PDF files and accessed online by registered institutions at Project MUSE.

Goldwynn Lewis

Ottawa, Canada