This summer, Professor Robert DeMaria Jr, Brooke Thomas ’17, and I worked on compiling a critical edition of The Tatler, to be published by Cambridge University Press in 2020. The Tatler was a pioneering British periodical journal founded by Richard Steele in 1709. Widely considered to be a key point of development for the periodical essay as a form, The Tatler preceded other influential periodicals such as The Spectator and Samuel Johnson’s The Rambler (DeMaria 529-534). Noted satirist Jonathan Swift influenced the journal’s inception, though he was eventually replaced by Joseph Addison. Under Addison and Steele’s purview, The Tatler ran for 271 issues, from 1709-1711. The content of The Tatler oscillated between social commentary, literary criticism, philosophical musings, and even (in its earlier stages) news reportage.
Brooke and I spent much of our summer establishing the text for Professor DeMaria’s edition. This process of editing included ensuring textual consistency in matters of spelling, punctuation, and italicization. We also collated three early editions of the journal, noting all differences among them in order to record a history of the composition of the text. To properly accomplish this, we spent extensive time in Special Collections taking photos of the folio, duodecimo, and octavo editions of The Tatler, all printed within a few years of its original circulation. The copy-text for this particular edition is taken from the octavo edition, what Professor DeMaria considers the most complete and authorial of all the printings we have access to.
In addition to daily collation, I researched theories of textual criticism to supplement my understanding and appreciation for the work I was doing. Texts I read included Jerome J. McGann’s A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism, D.F. McKenzie’s Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts, and the bibliographic work of William B. Todd.
Robert DeMaria Jr., “The Eighteenth-Century Periodical Essay” in John Richetti, ed., The Cambridge History of English Literature, 1660-1780 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 527-548.