At the risk of repetition I should like to recapitulate my view of the position of copy-text in editorial procedure. The thesis I am arguing is that the historical circumstances of the English language make it necessary to adopt in formal matters the guidance of ancestral series, the earliest will naturally be selected, and since this will not only come nearest to the author’s original in accidentals, but also (revision apart) most faithfully preserve the correct readings where substantive variants are in question, everything is straightforward, and the conservative treatment of the copy-text is justified. But whenever there is more than one substantive text of comparable authority, then although it will still be necessary to choose one of them as copy-text, and to follow it in accidentals, this copy-text can be allowed no over-riding or even preponderant authority so far as substantive readings are concerned. The choice between these, in cases of variation, will be determined partly by the opinion the editor may form respecting the nature of the copy from which each substantive edition was printed, which is a matter of external authority; partly by the intrinsic authority of the several texts as judged by the relative frequency of manifest errors therein; and partly by the editor’s judgement of the intrinsic claims of individual readings to originality – in other words their intrinsic merit, so long as by ‘merit’ we mean the likelihood of their being what the author wrote rather than their appeal to the individual taste of the editor.

(Greg 1950, 29)

Contributed by Wout. View changelog.