When, in his edition of Nashe, McKerrow invented the term ‘copy-text’, he was merely giving a name to a conception already familiar, and he used it in a general sense to indicate that early text of a work which an editor selected as the basis of his own. Later, as we shall see, he gave it a somewhat different and more restricted meaning. It is this change in conception I wish to consider (Greg 1950, 19).
The true theory is, I contend, that the copy-text should govern (generally) in the matter of accidentals, but that the choice between substantive readings belongs to the general theory of textual criticism and lies altogether beyond the narrow principle of the copy-text. Thus it may happen that in a critical edition the text rightly chosen as copy may not by any means be the one that supplies most substantive readings in cases of variation. The failure to make this distinction and to apply this principle has naturally led to too close and too general a reliance upon the text chosen as basis for an edition, and there has arisen what may be called the tyranny of the copy-text, a tyranny that has, in my opinion, vitiated much of the best editorial work of the past generation (Greg 1950, 26).
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).
copy-text–the text that is the basis for the edited text. Copy-text readings are adopted by the editor unless some cause exists to change them–in which case the editor emends. The copy-text is usually the text found in one document, but that is not always the case (Shillingsburg 1996, 169).
copy-text. The text that is the basis for the edited text. Copy-text readings are adopted by the editor unless some cause exists to change them, in which case the editor emends. The copy-text is usually the text found in one document, but that is not always the case (Shillingsburg 1996, 173).
Copy-text. The term popularized by W. W. Greg to designate the version of a text that can be considered authoritative in matters of accidentals (e.g., spelling, marks of punctuation) for the editorial reading text. When only one edition reflects the author‘s personal scrutiny and later editions were “reprints,” that early copy-text’s authority extends to substantive readings as well (Kline 1998, 270).