What is an Edition?

In a recent DH2001 lecture, we spoke about Digital Literary Studies and the concept of an Edition. In the lecture, Orla Murphy brought various versions of the Beowulf Transcript for us to look at and examine just how different these editions are. It reminded me of a quote by writer Neil Gaiman said when talking about his writing techniques.

Credit: The Verge

Gaiman himself, has re-written his novel American Gods a number of times, so much so that no two editions of the novel exist as with every new edition, Gaiman re-edits the book and changes certain things that he is unhappy with due to the fact that he wrote the book when he was much younger. Interestingly enough, Gaiman has recently published his own edition of Norse Mythology, in which he talks about his first account with the legends, through Marvel Comics with Thor, Loki and, of course, Asgard. He then went back and read an earlier version of the texts and now he has brought his own version of the tales to life, saying:

I’ve tried my best to retell these myths and stories as accurately as I can, and as interestingly as I can.

Gaiman, Neil (2017-02-06T22:58:59). Norse Mythology (Kindle Locations 102-103). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

As an English student myself, I found this topic very interesting especially after reading chapter 13 in the Doing Digital Humanities textbook which examines how we can provide digital editions of books in order to protect them from decaying. As someone who is currently studying 19th Century American Literature, I am aware that some texts are now open access due to their copyright being expired on them, meaning that there is many free editions of texts like The Scarlet Letter, it would be interesting to examine different editions of a text like this and see just how different the versions are. As we covered in class, there are many different Digital Humanities projects that are based on this kind of study. One that I was familiar with since last year was the Blake Archive which I encountered during my module on Modern Literature with Professor Graham Allen. The archive itself holds the texts of Blake’s poetry along with the stunning artwork that went with the works in order to add to the story that Blake was telling. It also allows you to get an in-depth look at the images and to see the work that went into them. For me this is a fantastic use of Digital Humanities.

I don’t claim to know fully what Digital Humanities is all about just yet, but I do know that we are just tipping the ice-berg when it comes to examining the many areas that this subject covers, and I am very intrigued and interested in where we go from here in terms of areas of study.