The Definitive Copy: Part Deux

July 20, 2009 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

Keep on Questing!

Keep on Questing!

After last week’s Definitive Copy post conjured some debate, I return with more ruminations on the Definitive Copy! Last week’s discussion really made me rethink the idea of a Definitive Copy and what it entails as a form. This week, I have some thoughts on the failings and disappointments that can occur in your search for your Definitive Copy. Happily, I think we can all agree about the failings of a Definitive Copy since these failings can also be equally disappointing in both regular copies and in Definitive Copies. I think they just get more tragic if applied to your purportedly perfect and lovely Definitive Copy.

1. Incomplete text.
Almost nothing is more frustrating that buying a book you love and then finding out belatedly that the text is incomplete or abridged. Incomplete text is annoying enough, but pointless abridgment of texts really gets to me. Who is the editor or publisher to say which bits don’t merit renewed publication? I don’t care how long-winded or seemingly unnecessary the removed passage is, the author put it there and it thus deserves to be in every copy of the next. Leave the decision to skip it or not read that part to the reader.

2. Poor translation.
I’ve addressed this a bit in previous posts, but finding your aesthetically Definitive Copy only to discover that the translation is unbearably dull or inaccurate is so disappointing. Ideally, the Definitive Copy would match its beauty with a loyalty of the original text.

3. The First Reader.
If you did chose to make an antiquarian copy of a text your Definitive Copy, the intrusive notes of “the first reader” can really ruin an experience. Sometimes these notes are really great (I for one absolutely love books with inscriptions in the front), but most often they consist of annoying underlining or pointless notes (e.g. “metaphor!” or “he’s her cousin”) or, worse, highlighting.

4. Duplicates.
This is more of an inner turmoil than anything else. What happens what you thought you found your Definitive Copy of a text but then you find one “more” Definitive? (If there is such a thing.) Can you have two Definitive Copies? Are there degrees of “definitiveness”? Probably not, and it can lead to some internal debate over whether or not you really need two beautiful copies of The Three Musketeers. (Oh. Just me? Hmm…)

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Entry filed under: Musings and Essays. Tags: .

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