Academic journal article Notes

Communications

Academic journal article Notes

Communications

Article excerpt

This column provides a forum for responses to the contents of this journal, and for information of interest to readers. The editor reserves the right to publish letters in excerpted form and to edit them for conciseness and clarity.

To the Editor:

In his gracefully hedged but ultimately negative review of the Broude Trust's Critical Facsimiles (CF), John Wagstaff aptly describes this series as an experiment, one that he hopes will not continue. Like most experiments, Critical Facsimiles tests a set of premises, in this case premises regarding the nature of facsimiles and critical editions. Unfortunately, Wagstaff neither identifies nor engages these premises. What follows is less a rejoinder to an adverse review than an effort to articulate and address some of the questions raised by this series. Since, as librarians, musicians, and researchers (not necessarily mutually exclusive categories) many readers of Notes deal frequently with facsimiles, I hope they will find the following paragraphs informative and interesting.

Critical Facsimiles is a series of reproductions of sixteenth-, seventeenth-, and eighteenth-century music prints in which those readings that an editor would emend in a modern critical edition have been emended on the page in the historically appropriate fonts. The result is an image of what the editor believes that the composer (or, in Petrucci's case, the printer/ publisher) would have wanted to see printed. As with all responsible editions, such emendations are reported and discussed in a critical apparatus-as are refusals to emend, and variants in relevant sources. These reproductions are "facsimiles" in the sense of reproducing not only the text and notation of their exemplars, but also their general appearance, and they are "critical" in two senses in which textual scholars use this adjective: in the narrow sense of being eclectic texts-i.e., texts that incorporate readings from more than a single document-and in the broader sense of being texts offered by an editor on the basis of a thorough and informed analysis of sources.

What can the objections to such a series be?

Perhaps the most obvious objection rests on the assumption that a facsimile is an unmediated and therefore objective and accurate reproduction of a manuscript or of a copy of a printed book. If users of facsimiles expect this, so this argument runs, it must be unfair-and perhaps even dishonest-to disappoint this expectation.

Alas, anybody who approaches a facsimile with such expectations is bound to be disappointed. The photographic, digital, and printing processes by which facsimiles are produced today simply cannot guarantee reproductions that are either accurate or objective. With facsimiles that use blackand-white half-tone, the choice of lens, focus, filter, aperture, and exposure can all be adjusted to affect the image produced; with facsimiles produced by process color, colors can be balanced to obscure some aspects of originals and emphasize others. The development of digital image-enhancement software has enabled publishers of facsimiles to manipulate images in ever more subtle ways. In short, there are so many variables in the pre-press and press processes through which a facsimile passes that a facsimile is no more an objective reproduction of a manuscript or print than a sound recording that has passed through the variables of miking and mixing can be regarded as an objective reproduction of a performance.

Even in the sort of facsimile most widely used today-the simple line-cut reproduction of a printed source intended primarily for use by performers-the limitations of the technology are all too evident. Voids between black areas (the spaces between sixteenth beams, for example) tend to fill in, and, since lithographic film does not deal effectively with shades of gray, a symbol that has been faintly inked and therefore appears gray in the original either prints black in the facsimile or drops out altogether. …

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