Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Caxton's 'Morte Darthur': The Printing Process and the Authenticity of the Text

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Caxton's 'Morte Darthur': The Printing Process and the Authenticity of the Text

Article excerpt

Takako Kato, Caxton's 'Morte Darthur': The Printing Process and the Authenticity of the Text, Medium Aevum Monographs, NS XXII (Oxford: Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature, 2002). 102 pp. ISBN 0-907570-15-1. £10.00.

Malory's Morte Darthur continues to be the focus of textual study. Takako Kato's monograph opens up new avenues of enquiry about Caxton's printing techniques and the nature of his copy-text for the Morte Darthur.

Kato's conclusion is that Caxton's setting copy for the Morte must have been quite irregular in comparison to the other prose romances he printed. She demonstrates this by analysis of some neglected aspects of Caxton's printing techniques, particularly his use of paraphs and chapter headings. At a number of points where these occur with frequency on a page they can be linked to other forms of expansion, particularly the use of white space and the inclusion of additional words, seemingly to lill in what would otherwise be short pages, the result of badly cast-off copy.

The discovery leads to a consideration of the nature of Caxton's exemplar. Lotte Hellinga established that the only surviving manuscript of Malory, British Library, MS Add. 59678, was in Caxton's shop at the time he printed the Morte. But it contains no compositorial marks. Kato concludes that Caxton must have had two complete manuscripts in his shop, the Winchester manuscript and 'an irregular workaday copy which Caxton used as his setting-copy' (p. 62).

These are convincing and important conclusions, and ones that fruitfully link bibliographical analysis and textual criticism. …

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