Eighteenth Century Economics: Turgot, Beccaria and Smith and Their Contemporaries

By Peter Groenewegen | Go to book overview

10

Editing the classicsin the Antipodes

With special reference to the problem of identifying anonymous authors

Editing economic texts has a variety of purposes as well as problems. Before focusing on some of the specific problems of editing economic texts in more remote areas of the globe like Australia, and the even more specific editorial problem posed by anonymous texts, it is useful to focus briefly on the range of aims and objectives the editor may have to keep in mind. The editing talent gathered at this conference provides an indication of this variety. It includes the objectives of the editing of collected writings, which may be open-ended or restricted; the editing of a new edition of a major reference work; editing correspondence; editing specific volumes within a wider collected works; editing diaries and editing specific single items, large or small. Translation may, as in my own case, sometimes be a part of the editorial task, as is the transcription (quite difficult in some cases) of unpublished manuscript material.

The purposes of these various editorial roles are not always easy to identify. Some are overt, others more hidden or disguised. Thus the aims of the collected Ricardo have been said to have been appropriate only to the Moscow State Publishing House (Hutchison, 1952, p. 421) since no other clear rationale to the reviewer in question appeared persuasive enough to justify this gigantic editorial task. Others have seen the editing of Ricardo as an opportunity for enhancing the understanding and interpretation of the work of one of the major, if not the major, economist of the nineteenth century. The second manner of justifying Ricardo’s collected works points to the major objective of the editorial task: presenting the work of an individual author in such a way as to facilitate its comprehension and interpretation. This objective of the editor can be described in another way. The editorial task is designed to make the text in question more accessible to its potential readers. The notion of enhancing accessibility for the reader has, of course, various dimensions. These need to be elucidated to provide the necessary background for the types of editorial problem to be discussed in this chapter.

Enhanced accessibility for readers is achieved in several ways. Most obviously this is done by collecting the various works of a particular author in a single set of volumes where the degree of accessibility produced is closely associated with the degree of comprehensiveness of the collection aimed at. Posthumous publication of previously unpublished material in the form of manuscripts, letters and diaries can significantly enhance that comprehensiveness, and thereby the

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