D. F. McKenzie-Bibliography & the Sociology of Texts

July 29, 2017 | Author: Μάριος Ιακώβ | Category: Bibliography, Sociology, Books, Library And Museum, Science
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Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts

In Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts, D. F. McKenzie shows how the material form of texts crucially determines their meanings. He unifies the principal interests of both critical theory and textual scholarship to demonstrate that, as all works of lasting value are reproduced, re-edited, and re-read, they take on different forms and meanings. By witnessing the new needs of their new readers these new forms constitute vital evidence for any history of reading. McKenzie shows this to be true of all forms of recorded information, including sound, graphics, films, representations of landscape, and the new electronic media. The bibliographical skills first developed for manuscripts and books can, he shows, be applied to a wide range of cultural documents. This book, which incorporates McKenzie’s classic work on orality and literacy in early New Zealand, offers a unifying concept of texts that seeks to acknowledge their variety and the complexity of their relationships. D. F. McKenzie was Emeritus Professor of Bibliography and Textual Criticism, University of Oxford.


D. F. McKenzie

          The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, United Kingdom    The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 2RU, UK 40 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011-4211, USA 477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne, VIC 3207, Australia Ruiz de Alarcón 13, 28014 Madrid, Spain Dock House, The Waterfront, Cape Town 8001, South Africa http://www.cambridge.org © D. F. McKenzie 2004 First published in printed format 1999 ISBN 0-511-03654-X eBook (Adobe Reader) ISBN 0-521-64258-2 hardback ISBN 0-521-64495-X paperback


list of illustrations page [vi] foreword [1] 

biblio g raphy and the so ciolo g y of texts [7] the so ciolo g y of a text: oral culture, literacy, and pr int in early new zeal and [7 7]



‘Droeschout’s First Folio Shakespeare’ by Nicholas Wade Reproduced from Word and Image I, no. 3 (1985), 259



Bas-relief of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi [80] Reproduced by courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington


Colenso’s case [100] Reproduced by courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington


Page of text from Colenso’s New Testament [106] Reproduced by courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington

5 a & b Signatures from the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Waitangi [118–119] Reproduced by courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington


The familiar historical processes by which, over the centuries, texts have changed their form and content have now accelerated to a degree which makes the definition and location of textual authority barely possible in the old style. Professional librarians, under pressure from irresistible technological and social changes, are redefining their discipline in order to describe, house, and access sounds, static and moving images with or without words, and a flow of computer-stored information. By contrast, academic bibliography has only recently begun to find fresh stimulus in those developments and to tap the new experience and interests of students for whom books represent only one form of text. Although bibliographers have always found interest not only in books themselves but in the social and technical circumstances of their production, it is again only recently that historical bibliography has gained acceptance as a field of study. The partial but significant shift this signals is one from questions of textual authority to those of dissemination and readership as matters of economic and political motive. Those relationships are difficult to pin down, but they are powerful in the ways they preclude certain forms of discourse and enable others; and because they determine the very conditions under which meanings are created, they lie at the heart of what has come to be known as histoire du livre, a form of inquiry relevant to the history of every text-dependent discipline. Bibliography and textual criticism have, since at least the 1920s, normally formed part of a training for scholarly research in literary


Foreword history, and they remain indispensable tools. But literary history and scholarship no longer look quite as they did. Definitive editions have come to seem an impossible ideal in the face of so much evidence of authorial revision and therefore of textual instability. Each version has some claim to be edited in its own right, with a proper respect for its historicity as an artefact; and yet the variety of authorized forms has opened up editorial choice in new ways, even to the point of creating, through conflation or even more adventurous forms of adaptation, quite new versions thought appropriate to the needs of newly defined markets. Redirecting bibliographical inquiry in a fruitful response to recent developments in critical theory and practice is certainly not easy. There is a paradox too in the ease with which new technologies now permit readers to reconstruct and disseminate texts in any form they wish, with few fully effective legal constraints, let alone those of a past scholarship which might have conferred another kind of authority. In many ways such uncontrolled fluidity returns us to the condition of an oral society. When giving the Panizzi lectures, my purpose was to express a need and to stimulate discussion, and discussion there certainly was. In 1986 I took on one of the most exciting and demanding roles any teacher could wish – inducting each year’s new intake of research students to the English Faculty in Oxford. The chronological range of their topics and the diversity of their interests demanded both a rigorous reduction of bibliographical principles to those readily seen as relevant to everyone’s needs, and then the application of those principles to an almost infinite number of authors, periods, genres, and media, and to widely differing conditions of printing, publishing, reading, listening, or viewing. Eight weeks were devoted to ‘text production’ (the archive of surviving texts, the labour force that created it, the materials that form it, the technologies and processes involved in making it, and the formulae for describing it in its full variety), and then another eight weeks were spent on ‘the sociology of texts’ in which the students themselves explored, in a series of case studies relevant to their own research, the complex interrelationships of those conditions of production and the kinds of knowledge they generated. 2

Foreword My own journey to that end took fresh shape thanks to the generosity and guidance of Philip Gaskell. To the world at large his authority is manifest in the expository brilliance of his New Introduction to Bibliography and From Writer to Reader, but it was his intimate knowledge of the late seventeenth-century documents of the Cambridge University Press and his characteristic willingness to share them, that made possible the resurrection of an early printing house, its resources of type and presses, and the day-to-day activities of its managers, compositors, pressmen, correctors, joiners, and smiths. Its detailed records of pricing, type set, sheets printed, and wages paid supplied the evidence needed to reconstruct the working processes common to all printing houses of the hand-press period and the complexity of the working relationships within them. For the first time, scholars had a dynamic model of the manner in which printed books were made. Since the economic principle of concurrent production which it revealed implied that no one book would ever contain all the evidence needed to explain how it must have been produced, the new model was disconcertingly at odds with many assumptions then current in analytical and textual bibliography. Only by studying total production at any one time could a pattern be reliably discerned, and as the time and interests of most editors were usually and understandably limited to a single text, the kind of ‘scientific’ certainty once sought in analysing the printing of their text seemed less attainable than ever. As comparable evidence for other houses had failed to survive, it followed that for most books any detailed account of their physical production was irretrievable. There was one further important implication. While the processes of composition, correction, and printing were universal, the relationships between them on any one day were constantly changing – in the number of men and their output, in the resources they might deploy, and in the number, quality, and edition quantities of jobs on hand. Paradoxically, this extension of knowledge about the context of book production, while it induced a scepticism about the kinds of truth some forms of analytical bibliography might yield, also opened up the discipline in at least three ways. First, because the conditions of production were so much more complex than had hitherto been thought, 3

Foreword it released the subject from the straitjacket of induction, giving it a new imaginative life in the speculative range it now demanded. Second, and ineluctably, in seeking to recover the complex conditions by which texts and their multiple meanings came to be made, it drove inquiry into ever widening circles of historical context. The logic of such an extension may be seen even in the practice, common in seventeenthcentury London, of splitting up a book so that several printing houses might work on it at once. This again was a principle of concurrency whose attendant complexities in such cases demanded study of the trade as a whole if there were to be any hope of understanding the actual conditions of production. Third, it directed critical attention to other forms of visual evidence in the books themselves as determinants of meaning, especially the role of craft conventions in choosing a size and style of type consonant with the subject, its disposition on the page for clarity or emphasis, the functions of white space and decoration, the relation of format and paper quality to genre and readership, and so on. For a book is never simply a remarkable object. Like every other technology it is invariably the product of human agency in complex and highly volatile contexts which a responsible scholarship must seek to recover if we are to understand better the creation and communication of meaning as the defining characteristic of human societies. To that end, the replication of comparable forms of inquiry for manuscripts, films, recorded sound, static images, computer-generated files, and even oral texts, should therefore be notable, not for what is different about them, but for what is common to them all in their construction of meaning. The recognition that those forms of record and communication are not disparate but interdependent, whether at any one time or successively down through the years, implies such a complex structure of relationships that no model is likely to embrace them all. At best perhaps we can acknowledge the intricacies of such a textual world and the almost insuperable problems of describing it adequately – and yet still travel imaginatively and responsibly within it. For ultimately what gives the highest significance to the history of all such forms and their making is their far from silent witness to a wealth of human experience 4

Foreword whose recovery is the principal end of our scholarship. As to print, its study might be called histoire du livre, or the sociology of texts, or even (since books have been traditionally its source and substance) bibliography. The great thing about lectures is that they can be given a teasingly speculative quality: ideas are offered with an implied request that an audience use its ‘imaginary puissance’. I hope these Panizzi lectures will give such a sense of being open and responsibly speculative. They are accompanied by a more detailed paper on the Treaty of Waitangi. This too was first given as a lecture, in this case to the Bibliographical Society in London, where its general principles were intended to encourage a European audience more immediately knowledgeable about the arrival of printing some centuries earlier in other manuscript cultures. Thus it extends my notion of the sociology of texts in a context quite different from that of the London book trades. It continues to have for me a more personal value in helping to make some sense of the role of oral, manuscript, and printed texts in determining the rights of indigenous peoples subjected to European colonization and to the commercial and cultural impositions of the powerful technologies of print. Interpretation of the treaty remains a highly sensitive political issue and the significance of its implications for New Zealand society demands, by contrast with the Panizzi Lectures, the sub-text of full documentation with which it is here supported. William Congreve wrote at the end of the preface to his first book in 1691, ‘I have gratified the Bookseller in pretending an Occasion for a Preface’. Following that old custom, so too have I. It remains only for me now to express my gratitude, first, to Nicholas Wade for his permission to print his image of ‘Droeschout’s First Folio Shakespeare’ as seen through the text of Ben Jonson’s poem to its reader, and to the trustees of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, for the plates in the essay on the Treaty of Waitangi. Among the many others to whom I owe thanks for their support and advice, cautionary and corrective, I mention in particular Albert Braunmuller, Tom Davis, Mirjam Foot, Linda Hardy, John Kidd, Harold Love, David and 5

Foreword Rosamond McKitterick, David Norton, Brian Opie, Sarah Tyacke, and Ian Willison. I owe a very special debt to Roger Chartier for giving the book a much wider circulation in French than it has hitherto received in English, and for his highly perspicacious preface to that edition. The graduate students I was privileged to teach in Oxford for some ten years were a constant source of inspiration. In their intellectual quality, enthusiasm, dedication, and most of all perhaps their ingenuity in so creatively extending our inquiries into the kind of bibliography now demanded of us, they have carried the discipline forward into quite new areas while continuing to demonstrate its central role in our understanding of all forms of text. Finally, this new edition of the first series of Panizzi Lectures is most welcome for the opportunity it gives me to thank in a fittingly public manner their ‘onlie.begetter’, Mrs Catherine Devas, a lover of books and of the scholarship devoted to them. Oxford had long had their Lyell Lectures and Cambridge their Sandars, but London offered no comparable series devoted to the scholarship of the book until Mrs Devas proposed that the British Library might host such a project. The generosity of her benefaction has brought into being a lectureship of great distinction, whose close association with the British Library is fittingly celebrated in the name of Sir Anthony Panizzi, the great Victorian librarian and effective creator of the British Museum Library in Bloomsbury. His administrative brilliance and political astuteness, but most of all his moral intelligence, in affirming and securing the nation’s commitment to the principle of free access to knowledge as the essential condition of a true democracy, still have their exemplary and admonitory force. To the trustees of the Panizzi Lectures Trust, I again record my gratitude for the compliment of their invitation and my hope that their expectations and those of the donor may have been in some measure fulfilled.



For Stuart Johnston

1 The book as an expressive form 

My purpose in these lectures – one I hope that might be thought fitting for an inaugural occasion – is simply to consider anew what bibliography is and how it relates to other disciplines. To begin that inquiry, I should like to recall a classic statement by Sir Walter Greg. It is this: ‘what the bibliographer is concerned with is pieces of paper or parchment covered with certain written or printed signs. With these signs he is concerned merely as arbitrary marks; their meaning is no business of his’. This definition of bibliography, or at least of ‘pure’ bibliography, is still widely accepted, and it remains in essence the basis of any claim that the procedures of bibliography are scientific. A study by Mr Ross Atkinson supports that view by drawing on the work of the American semiotician, C. S. Peirce. It can be argued, for example, that the signs in a book, as a bibliographer must read them, are simply iconic or indexical. Briefly, iconic signs are those which involve similarity; they represent an object, much as a portrait represents the sitter. In enumerative bibliography, and even more so in descriptive, the entries are iconic. They represent the object they describe. Textual bibliography, too, may be said to be iconic because it seeks, as Mr Atkinson puts it, ‘to reproduce the Object with maximum precision in every detail’. In that way, enumerative, descriptive, and textual bibliography may be said to constitute a class of three referential 

‘Bibliography – an Apologia’, in Collected Papers, ed. J. C. Maxwell (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), p. 247; published originally in The Library, 4th series, 13 (1932), 113–43. Ross Atkinson, ‘An Application of Semiotics to the Definition of Bibliography’, Studies in Bibliography 33 (1980), 54–73.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts sign systems. Analytical bibliography, however, would form a distinct class of indexical signs. Their significance lies only in the physical differences between them as an index to the ways in which a particular document came physically to be what it is. It is their causal status that, in Peirce’s terms, makes the signs indexical. In the words of Professor Fredson Bowers, writing of analytical bibliography, the physical features of a book are ‘significant in the order and manner of their shapes but indifferent in symbolic meaning’. I must say at once that this account comes closer than any other I know to justifying Greg’s definition of the discipline. I am also convinced, however, that the premise informing Greg’s classic statement, and therefore this refinement of it, is no longer adequate as a definition of what bibliography is and does. In an attempt to escape the embarrassment of such a strict definition, it is often said that bibliography is not a subject at all but only, as Mr G. Thomas Tanselle once put it, ‘a related group of subjects that happen to be commonly referred to by the same term’. Professor Bowers virtually conceded as much in dividing it into enumerative or systematic bibliography, and descriptive, analytical, textual, and historical bibliography. The purity of the discipline which Greg aspired to is to that extent qualified by its particular applications and these in turn imply that his definition does not fully serve its uses. The problem is, I think, that the moment we are required to explain signs in a book, as distinct from describing or copying them, they assume a symbolic status. If a medium in any sense effects a message, then bibliography cannot exclude from its own proper concerns the relation between form, function, and symbolic meaning. If textual bibliography were merely iconic, it could produce only facsimiles of different versions. As for bibliographical analysis, that depends abso  

Bibliography and Textual Criticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), p. 41; cited by Atkinson, p. 63. ‘Bibliography and Science’, Studies in Bibliography 27 (1974), 88. Principally in ‘Bibliography, Pure Bibliography, and Literary Studies’, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 47 (1952), 186–208; also in ‘Bibliography’, Encyclopaedia Britannica (1970), III, 588– 92.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts lutely upon antecedent historical knowledge, for it can only function ‘with the assistance of previously gathered information on the techniques of book production’. But the most striking weakness of the definition is precisely its incapacity to accommodate history. Mr Atkinson is quite frank about this. Accepting the bibliographer’s presumed lack of concern for the meaning of signs, he writes: ‘we are left now only with the problem of historical bibliography’. He cites with approval the comment by Professor Bowers that the numerous fields concerned with the study of printing and its processes both as art and craft are merely ‘ancillary to analytical bibliography’. He is therefore obliged to argue that historical bibliography is not, properly speaking, bibliography at all. This is because it does not have as its Object material sign systems or documents. Its Object rather consists of certain mechanical techniques and as such it must be considered not part of bibliography but a constituent of such fields as the history of technology or, perhaps, information science. Such comments, although seeking to accommodate bibliography to semiotics as the science of signs, are oddly out of touch with such developments as, for example, the founding of The Center for the Book by the Library of Congress, the American Antiquarian Society’s programme for the History of the Book in American Culture, or proposals for publication of national histories of the book, of which the most notable so far is L’Histoire de l’Édition Française. I am not bold enough to speak of paradigm shifts, but I think I am safe in saying that the vital interests of most of those known to me as bibliographers are no longer fully served by description, or even by editing, but by the historical study of the making and the use of books and other documents. But is it right that in order to accomplish such projects as, for example, a history of the book in Britain, we must cease to be bibliographers and shift to another discipline? It is here, if anywhere, that other disciplines such as history, and especially cultural 

Atkinson, p. 64.

Encyclopaedia Britannica, III, 588.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts history, are now making demands of bibliography. Far from accepting that ‘historical bibliography is not, properly speaking, bibliography at all’, it is tempting to claim, now, that all bibliography, properly speaking, is historical bibliography. In such a world, Greg’s definition of the theoretical basis of bibliography is too limited. As long as we continue to think of it as confined to the study of the non-symbolic functions of signs, the risk it runs is relegation. Rare book rooms will simply become rarer. The politics of survival, if nothing else, require a more comprehensive justification of the discipline’s function in promoting new knowledge. If, by contrast, we were to delineate the field in a merely pragmatic way, take a panoptic view and describe what we severally do as bibliographers, we should note, rather, that it is the only discipline which has consistently studied the composition, formal design, and transmission of texts by writers, printers, and publishers; their distribution through different communities by wholesalers, retailers, and teachers; their collection and classification by librarians; their meaning for, and – I must add – their creative regeneration by, readers. However we define it, no part of that series of human and institutional interactions is alien to bibliography as we have, traditionally, practised it. But, like Panizzi himself, faced with everything printed in a world in change, we reach a point where the accretion of subjects, like the collection of books, demands that we also seek a new principle by which to order them. Recent changes in critical theory, subsuming linguistics, semiotics, and the psychology of reading and writing, in information theory and communications studies, in the status of texts and the forms of their transmission, represent a formidable challenge to traditional practice, but they may also, I believe, give to bibliographical principle a quite new centrality. The principle I wish to suggest as basic is simply this: bibliography is the discipline that studies texts as recorded forms, and the processes of their transmission, including their production and reception. So stated, it will not seem very surprising. What the word ‘texts’ also allows, however, is the extension of present practice to include all forms of texts, not merely books or Greg’s signs on pieces of parchment or paper. It 12

Bibliography and the sociology of texts also frankly accepts that bibliographers should be concerned to show that forms effect meaning. Beyond that, it allows us to describe not only the technical but the social processes of their transmission. In those quite specific ways, it accounts for non-book texts, their physical forms, textual versions, technical transmission, institutional control, their perceived meanings, and social effects. It accounts for a history of the book and, indeed, of all printed forms including all textual ephemera as a record of cultural change, whether in mass civilization or minority culture. For any history of the book which excluded study of the social, economic, and political motivations of publishing, the reasons why texts were written and read as they were, why they were rewritten and redesigned, or allowed to die, would degenerate into a feebly degressive book list and never rise to a readable history. But such a phrase also accommodates what in recent critical theory is often called text production, and it therefore opens up the application of the discipline to the service of that field too. In terms of the range of demands now made of it and of the diverse interests of those who think of themselves as bibliographers, it seems to me that it would now be more useful to describe bibliography as the study of the sociology of texts. If the principle which makes it distinct is its concern with texts in some physical form and their transmission, then I can think of no other phrase which so aptly describes its range. Both the word ‘texts’ and ‘sociology’, however, demand further comment. I define ‘texts’ to include verbal, visual, oral, and numeric data, in the form of maps, prints, and music, of archives of recorded sound, of films, videos, and any computer-stored information, everything in fact from epigraphy to the latest forms of discography. There is no evading the challenge which those new forms have created. We can find in the origins of the word ‘text’ itself some support for extending its meaning from manuscripts and print to other forms. It derives, of course, from the Latin texere, ‘to weave’, and therefore refers, not to any specific material as such, but to its woven state, the web or texture of the materials. Indeed, it was not restricted to the weaving of textiles, but might be applied equally well to the interlacing 13

Bibliography and the sociology of texts or entwining of any kind of material. The Oxford Latin Dictionary suggests that it is probably cognate with the Vedic ‘ta¯s.t.i’, to ‘fashion by carpentry’, and consequently with the Greek τκτων and τχνη. The shift from fashioning a material medium to a conceptual system, from the weaving of fabrics to the web of words, is also implicit in the Greek  ο ‘a web or net’, from ανω ‘to weave’. As with the Latin, it is only by virtue of a metaphoric shift that it applies to language, that the verb ‘to weave’ serves for the verb ‘to write’, that the web of words becomes a text. In each case, therefore, the primary sense is one which defines a process of material construction. It creates an object, but it is not peculiar to any one substance or any one form. The idea that texts are written records on parchment or paper derives only from the secondary and metaphoric sense that the writing of words is like the weaving of threads. As much could now be said of many constructions which are not in written form, but for which the same metaphoric shift would be just as proper. Until our own times, the only textual records created in any quantity were manuscripts and books. A slight extension of the principle – it is, I believe, the same principle – to cope with the new kinds of material constructions we have in the form of the non-book texts which now surround, inform, and pleasure us, does not seem to me a radical departure from precedent. In turning briefly now to comment on the word ‘sociology’, it is not perhaps impertinent to note that its early history parallels Panizzi’s. A neologism coined by Auguste Comte in 1830, the year before Panizzi joined the staff of the British Museum, it made a fleeting appearance in Britain in 1843 in Blackwood’s Magazine, which referred to ‘a new Science, to be called Social Ethics, or Sociology’. Eight years later it was still struggling for admission. Fraser’s Magazine in 1851 acknowledged its function but derided its name in a reference to ‘the new science of sociology, as it is barbarously termed’. Only in 1873 did it find a local habitation and a respected name. Herbert Spencer’s The Study of Sociology, published in that year, provides a succinct description of its role: ‘Sociology has to recognize truths of social development, structure and function’. 14

Bibliography and the sociology of texts As I see it, that stress on structure and function is important, although I should resist its abstraction to the point where it lost sight of human agency. At one level, a sociology simply reminds us of the full range of social realities which the medium of print had to serve, from receipt blanks to bibles. But it also directs us to consider the human motives and interactions which texts involve at every stage of their production, transmission, and consumption. It alerts us to the roles of institutions, and their own complex structures, in affecting the forms of social discourse, past and present. Those are the realities which bibliographers and textual critics as such have, until very recently, either neglected or, by defining them as strictly non-bibliographical, have felt unable to denominate, logically and coherently, as central to what we do. Historical bibliography, we were told, was not strictly bibliography at all. A ‘sociology of texts’, then, contrasts with a bibliography confined to logical inference from printed signs as arbitrary marks on parchment or paper. As I indicated earlier, claims were made for the ‘scientific’ status of the latter precisely because it worked only from the physical evidence of books themselves. Restricted to the non-symbolic values of the signs, it tried to exclude the distracting complexities of linguistic interpretation and historical explanation. That orthodox view of bibliography is less compelling, and less surprising, if we note its affinities with other modes of thinking at the time when Greg was writing in the 1920s and 1930s. These include certain formalist theories of art and literature which were concerned to exclude from the discussion of a work of art any intended or referential meaning. They were current not only in the years when Greg was formulating his definitions but were still active in the theory of the New Criticism when Fredson Bowers was developing his. The congruence of bibliography and criticism lay precisely in their shared view of the self-sufficient nature of the work of art or text, and in their agreement on the significance of its every verbal detail, however small. In neither case were precedent or subsequent processes thought to be essential to critical or bibliographical practice. The New Criticism showed great ingenuity in discerning patterns in the poem-on-the-page as a 15

Bibliography and the sociology of texts self-contained verbal structure. It is not I think altogether fanciful to find a scholarly analogy in analytical bibliography. Compositor studies, for example, have shown a comparable virtuosity in discerning patterns in evidence which is entirely internal, if not wholly fictional. I shall return to that analogy with the New Criticism, but I am more concerned for the moment to emphasize the point that this confinement of bibliography to non-symbolic meaning, in an attempt to give it some kind of objective or ‘scientific’ status, has seriously impeded its development as a discipline. By electing to ignore its inevitable dependence upon interpretative structures, it has obscured the role of human agents, and virtually denied the relevance to bibliography of anything we might now understand as a history of the book. Physical bibliography – the study of the signs which constitute texts and the materials on which they are recorded – is of course the starting point. But it cannot define the discipline because it has no adequate means of accounting for the processes, the technical and social dynamics, of transmission and reception, whether by one reader or a whole market of them. In speaking of bibliography as the sociology of texts, I am not concerned to invent new names but only to draw attention to its actual nature. Derrida’s ‘Grammatology’, the currently fashionable word ‘Textuality’, the French ‘Textologie’, or even ‘Hyphologie’ (a suggestion made, not altogether seriously, by Roland Barthes) would exclude more than we would wish to lose. Nor is bibliography a sub-field of semiotics, precisely because its functions are not merely synchronically descriptive. Our own word, ‘Bibliography’, will do. It unites us as collectors, editors, librarians, historians, makers, and readers of books. It even has a new felicity in its literal meaning of ‘the writing out of books’, of generating new copies and therefore in time new versions. Its traditional concern with texts as recorded forms, and with the processes of their transmission, should make it hospitably open to new forms. No new names, then; but to conceive of the discipline as a sociology of texts is, I think, both to describe what the bibliography is that we actually do and to allow for its natural evolution. 16

Bibliography and the sociology of texts Nevertheless, I must now turn to consider the special case of printed texts. In doing so, the particular inquiry I wish to pursue is whether or not the material forms of books, the non-verbal elements of the typographic notations within them, the very disposition of space itself, have an expressive function in conveying meaning, and whether or not it is, properly, a bibliographical task to discuss it. Again, I sense that theory limps behind practice. At one end of the spectrum, we must of course recognize that Erwin Panofsky on perspective as symbolic form has long since made the theme familiar; at the other end, we find that Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media has made it basic to media studies. In our own field, Mr Nicolas Barker, on ‘Typography and the Meaning of Words: The Revolution in the Layout of Books in the Eighteenth Century’; Mr David Foxon on Pope’s typography; Mr Giles Barber on Voltaire and the typographic presentation of Candide; Mr Roger Laufer on ‘scripturation’ or ‘the material emergence of sense’ are all distinguished bibliographers demonstrating in one way or another, not the iconic or indexical, but the symbolic function of typographic signs as an interpretative system. Words like the ‘articulation’ or ‘enunciation’ of the book in this sense make similar assumptions. Discussions of the morphology of the book 

Nicolas Barker, ‘Typography and the Meaning of Words’, Buch und Buchhandel in Europa im achtzehnten Jahrhundert, ed. G. Barber and B. Fabian, Wolfenbütteler Schriften zur Geschichte des Buchwesens 4 (Hamburg, 1981), pp. 126–65; D. F. Foxon, Pope and the Early Eighteenth-Century Book Trade, rev. and ed. James McLaverty (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991); Giles Barber, ‘Voltaire et la présentation typographique de Candide’, Transmissione dei Testi a Stampa nel Periodo Moderno I (Seminario Internationale, Rome 1985), 151–69; Roger Laufer, ‘L’Énonciation typographique au dix-huitième siècle’, ibid., 113–23; ‘L’Espace visuel du livre ancien’, Revue Française d’Histoire du Livre 16 (1977), 569–81; ‘L’Esprit de la lettre’, Le Débat 22 (November 1982), 147–59; see also Barbara R. Woshinsky, ‘La Bruyère’s Caractères: A Typographical Reading’, TEXT: Transactions of the Society for Textual Scholarship 2 (1985), 209–28. Those examples from the past, implying a consciousness of the nonverbal resources of book forms to enhance and convey meaning, may be paralleled with others from current research into text design. A useful summary is James Hartley, ‘Current Research on Text Design’, Scholarly Publishing 16 (1985), 355–68; see also James Hartley and Peter Burnhill, ‘Explorations in Space: A Critique of the Typography of BPS Publications’, Bulletin of the British Psychological Society 29 (1976), 97–107.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts in relation to genre or to special classes of readers and markets assume a complex relation of medium to meaning. Journals like Visible Language and Word & Image were founded specifically to explore these questions. The persistent example of fine printing and the revival of the calligraphic manuscript, and numerous recent studies of the sophisticated displays of text and illumination in medieval manuscript production, also share a basic assumption that forms effect sense. Perhaps on this occasion the simplest way of exploring some of these issues as they relate to the expressive function of typography in book forms, as they bear on editing, and as they relate to critical theory, is to offer an exemplary case. I have chosen the four lines which serve as epigraph to ‘The Intentional Fallacy’, the distinguished essay by W. K. Wimsatt Jr. and M. C. Beardsley which was first published in The Sewanee Review in 1946. It would, I think, be hard to name another essay which so influenced critical theory and the teaching of literature in the next forty years or so. Briefly, they argued that it was pointless to use the concept of an author’s intentions in trying to decide what a work of literature might mean, or if it was any good. And of course exactly the same objection must apply, if it holds at all, to the interpretation of a writer’s or printer’s intentions in presenting a text in a particular form, or a publisher’s intentions in issuing it at all. Let me say at once that my purpose in using an example from this essay is to show that in some cases significantly informative readings may be recovered from typographic signs as well as verbal ones, that these are relevant to editorial decisions about the manner in which one might reproduce a text, and that a reading of such bibliographical signs may seriously shape our judgement of an author’s work. I think it is also possible to suggest that their own preconceptions may have led Wimsatt and Beardsley to misread a text, that their misreading may itself have been partly a function of the manner in which it was printed, 


For an excellent example, see Michael Camille, ‘The Book of Signs: Writing and Visual Difference in Gothic Manuscript Illumination’, Word & Image I, no. 2 (April–June 1985), 133–48. The Sewanee Review 54 (Summer, 1946), 468–88; subsequently collected in The Verbal Icon (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1954).


Bibliography and the sociology of texts and that its typographic style was in turn influenced by the culture at large. My argument therefore runs full circle from a defence of authorial meaning, on the grounds that it is in some measure recoverable, to a recognition that, for better or worse, readers inevitably make their own meanings. In other words, each reading is peculiar to its occasion, each can be at least partially recovered from the physical forms of the text, and the differences in readings constitute an informative history. What writers thought they were doing in writing texts, or printers and booksellers in designing and publishing them, or readers in making sense of them are issues which no history of the book can evade. ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ opens with an epigraph taken from Congreve’s prologue to The Way of the World (1700). In it, as Wimsatt and Beardsley quote him,

Congreve’s authorized version of 1710 reads:

It has not, I think, been observed before that, if we include its epigraph, this famous essay on the interpretation of literature opens with a misquotation in its very first line. Wimsatt and Beardsley say that Congreve ‘wrote’ the following scenes, but Congreve was a deliberate craftsman. He said he ‘wrought’ them. Since the words quoted are ascribed to Congreve, I think we are clearly meant to accept them as his, even if the essay later persuades us that we cannot presume to 19

Bibliography and the sociology of texts know what Congreve might have intended them to mean. By adopting that simple change from ‘wrought’ to ‘wrote’, Wimsatt and Beardsley oblige us to make our meaning from their misreading. The epigraph thereby directs us to weaken the emphasis that Congreve placed on his labour of composition: he writes of the ‘Pains’ it cost him to hammer out his meaning. The changed wording destroys the carefully created internal rhyme, the resonance between what, in the first line, Congreve said he ‘wrought’ and, in the second line, its fate in being reduced to ‘naught’ by those who misquote, misconstrue, and misjudge him. Congreve’s prologue to The Way of the World put, in 1700/1710, a point of view exactly opposite to the one which the lines are cited to support. Less noticeable perhaps are the implications of the way in which the epigraph is printed. For Congreve’s precise notation of spelling, punctuation, and initial capitals, the 1946 version offers a flat, even insidiously open form. Congreve wrote that ‘He owns’ – comma – ‘with Toil’ – comma – ‘he wrought the following Scenes’. In their performance of the line, Wimsatt and Beardsley drop the commas. By isolating and emphasizing the phrase, Congreve may be read as affirming his seriousness of purpose, the deliberation of his art. Wimsatt and Beardsley speed past it, their eyes perhaps on a phrase more proper to their purpose in the next line. What their reading emphasizes instead, surrounding it with commas where Congreve had none, is the phrase ‘if they’re naught’. By that slight change they highlight Congreve’s ironic concession that an author’s intentions have no power to save him if an audience or reader thinks him dull. Congreve, without commas, had preferred to skip quickly past that thought. Wimsatt and Beardsley allow us to dwell on it, for in their reading it would seem to justify their rather different argument. Those shifts of meaning which result from the variants noted are, I believe, serious, however slight the signs which make them. But there are more. In his second couplet, Congreve writes: Damn him the more; have no Commiseration For Dulness on mature Deliberation.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts Again, it suits the purpose of the epigraph to remove Congreve’s irony, but as irony is crucially dependent upon context, the loss is perhaps inevitable. Reading the words literally, Wimsatt and Beardsley must take them to mean: ‘If you really think my scenes are dull, don’t waste your pity on their author’. But you will note that Congreve gives upper case ‘D’s for ‘Dulness’ and ‘Deliberation’. Those personified forms allow two readings to emerge which tell us something of Congreve’s experience. The first is that these abstractions have human shapes (they were sitting there in the theatre); the second alludes to the age-old combat between Dulness and Deliberation, or Stupidity and Sense. By reducing all his nouns to lower case and thereby destroying the early eighteenth-century convention, the epigraph kills off Congreve’s personified forms, and by muting his irony, it reverses his meaning. Where Congreve’s irony contrasts his own ‘mature Deliberation’ with the ‘Dulness’ of his critics, their meaning has him saying the reader knows best. If we look again at the form and relation of the words ‘Toil’, ‘Scenes’ and its rhyme-word ‘Pains’, we note that they, too, have initial capitals. The convention thereby gives us in print a visual, semantic, and ultimately moral identity between Congreve’s own description of his labours (‘Toil . . . Pains’) and their human products who people his plays. The text as printed in the epigraph breaks down those visual links by depriving the words of their capitals. One set of meanings, which stress a writer’s presence in his work, is weakened in favour of a preconceived reading which would remove him from it. Small as it is, this example is so instructive that I should like to explore it further. It bears on the most obvious concerns of textual criticism – getting the right words in the right order; on the semiotics of print and the role of typography in forming meaning; on the critical theories of authorial intention and reader response; on the relation between the past meanings and present uses of verbal texts. It offers an illustration of the transmission of texts as the creation of the new versions which form, in turn, the new books, the products of later printers, and the stuff of subsequent bibliographical control. These are


Bibliography and the sociology of texts the primary documents for any history of the book. By reading one form of Congreve’s text (1700/1710), we may with some authority affirm certain readings as his. By reading other forms of it (1946), we can chart meanings that later readers made from it under different historical imperatives. I may believe – as I do – that Wimsatt and Beardsley have mistaken Congreve’s meaning; that they have misconceived his relation to his tradition; that they have misreported his attitude to his own audience and readers. At the same time, their misreading has become an historical document in its own right. By speaking to what they perceived in 1946 to be the needs of their own time, not Congreve’s in 1700/1710, they have left a record of the taste, thought, and values of a critical school which significantly shaped our own choice of books, the way we read them and, in my own case, the way I taught them. The history of material objects as symbolic forms functions, therefore, in two ways. It can falsify certain readings; and it can demonstrate new ones. To extend that line of argument, I should like to comment briefly on the word ‘Scenes’. We recall first that Congreve’s ‘Scenes’ cost him ‘Pains’. Next, we should note that his editors and critics have, almost without exception, replaced his meaning of the word with a commoner one of their own. They have defined them by geography and carpentry, as when a scene shifts from a forest to the palace. For Congreve, by contrast, they were neoclassical scenes: not impersonal places in motion, but distinct groups of human beings in conversation. These made up his scenes. For him, it was the intrusion of another human voice, another mind, or its loss, that most changed the scene. The substance of his scenes, therefore, what ‘with Toil, he wrought’, were men and women. Once we recover that context and follow Congreve’s quite literal meaning in that sense, his rhyme of ‘Scenes’ with ‘Pains’ glows with an even subtler force. What he hints at is a serious critical judgement about all his work: beneath the rippling surface of his comedy there flows a sombre undercurrent of human pain. In a more mundane way, that perception may direct an editor to adopt a typography which divides Congreve’s plays into neoclassical scenes, as he himself did in his edition of 1710 where we find them restored. 22

Bibliography and the sociology of texts With that last example, it could be argued that we reach the border between bibliography and textual criticism on the one hand and literary criticism and literary history on the other. My own view is that no such border exists. In the pursuit of historical meanings, we move from the most minute feature of the material form of the book to questions of authorial, literary, and social context. These all bear in turn on the ways in which texts are then re-read, re-edited, re-designed, re-printed, and re-published. If a history of readings is made possible only by a comparative history of books, it is equally true that a history of books will have no point if it fails to account for the meanings they later come to make. Though at times they may pretend otherwise, I suspect that few authors, with the kind of investment in their work that Congreve claims, are indifferent to the ways in which their art is presented and received. There is certainly a cruel irony in the fact that Congreve’s own text is reshaped and misread to support an argument against himself. Far from offering a licence for his audience and readers to discount the author’s meaning, Congreve is putting, with an exasperated irony, the case for the right of authors, as he says in another line of the prologue, ‘to assert their Sense’ against the taste of the town. When Jeremy Collier wrenched to his own purposes the meaning of Congreve’s words, Congreve replied with his Amendments of Mr. Collier’s False and Imperfect Citations. He too had a way with epigraphs and chose for that occasion one from Martial which, translated, reads: ‘That book you recite, O Fidentinus, is mine. But your vile re-citation begins to make it your own’. With that thought in mind, I should like to pursue one further dimension of the epigraph’s meaning which is not in itself a matter of book form. It nevertheless puts Congreve in the tradition of authors who thought about the smallest details of their work as it might be printed, and who directed, collaborated with, or fumed against, their printers and publishers. One such author is Ben Jonson. As it happens, Wimsatt and Beardsley might with equal point have quoted him to epitomize their argument that an author’s intentions are irrelevant. This, for example: 23

Bibliography and the sociology of texts Playes in themselues haue neither hopes, nor feares, Their fate is only in their hearers eares . . . It chimes in perfectly with the very end of Congreve’s prologue although, here, his irony is too heavy to miss: In short, our Play shall (with your Leave to shew it), Give you one Instance of a Passive Poet. Who to your Judgments yields all Resignation; So Save or Damn, after your own Discretion. To link Congreve with Jonson is to place his prologue and what it says in a developing tradition of the author’s presence in his printed works. In that context, Congreve’s lines become a form of homage to his mentor, an acceptance of succession, and a reminder that the fight for the author’s right not to be mis-read can ultimately break even the best of us. For not only had Jonson inveighed against the usurpation of his meanings by those of his asinine critics, but he was a dramatist who for a time virtually quit the public stage to be, as he put it, ‘Safe from the wolves black jaw, and the dull Asses hoofe’. Jonson’s rejection of free interpretation is venomous: Let their fastidious, vaine Commission of the braine Run on, and rage, sweat, censure, and condemn: They were not meant for thee, lesse, thou for them. Congreve’s ironies allow him a more tactful, more decorous, farewell. Less tough, more delicate, than Jonson, he did leave the comic stage, sensing himself expelled by the misappropriation of his works, convinced that his meanings would rarely survive their reception. The imminence of that decision informs his prologue to The Way of the World. It was to be his last play, though not his last major work. On ‘mature Deliberation’, he found be could no longer bear the deadly 

Ben Jonson, The New Inne, epilogue, ll. 1–2.



‘Ode to himselfe’, ll. 7–10.

Bibliography and the sociology of texts ‘Dulness’ of his critics. By respecting not only the words Congreve uses – a simple courtesy – but also the meanings which their precise notation gives, we can, if we wish, as an act of bibliographical scholarship, recover his irony, and read his pain. In that long series of Pyrrhic victories which records the triumphs of critics and the deaths of authors, ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ has earned a distinguished place for the argument which follows its feat of misprision. Its epigraph is no celebration of Congreve’s perspicacity in foreseeing a new cause; it is, rather, an epitaph to his own dismembered text. A vast critical literature has been generated by this essay, but I am unaware of any mention of the textual ironies which preface it. With what seems an undue reverence for the tainted text printed by Wimsatt and Beardsley, the epigraph has been reproduced in reprint after reprint with exceptional fidelity, its errors resistant to any further reworking of a classic moment of mis-statement, resistant even to the force of the argument which follows it. It is now incorporate with Congreve’s history and with that of our own time. Yet if the fine detail of typography and layout, the material signs which constitute a text, do signify in the ways I have tried to suggest, it must follow that any history of the book – subject as books are to typographic and material change – must be a history of misreadings. This is not so strange as it might sound. Every society rewrites its past, every reader rewrites its texts, and, if they have any continuing life at all, at some point every printer redesigns them. The changes in the way Congreve’s text was printed as an epigraph were themselves designed to correct a late Victorian printing style which had come to seem too fussily expressive. In 1946, ‘good printing’ had a clean, clear, impersonal surface. It left the text to speak for itself. This newly preferred form of printing had conspired with shifts in critical opinion. Eliot’s theory of the impersonality of the poet affected to dissociate the writer from his text. The words on the page became what Wimsatt called a ‘verbal icon’, a free-standing artefact with its own inner coherence, what Cleanth Brooks was to call (as it happens) a ‘well-wrought Urn’, a structure complete in itself which had within it all the linguistic signs we needed for the contemplation of its meaning. 25

Bibliography and the sociology of texts The unprecedented rise of English studies and the decline of classics made quite new demands of teachers of literature. At one level, the critical analysis of prescribed texts was an efficient way to teach reading from what was irreducibly common to a class, the text itself laid out on the page in a kind of lapidary state. At another level, it brought into sharper focus than ever before the fact that different readers brought the text to life in different ways. If a poem is only what its individual readers make it in their activity of constructing meaning from it, then a good poem will be one which most compels its own destruction in the service of its readers’ new constructions. When the specification of meaning is one with its discovery in the critical practice of writing, the generative force of texts is most active. In that context, the misreading of Congreve in 1946 may be seen as almost a matter of historical necessity, an interesting document itself in the nature of reading and the history of the book. And it is a physical document. We can date it; we can read it; we can locate it in the context of The Sewanee Review and the interests of its readers; we can interpret it reasonably according to the propositional intentions of the anti-intentionalist essay which lies beneath it. It is, I hope, unnecessary to multiply instances. This scrap of prologue, this fragment of text, raises most of the issues we need to address as we think about books as texts which have been given a particular physical form. But as a dramatic text, it was originally written to be spoken, and so other questions arise. Can we hear the voice of the actor Thomas Betterton conveying orally the ironies we now read visually? Congreve’s autograph letters show no concern for the niceties I suggested in the form of the epigraph. Am I therefore reading an interpretation of Congreve’s meaning by his printer, John Watts? Is Watts merely following a general set of conventions imposed at this time, with or without Congreve’s assent, by Congreve’s publisher, Jacob Tonson? Who, in short, ‘authored’ Congreve? Whose concept of the reader do these forms of the text imply: the author’s, the actor’s, the printer’s, or the publisher’s? And what of the reader? Is a knowledge of Jonson, Betterton, Congreve, Watts, and Tonson a necessary condition of a 26

Bibliography and the sociology of texts ‘true’ reading? Does my own reading betray a personal need to prove that a technical interest in books and in the teaching of texts, is not radically disjunctive, that bibliographical scholarship and criticism are in fact one? Visited by such questions, an author disperses into his collaborators, those who produced his texts and their meanings. If we turn to the 1946 epigraph, similar questions insist on an answer. Does its removal from context entirely free it from irony? Do the slight changes of form alter the substance? Are they no more than a case of careless printing in a new convention? But the crucial questions for a history of reading, and the re-writing of texts, are these: did the intentions of these two authors (something extrinsic to their text) lead them to create from Congreve’s lines a pre-text for their own writing; and, if so, did they do it consciously, unconsciously, or accidentally? To venture into distinctions between conscious and unconscious intentions would be to enter upon troubled waters indeed. The probable answer is, I fear, banal, but as an illustration of the vagaries of textual transmission it should be given. The anthology of plays edited by Nettleton and Case, from which Wimsatt would almost certainly have taught, includes The Way of the World, the prologue to which in that edition inexplicably reads ‘wrote’ for ‘wrought’. We must therefore, I think, relieve Wimsatt and Beardsley of immediate responsibility, and we should certainly free them from any suggestion of deliberate contamination. But I wonder if they would have ventured to choose the lines had they been more carefully edited. The case, however, is not altered. If we think of the physical construction of Congreve’s text in the quarto of 1700 or the octavo edition of 1710, and its physical re-presentation in 1946, then at least we begin by seeing two simple facts. One gives us the historical perspective of an author directing one set of meanings in a transaction with his contemporaries. The other gives us an equally historical perspective of two 

I am indebted to Professor Albert Braunmuller for suggesting the probable source of the error. In fairness to Wimsatt and Beardsley, whose matching essay, ‘The Subjective Fallacy’, warns against readings uncontrolled by the formal limits of the words on the page, it should be said that they might well have welcomed and accepted as constituting a more acceptable text the lines as originally printed.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts readers creating a reverse set of meanings for an academic – indeed, a scholarly – readership whose interests in the text were different. Each perspective can be studied distinctively in the signs of the text as printed. Those signs range in significance from the trivial to the serious, but far from importing the author’s irrelevance, they take us back to human motive and intention. In Congreve’s case, they reveal a man of compassion whose scenes record the human struggle they spring from as the very condition of his writing. In one sense at least, little has changed in critical theory since 1946. New Critical formalism and structuralism on the one hand, poststructuralism and deconstruction on the other, all share the same scepticism about recovering the past. One of the most impressive objections to this critical self-absorption, to the point of excluding a concern for the complexities of human agency in the production of texts, is Edward Said’s The World, the Text, and the Critic. I can only agree with his judgement that ‘As it is practised in the American academy today, literary theory has for the most part isolated textuality from the circumstances, the events, the physical senses that made it possible and render it intelligible as the result of human work’. Commenting upon Said in his own book, Textual Power, Robert Scholes pursued the point: ‘At the present time there are two major positions that can be taken with respect to this problem, and . . . it is extremely difficult to combine them or find any middle ground between them’. Scholes described those two positions as the hermetic and the secular. To return now to my larger theme: Greg’s definition of what bibliography is would have it entirely hermetic. By admitting history, we make it secular. The two positions are not entirely opposed, for books themselves are the middle ground. It is one that bibliographers have long since explored, mapped, and tilled. Their descriptive methods far surpass other applications of semiotics as a science of signs. In the ubiquity and variety of its evidence, bibliography as a sociology of texts has an unrivalled power to resurrect authors in their own time, and  

The World, the Text, and the Critic (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p. 4. Textual Power (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985), p. 75.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts their readers at any time. It enables what Michel Foucault called ‘an insurrection of subjugated knowledges’. One of its greatest strengths is the access it gives to social motives: by dealing with the facts of transmission and the material evidence of reception, it can make discoveries as distinct from inventing meanings. In focussing on the primary object, the text as a recorded form, it defines our common point of departure for any historical or critical enterprise. By abandoning the notion of degressive bibliography and recording all subsequent versions, bibliography, simply by its own comprehensive logic, its indiscriminate inclusiveness, testifies to the fact that new readers of course make new texts, and that their new meanings are a function of their new forms. The claim then is no longer for their truth as one might seek to define that by an authorial intention, but for their testimony as defined by their historical use. There was a year 1710 in which Tonson published Congreve’s Works, and there was a year 1946 in which some lines from the prologue to The Way of the World were quoted in The Sewanee Review. Wimsatt and Beardsley might be wrong from Congreve’s point of view, but, given their published text, they indubitably are, and it is a very simple bibliographical function to record and to show their reading – indeed, in the interests of a history of cultural change, to show it up. Reviewing Scholes in The Times Literary Supplement, Tzvetan Todorov gave a blunt appraisal of the relation of the then American literary scene to the traditions of western humanism: ‘If we wish to call a spade a spade, we must conclude that the dominant tendency of American criticism is anti-humanism’. Bibliography has a massive authority with which to correct that tendency. It can, in short, show the human presence in any recorded text. 

 

Michel Foucault, ‘Two Lectures: Lecture One: 7 January 1976’, in Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972–77, ed. Colin Gordon (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1980), p. 81. ‘Against all Humanity’, Times Literary Supplement (4 October 1985), p. 1094. A variant photo-construction by Nicholas Wade may also be found in his Visual Allusions: Pictures of Perception (Hove and London: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1992), p. 124, where it forms part of an extended discussion of literal portraits.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts To the Reader. This Figure, that thou here seest put, It was for gentle Shakespeare cut; Wherein the Grauer had a strife with Nature to out-doo the life: O, could he but haue drawne his wit As well in brasse, as he hath hit His face; the Print would then surpasse All, that was euer writ in brasse. But, since he cannot, Reader, looke Not on his Picture, but his Booke. B.I.


‘Droeschout’s First Folio Shakespeare’ by Nicholas Wade. Reproduced from Word and Image I, no. 3 (1985), 259.


2 The broken phial: non-book texts 

The allusion in the phrase ‘The broken phial’ is of course to the famous passage in Milton’s Areopagitica, where he speaks of books as having ‘a potencie of life’, for ‘they preserve as in a violl the purest efficacie and extraction of that living intellect which bred them . . . a good book is the pretious life-blood of a master-spirit, imbalm’d and treasur’d up on purpose to a life beyond life’. Milton’s use of the word ‘violl’ is interesting, since, in the Greek, it usually meant a broad, flat vessel, like a saucer; and in the Authorized Version it is still translated as a ‘bowl’. The sense of its being a small glass bottle, containing an essence, seems to have developed in the seventeenth century. I have not pursued the inquiry further but I imagine that this meaning relates to the use of glass tubes and phials in scientific experiments. Their transparency would have been important for allowing one to read the level of a liquid, as we do in a thermometer or mercury-glass, or to see chemical reactions involving, for example, changes of colour. In this rather new sense, then, as used by Milton and later by Robert Boyle, it heightens the idea of enclosure, of the text as contained, determined, stable, of the author within, both clearly visible and enduringly present. When we note Milton’s spelling of the word, we see that it may also bear another meaning which we lose if we modernize it. Given the spelling of the 1644 edition (‘violl’), and Milton’s delight in music, there cannot be much doubt that we have here a typical Miltonic pun: it is as if, in reading a book, we should also be moved by the harmony of the work, what Shakespeare called ‘the concord of sweet sounds’. 31

Bibliography and the sociology of texts In such phrases, Milton puts most clearly the idea of the book as a sacred but expressive form, one whose medium gives transparent access to the essential meaning. As I tried to suggest earlier, there is a tradition in which print-inclined authors assume this. They use, or expect their printers to use, the resources of book forms to mediate their meaning with the utmost clarity. Even when writers, scribes, illuminators or illustrators, printers and publishers, merely accept the conventions of their time, with no innovative or specific intent, there are still certain codes at work from which, if we are sensitive to them, we can recover significant meanings we should otherwise miss or misinterpret. Against that tradition, however, which is ultimately Platonic, if not Hebraic, for at one level it accepts the reality of a pure inner voice, and at another, a realm of absolute truth, of ideal forms, there is of course a counter-tradition which is also Hebraic and Platonic. If God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light, writing has interposed a dark glass which obscures the light which was the voice of God. The precious life-blood of Milton’s master-spirit is inevitably watered down as it is spread around. As Shakespeare puts it in ‘Phoenix and the Turtle’: Truth may seeme, but cannot be; Beautie bragge, but tis not she . . . In a mutable world, absolutes, by definition, are rare birds. We know them only by report, and all reported information must suffer what the telecommunications engineers call ‘transmission-loss’. Plato himself made this point most delightfully in The Symposium. Socrates there remarks that ‘it would be very nice, Agathon, if wisdom were like water, and flowed by contact out of a person who had more into one who had less’. But such, of course, is not the way of things. The event Plato records as a symposium is filtered down to us ten years later through Apollodorus, who was not even there. Apollodorus, whose memory in any case, we are told, is rather hazy, is merely trying to recall what he was told by an equally vague Aristodemus, whose recollection of what Socrates had said Diotima had said, was scarcely reliable. To unsettle us further, we are told that the text of The Symposium as 32

Bibliography and the sociology of texts we have it is only a selection of bits from one particular version. As Apollodorus says, it relates only ‘the most important points in each of the speeches that seemed to me worth remembering’. Any hopes that we might have had of the alternative version are instantly dashed, for it was, in its turn, only a garbled account that Glaucon says he had from Phoenix who was not there either but who, like Apollodorus, had heard it from Aristodemus. To do him justice, Apollodorus checked out the odd detail with Socrates, but in the light of a recital like that, the claim by Barthes that the birth of the reader demands the ‘death of the author’, is again, like all European intellectual history, only another footnote to Plato. Within that counter-tradition, not only is any recorded text bound to be deformed by the processes of its transmission, but even the form it does have is shown to be less an embodiment of past meaning than a pretext for present meaning. Plato is often cited as one who deplored the shift from speech to script, and in The Phaedrus he is of course quite explicit about this. But he does in fact have it both ways. The Symposium is not only a brilliant piece of writing, but, as a memorializing act, its forms resurrect and make more of a night with Socrates than Alcibiades ever enjoyed. To come closer to our own times, the relegation of writing to the indeterminate and endlessly transforming processes of textual dissemination is a by-product of Saussurian linguistics and some of the structuralist theories built upon it. In privileging the structures of speech over those of script, it displaced the older, text-based, philological, diachronic study of language, in favour of purely synchronic analysis – how people talk now. This shift in attention away from the study of historical process makes it easy to conclude that we cannot really presume to recover an authorial voice at all, or an intended 

Roland Barthes, ‘The Death of the Author’, in Image, Music, Text: Essays Selected and Translated by Stephen Heath (London: Fontana, 1984), p. 148. Michel Foucault, in ‘What is an Author?’, raises many of the same questions as does Barthes, but his essay seems to me far more sympathetic to the range of concerns which have traditionally preoccupied those interested in the non-authorial dimensions of textually transmitted knowledge. It appeared originally as ‘Qu’est-ce qu’un auteur?’, followed by a discussion, in Bulletin de la Société Française de la Philosophie 63 (1969).


Bibliography and the sociology of texts meaning, from the written or printed records of it. We are left only with synchronic structures, and the conventions which regulate their meaning as we read. It follows, of course, that if the meaning we read is entirely a function of the structural relations within the verbal sign system which constitutes a text, then it is not something in-herent which can be ex-pressed at all. Meaning is not what is meant, but what we now agree to infer. Saussure’s insistence upon the primacy of speech has created a further problem for book-based bibliography by confining critical attention to verbal structures as an alphabetic transcription of what are conceived only as words to be spoken. Other formalized languages, or, more properly perhaps, dialects of written language – graphic, algebraic, hieroglyphic, and, most significantly for our purposes, typographic – have suffered an exclusion from critical debate about the interpretation of texts because they are not speech-related. They are instrumental of course to writing and printing, but given the close interdependence of linguistics, structuralism, and hermeneutics, and the intellectual dominance of those disciplines in recent years, it is not surprising perhaps that the history of non-verbal sign systems, including even punctuation, is still in its infancy, or that the history of typographic conventions as mediators of meaning has yet to be written. To revert briefly to Congreve, throughout that discussion one question was implicitly begged: could it be said that Congreve personally intended the meaning I read from his lines, or were the meanings I attributed to them more promiscuously generated? The question is both sceptical and anxious in its hope for reassurance. To keep alive that tension between disbelief and confirmation, I have kept in reserve Congreve’s explicit assurance in the edition of 1710 that ‘Care [had] been taken both to Revise the Press, and to Review and Correct many Passages in the Writing’. By way of general explanation, Congreve added: It will hardly be deny’d, that it is both a Respect due to the Publick, and a Right which every Man owes to himself, to endeavour that what he has written may appear with as few Faults, as he is capable of avoiding. 34

Bibliography and the sociology of texts Not to be too philosophical about it here, such a statement gives us confidence to assume that, in his case, most of the forms we have in that edition were intended. To that extent, the meanings were implied and controlled. But it does not of course remove the problem. Any specific instance could be an exception. And readers themselves of course bring such different styles of readings to texts that they can quite easily elude the subtlest forms of direction. These different styles are, in some measure, culturally determined; and if a current theory of meaning holds that an author’s voice is muted, the ideas deformed, by print, there will be a general disposition within the culture to act as if the detail of past intentions and the forms of their expression are relatively insignificant compared with present meanings. By such arguments, the integrity of the author’s text, its transparency, and the formal unity of the book which embodies it, implied in Milton’s image of the phial, have been consistently broken down. Today, one reads rather of the less-than-sacred text, the destabilized, the indeterminate, the open text. Laurence Sterne made the point about the indeterminacy of texts in a beautifully urbane and comforting way in Tristram Shandy, but he made it none the less: . . . no author, who knows the just boundaries of decorum and good-breeding, would presume to think all: The truest respect which you can pay to the Reader’s understanding, is to halve this matter amicably, and leave him something to imagine, in his turn, as well as yourself. For my own part, I am eternally paying him compliments of this kind and do all in my power to keep his imagination as busy as my own. Peter de Voogd has drawn attention to the marbled pages in the third volume of Tristram Shandy, which Sterne calls ‘the motley emblem of my work’. Each hand-marbled page is necessarily different and yet integral with the text. As an assortment of coloured shapes which are 

Peter de Voogd, ‘Laurence Sterne, the Marbled Page and “the use of accidents” ’, Word & Image I, no. 3 (July–September 1985), 279 – 87.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts completely non-representational, a marbled page as distinct from a lettered one might even be said to have no meaning at all. Most modern editions, if they do attempt to include them, and do not settle merely for a note of their original presence, will print a black-andwhite image of them which is uniform in every copy of the edition. By doing that, of course, they subvert Sterne’s intention to embody an emblem of non-specific intention, of difference, of undetermined meaning, of the very instability of text from copy to copy. Marbled end-papers were common enough in fine bindings before Sterne’s time, but by making his marbled page a textual feature, Sterne was clearly using a most forceful and innovative example of expressive form. In one sense, Sterne’s principles and practice here confirm the idea of textual indeterminacy, but in fact, in the very moment of denying the authority of the author, the extraordinary specificity of a hand-marbled page deviously confirms it. Like Plato, Sterne has it both ways. Bibliography, in Greg’s definition, would of course have sidestepped all these problems of the indeterminacy of texts: its business, as we have seen, was simply to record and compare manuscript and/or printed versions. Textual criticism, however, could not quite so easily avoid it. Since it was thought that it must have as its object a ‘true’ text, one different from each of its defective versions, some notion of ‘the text in a form its author intended’ was indispensable. In tune with the times, however, that concept too has largely collapsed. In textual criticism, the most obvious case of the unstable or open text is created by revision. Where an author revised a text, and two or more versions of it happen to survive, each of these can be said to have its own distinct structure, making it a different text. Each embodies a quite different intention. It follows therefore that, since any single version will have its own historical identity, not only for its author but for the particular market of readers who bought and read it, we cannot invoke the idea of one unified intention which the editor must serve. Historically, there can be no logical reason for editing one version any more than another. We can make aesthetic choices, but that is a different matter. We can choose, if we wish, to privilege an author’s second or third thoughts over his first, but we need not. The 36

Bibliography and the sociology of texts old idea that we should respect an author’s final intentions no longer compels universal assent. The only remaining rule seems to be that we must not conflate any one version with any other, since that would destroy the historicity of each. All this makes perfectly good sense in terms of histoire du livre. The versions are not only discrete but are telling evidence of a precise set of significances at successive points in history. But there is a curiously cautious, conservative dullness about it. On the one hand, it rejects the old idea of recovering ‘the work’ as distinct from its versions; on the other, it stops short in theory – though never in practice – of embracing the notion of creative editing in the construction of new versions. Such a policy may seem to be justified when we think that texts might be edited ‘creatively’ for political purposes. But that argument is merely a disguised form of censorship and was sufficiently answered by Milton. I find it more worrying that such a view of the function of textual criticism fails to account for ‘intention’ as a ‘speculative instrument’ (in I. A. Richards’s phrase), a means of creating a master-text, a kind of ideal-copy text, transcending all the versions and true to the essential intention of the ‘work’. In this sense, the work may be the form traditionally imputed to an archetype; it may be a form seen as immanent in each of the versions but not fully realized in any one of them; or it may be conceived of as always potential, like that of a play, where the text is open and generates new meanings according to new needs in a perpetual deferral of closure. Again, in terms of histoire du livre, this too makes perfectly good sense. History simply confirms, as a bibliographical fact, that quite new versions of a work which is not altogether dead, will be created, whether they are generated by its author, by its successive editors, by generations of readers, or by new writers. 

For a development of this point as it might be applied to a specific political problem, see the succeeding essay in this volume, ‘The Sociology of a Text: Oral Culture, Literacy, and Print in Early New Zealand’, pp. 77–130. Literature on the psychology of reading is indicative. See, for example, Marlene Doctorow, M. C. Wittock, and Carolyn Marks, ‘Generative Processes in Reading Comprehension’, Journal of Educational Psychology 70 (1978), 109 –18.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts Faced with those possibilities, ranging from an author’s manipulation of the most minute details of meaning in printed texts to the appropriation of texts as completely open to new constructions, the textual critic is in a sad case of compromise. A convenient statement of the kind of solution currently offered is that by Mr James McLaverty: The editor needs to respect the integrity of the different versions of a work, and he should consider himself free of duty to the author’s final intention. On the other hand, he must try to establish the author’s text, not that of the compositor or house-corrector. This does not entirely dispose of the concept of intention, but we can see that it breaks it down by multiplying it out into distinct synchronic structures and leaves us free to choose whichever one we wish. In rejecting conflation, it disposes of a diachronic use of intention as a structure of meaning which embraces two or more successive versions. And, finally, it continues to cast doubt on the printer’s role. These are not esoteric matters. Should you be inclined in future to read Shakespeare’s King Lear in the new Oxford edition, you will have a kind of twistaplot choice between two versions, each substantially different from the other, and both quite different from the conflated text which we have hitherto read. If you wish to be a do-it-yourself editor and construct your own text, the new edition will provide you with a kit-set consisting of a couple of virtual facsimiles of the versions which it declined to conflate (but implies that you may). Like Plato and Sterne, we can have it both ways. At a moment like this, it is tempting to call in Aristotle’s distinction between history and poetry as a model of the problem. History tells us what was: it records the versions. Poetry – the more serious and philosophical art – tells us what ought to be. To my mind, there is a moral imperative in that ‘ought’ which I personally find compelling. It can function in two ways. It may drive us, as historical scholars, to recover a ‘true’ text from the detritus of versions; or it may direct us, as creative 

The Library, 6th series, 6 (June 1984), 138.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts reader/writers, to generate the meanings that most matter to us. In either case, there is an act of creation involved. Even scholars read, and edit, with a mission. Editors make, as well as mend. The text is, in Terence Cave’s word, cornucopian. What price then Milton’s phial? Even in those unspectacular ways, we can see that critical experiment and textual theory have, at the very least, crazed and clouded the glass, if not shattered it. The moment we think of non-book texts, however, it breaks down altogether as an adequate symbol of the traditional book as the object of bibliographical and textual inquiry. What is clear is that Milton’s concept of the book and of an author’s presence within it represents only one end of a bibliographical spectrum. The counter-tradition of textual transformations, of new forms in new editions for new markets, represents the other. A sociology of texts would comprehend both. It would also extend their application to the scholarship of non-book texts. To establish the continuity of bibliographical principle in non-book forms, however, is not easy, and of course it is quite impossible to do so even plausibly in the space of half a lecture. So again, one can only be pragmatic and indicative, pointing out what seem to be parallel cases, ones where the records have a textual function which is subject to bibliographical control, interpretation, and historical analysis. It may well be that, for present purposes at least, it is more convenient to think simply in terms of homologies, of correspondent structures, suggesting that, whatever our own special field – be it books, maps, prints, oral traditions, theatre, films, television, or computer-stored databases – we note certain common concerns. To put the case at its most extreme, we should certainly have to account for visual but non-verbal texts, as well as oral ones, both in our own culture and in non- or pre-literate cultures, as well as in what are now called a-literate communities, where there is a level of functional literacy, but where the written or printed text does not have the status still enjoyed by speech. Let me begin then by asking if there is any sense in which the land – not even a representation of it on a map, but the land itself – might be a text. In their study of the Australian aboriginal tribe, the Arunta, 39

Bibliography and the sociology of texts Spencer and Gillen devote a chapter to totemic topography: every prominent feature of the landscape in the Arunta country is associated in tradition with some totemic group. ‘Special rocks, caves, trees and creeks, that have a local totemic significance, are dotted over the whole country.’ It is not simply a matter of their being sacred objects, although they may be that too, but of their having a textual function. These visual, physical features form the ingredients of what is in fact a verbal text, for each one is embedded in story, has a specific narrative function, and supports in detail the characterization, descriptive content, physical action, and the symbolic import of a narration. Reverse the telescope, of course, and it is just like the allegorical reading of landscape in, say, The Faerie Queene. At the western end of the Mount Gillen range in Arunta land is a small block of stone called Gnoilya tmerga. It stands in the middle of a wide-open flat, associated with a great, white, dog man who came from Latrika, away to the west, and wanted to kill all the dog men at Choritja. When they saw him, the local Gnoilya men sang out Wunna mbainda erinna, numma – see, this is your camp, sit down. So he sat down quietly and remained there, the stone arising to mark the spot. If the stone is rubbed by the old men, all the camp dogs begin to growl and grow fierce. The last man to rub it was one of the old Inkatas, who did so after the white men had come, in order to try to make the dogs bite them. A Eurocentric point of view does not make it easy to accept that landscape has a textual function, but, in that account, there is no way of dissociating its physical features from the narrative. The stone in its exact position means a story about the coming of the white men, and it implies a future in which the texts of the Arunta, the legends of their dreamtime, will be emended, not by scholars re-telling the story, but  

B. Spencer and F. J. Gillen, The Arunta . . . a Stone-Age People, 2 vols (London: Macmillan, 1927), I, 88. I am indebted to Professor Harold Love for this reference. ibid. I, 92.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts (as Harold Love put it to me) by mining companies blowing up mountains in the search for minerals. This is not, I think, too melodramatic a way of making a point about the nature of texts. Where the case for Aboriginal land rights is being most successfully made, against the literally entrenched opposition of those with mining rights, it is by virtue of the stories which the land holds, the codification in landscape of a whole tribal culture. It is the narrative power of the land, its textual status, which now supports a political structure dedicated to the belated preservation of the texts which make up a culture. If we can but think the question through that way round, think not of books as the only form of textual artefact, but of texts of many different kinds in many different material forms, only some of which are books or documents, then we begin to see a principle at work which has quite staggering social, economic, and political implications. The argument that a rock in Arunta country is a text subject to bibliographical exposition is absurd only if one thinks of arranging such rocks on a shelf and giving them classmarks. It is the importation into Arunta land of a single-minded obsession with book-forms, in the highly relative context of the last few hundred years of European history, which is the real absurdity. I am reminded of a story told about a member of Jesus College, Cambridge, which by virtue of its succession of very long-lived masters, had a prodigious collective memory. A recently elected young science fellow, so the story goes, was anxious to get a small reform through the Governing Body. But having been warned that, in the context of an Oxbridge college, nothing is trivial, from the placing of a comma to the misplacing of a napkin, he did his homework with great care. The time for the meeting arrived. When his item on the agenda came up, he took some pride in assuring those present that, just in case his proposal might be thought a little too radical, he had uncovered an interesting precedent in the college archives. In fact, so keen had he been to reassure them on this point, he had searched through all the records for the last 300 years and found nothing seriously inconsistent with his proposal. At which point, the Master lifted his head wearily 41

Bibliography and the sociology of texts and observed: ‘But you would agree, would you not, that the last 300 years have been somewhat exceptional?’ For the Maori in New Zealand, the arrival of books and documents has made the last 150 years more than somewhat exceptional. Despite the fact that Keri Hulme won the Booker Prize for her novel The Bone People, texts in the form of written or printed documents are still widely distrusted. This is mainly because of the strength of oral traditions, but there is another, more sinister, reason. For many Maori, the archetypal document – the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840, by which British sovereignty was secured over New Zealand – stands as a symbol of betrayal. It deprived them of their lands, and in taking their lands it threatened their culture. This is not a question of arguing a case, or proving a truth; it is a matter of daily living, or at least living daily with the consciousness of it. For the Maori, their relation to the land – epitomized in their phrase for those who belong to the land, te tangata whenua – continues to be the most important subject of debate, and land is significant, less for its commercial value – although that may now be a consideration – than for its symbolic status. A site is picketed, and public works on it opposed, more often to preserve its significance in myth and legend, or ostensibly so, than out of material interest. When looking into the implications of introducing printing into New Zealand, the attempts to make the Maori literate, and European exploitation of the legal power of documents over agreements reached orally, I had occasion to look at the Maori ‘signatures’ appended in 1840 to the Treaty of Waitangi. Some are signatures in the usual sense of the word, but most are complicated configurations. A suggestion worth exploring further is the possibility that these forms of writing may in fact be representations of natural features of the tribal lands from which the signatories came. For the British at the time, their textual significance was crucial, because in European terms these little maps – if such they are – signified assent to their assumption of sovereignty. But if, for the Maori, they signified tribal lands over which they thought they would continue to have sovereign control, under the queen’s 

A sample may be seen in plates 5a and b at pp. 118 – 19 below.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts protection, then these enigmatic signatures may yet prove to be territorial texts of some potency. In such signs we can see the idea of place hovering between the verbal and non-verbal but rising, as it were, to textual significance. The sign of the land here makes a man. The same kind of indeterminate relation between indexical sign and symbolic meaning applies to maps. If, instead of trying to decide what makes them different from books, we were instead to seek out the similarities of maps with other forms of text, we could note to begin with that the specification of place-names is clearly a linguistic feature. As such, these elements in maps are subject to the normal processes of record and comparison, to establish a line of transmission or an affinity of versions. The adoption of a reformed spelling, the substitution of indigenous names for those of colonizing powers, the graphic location and scaling of names, their typographic relation to an implied use, are dimensions of symbolic meaning in the verbal text of a map. They may not make sentences, but they are messages. The principles of textual criticism apply no less here because the words are graphically, indeed topographically, not grammatically or syntactically, defined. Difference, the essential ground of meaning in language, is here at least partly a matter of distance. But what constitutes a text is not the presence of linguistic elements but the act of construction. As Roland Barthes says of texts as the materials of myth, all that is required is that they ‘presuppose a signifying consciousness’. Traditionally, a map has rarely shown what anyone can see: its relation to reality is like that of words to the world – almost entirely arbitrary, not mimetic. Just as we see a landscape because we have already named its parts and look for what we know – for ‘valley, rock, and hill’ – so maps take on meaning by virtue of the conventional understanding given to signs and their structure in a particular text. The most primitive expression of spatial relationships in a map is more symbolic than representational, since it must involve scale and 

‘Myth Today’, in Mythologies: Selected and Translated from the French by Annette Lavers (London: Granada, 1984), p. 109.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts the omission of detail. Celestial maps are testimony to a phenomenal power of compression. The flat map expresses an ingenuity most sharply expressed perhaps in the skills of projection. Illumination, colouring, shading, calligraphy, compass-points, lines of latitude and longitude, all testify to an increasing sophistication in the use of graphic devices as expressive forms. Another, in one sense arbitrary, convention in maps is their selectivity, the decision to select certain features, but not others, by which to represent a milieu. Different maps tell very different stories, and assume very different forms, according to their function, or their point of view. Ptolemy mapped the heavens by standing on earth. Galileo remapped them by imagining that he was standing on the Sun. They are not, therefore, subject-specific, any more than books, photographs, and films are. Nor are they material-specific. Nor do they deal uniquely in spatial relationships, since many kinds of graphic and kinetic images do that. We are all indebted to the work of Sarah Tyacke for tracing, in the history of British maps, an important overlap with the book trades. For the making, distribution, and sale of maps has, like that of musical scores, been only a specialized instance of a larger trade in the production of texts, whether as manuscripts, block-prints, copper-plates, etchings, lithographs, or photographic images, on paper or any other material of widely different qualities, using type, ink, printing presses, book formats, subscription publishing, and so on, exploiting a range of markets, both domestic and foreign. The use of maps with a narrational or explicatory text, as in accounts of voyages, whether real or imaginary, is only another instance of how each mode of word and image shares something of the other’s nature in story-telling. To mention the map trade is to imply a market and therefore an intended use. Maps also raise all the questions of intention and reader

See, in particular, Sarah Tyacke, London Map-Sellers 1660–1720: A Collection of Advertisements for Maps placed in the ‘London Gazette’ 1668–1719 with Biographical Notes on the Map-Sellers (Tring: Map Collector Publications, 1978); Sarah Tyacke and John Huddy, Christopher Saxton and Tudor Map-making (London: The British Library, 1980); and English Map-Making 1500–1650: Historical Essays, ed. Sarah Tyacke (London: The British Library, 1983).


Bibliography and the sociology of texts response, without at the same time engaging the complexities which arise from the exceptional ambiguity of that special class of texts which we call literary. With maps, the deliberation with which devices are used to define meaning is clear. They establish precise relationships between the physical phenomena represented within the map as text, and, by assuming a ‘correct’ reading, they also establish a precise relationship between the reader and the text. And yet they can also pluralize reading. For example, once define a feature by colour and the long-established principle of colour-separation makes it perfectly easy to print out a version of a map which gives only, say, rivers, or only railway lines, and so on. In other words, colour is both a combinative creative tool in permitting multiple readings of the same text, as well as multiple relationships within it (for example, the crossing of a blue river and a black railway line implies – or at least it had better imply – the new reading ‘bridge’), but it also permits a series of, as it were, deconstructed readings of individual features. Even in the 1970s, in their book on the nature of maps, Robinson and Petchenik could still resist the idea that the information system within a map was either a language or a text: ‘The two systems, map and language’, they wrote, ‘are essentially incompatible’. Their objections were the familiar ones that language is verbal (‘meaningful patterns of vocal sounds’ is their definition), that images do not have a vocabulary, that there is no grammar, and that the temporal sequence of a syntax is lacking. That definition of language logically entails a limited concept of text: As is true of the reader of text, the map percipient understands some of the intended information on the basis of a complex interaction of eye and brain. But certain differences between the text reader and the map percipient are fundamental: the text reader must follow a particular sequence in his acts of visual perception, and he must relate his visual 

Arthur H. Robinson and Barbara Bartz Petchenik, The Nature of Maps: Essays toward Understanding Maps and Mapping (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1976), p. 43.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts stimuli to a system of sounds and meanings rather than to another system of visual images. If one merely ‘looks’ at an array of letter-figures, the process is never called ‘reading’. The map percipient, in contrast, can and does enter the graphic array at any point; he can stop at any point; and often he relates the visual stimuli to other visual stimuli, rather than to a system of sounds. For them, maps are silent, visual, spatial, and a-temporal. I am not myself concerned to argue that maps are a language in that narrower sense, merely that as constructions employing a conventional sign system they constitute texts, and that, not as books but as texts, bibliographical principle embraces them too. More recent writers will have taken account of developments in the theory of language systems, but it is unfortunate that the two principal theorists of mapping resisted the more inclusive uses of the concepts of language and text. They had already been employed by, for example, film theorists who had to work through many of the same problems of definition and general theory. I think in particular of Christian Metz, whose 1968 Essai sur la signification au cinéma, available in English since 1974 as Language and Cinema, had dealt with them in detail. I must make it clear that I speak of maps only as someone stimulated to inquire into certain parallels with a field I am more familiar with. It does seem, for example, that the arrival of the orthophotomap, which presents an image of the ‘natural’ surface, raised much the same kind



ibid. p. 45. On this point, see Camille, ‘The Book of Signs’, p. 135: ‘the best form of representation for refuting the arguments for the non-linguistic nature of visuality and for understanding how an image can function on the same complex semantic levels as a text is the medieval diagram. This was readable as scriptura and yet totally dependent on presentation through pictura’. See also J. B. Harley, ‘Meaning and Ambiguity in Tudor Cartography’, in English Map-Making, pp. 22–45, especially note 103, p. 45: ‘a systematic study of “carto-literacy” in early modern England is required along the lines of D. Cressy, Literacy and the Social Order, Reading and Writing in Tudor and Stuart England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980)’. Christian Metz, Language and Cinema (The Hague: Mouton, 1974).


Bibliography and the sociology of texts of question about the object ‘map’ as computer-stored information now raises about the object ‘book’. So too does what I believe is called ‘remote sensing and digital mapping’. Computerized cartography must involve highly intentional programming and the manipulation of graphics in ways which also create a temporal sequence, as indeed did celestial maps in the form of the astrolabe or concentric globes, with the help of which astrologers have been reading the heavens for centuries. The creation of map images by electrical impulses, as for example from outer space – but it could be along any land-line – involves the use of sound in a physical medium translated into light. It is not quite voice into graphics, but even the definitions offered in the mid 1970s begin to look decidedly feeble. The metaphorical use of the word ‘map’, as in ‘mapping out a project’, is easily extended to concepts other than a milieu, and as easily reproduced in screen graphics as is a traditional map. Should we not at least be asking questions about the bibliographical control of weather maps, which shift their forms ceaselessly on the living-room screens of 98% of the population, or at which point one stops a kinetic image to keep a record for posterity? But these problems are common to all forms of text, certainly of all performative ones, and it is at that level of abstraction, I believe, that we should collectively be thinking how to deal with them. Future historians of cartography, concerned to produce for climatologists a record of the transitions from one state of the climate to another, may find it deficient, their stemmatics frustrated, by our failure to devise an adequate bibliographical principle to deal with them. But to return to ways in which maps may signify as texts, it is I think worth remarking the obvious for its human implications: that the signs, whether verbal or non-verbal, may also express ideological meanings. As such they can function as potent tools for political control or express political aspirations. The visual adjacency of territories, the border-line definition of linguistic, ethnographic, religious, or political boundaries, may be an accurate record of the current facts, but the four forms seldom correspond exactly. A visual definition in terms of any one may be a subversive political act in terms of another. 47

Bibliography and the sociology of texts Brian Friel’s play Translations is a perceptive study of these dimensions of maps as texts and of the economic, political, and cultural implications of naming. Its action takes place in 1833 at a hedge-school in an Irish-speaking community in County Donegal, where a recently arrived detachment of the Royal Engineers is making the first Ordnance Survey. For purposes of cartography, ‘every hill, stream, rock, even every patch of ground which possessed its own distinctive Irish name’ had to be Anglicized, ‘either by changing it into its approximate English sound or by translating it into English words. For example, a Gaelic name like Cnoc Ban could become Knockban or – directly – Fair Hill’. It is a play full of implications for my own country where, in 1985, the Maori officially reclaimed one of New Zealand’s most beautiful mountains from British cartography which had made it Egmont. As Taranaki, it now resumes its older history. The question is one of the status of images as texts. It has now been so fully explored by William Ivins and Roland Barthes that perhaps there is not really any further resistance to it. Ivins’s analysis of the significance of technological processes in determining how we read an image – how, for example, the engraving of paintings destroyed their texture and stressed instead their composition and iconography – was a remarkably prescient account of things to come. Barthes has simply taken the analysis further by establishing the continuity of photography with prints. The camera may have rendered redundant the interpretative skills and conventional sign systems of draughtsman and engraver, but in at least two ways the photograph functions textually as an interpretative construct. First, any photograph is now recognized as yet another artifice: the frame selects the content; further selections of film stock, lens, filter, aperture, exposure, and light, set physical limits to the form of the image; any number of modifications can be introduced during development, which may affect all or only part of the image; and, of course,  

Brian Friel, Translations (London: Faber and Faber, 1981), p. 34. W. M. Ivins, Jr, Prints and Visual Communication (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1953).


Bibliography and the sociology of texts paper quality, size of print, and the milieu in which it is seen, will also determine the readings it gets. Second, as Barthes demonstrates to great effect, the photograph only signifies at all ‘because of the existence of a store of ready-made elements of signification (eyes raised heavenwards, hands clasped)’. These continuities have of course a long history, not only in the graphic expression of emotion but in the rhetoric of gesture. When he reads Garbo’s face, or the Roman fringe in Mankiewicz’s film of Julius Caesar, he finds a cultural text. In ‘Photography and Electoral Appeal’, he writes: ‘the full-face photograph underlines the realistic look of the candidate, especially if he is provided with scrutinizing glasses’; and ‘almost all three-quarter face photos are ascensional, the face is lifted towards a supernatural light which draws it up, and elevates it to the realm of a higher humanity . . .’. Such comments now seem almost naive when we think of the manner in which we are exposed to the professional encoding of ‘sincerity’ in advertising and politics, but Barthes did a service in bringing past practice into line with new technology and exposing the true nature of the texts we were reading. The same time-honoured devices of manipulative display can be found more overtly in comic-strip Shakespeare. Words become noisy with visual sound (ARRGH!!, in caps, double exclamation mark), and the sectional division of the action into frames – as in Johann Grüninger’s famed Strasburg Terence of 1496 – almost puts the pictures into motion. ‘There are sudden cuts of time and place, rapidly shifting camera angles, a mix of long shots and close-ups, a whole range of montage effects.’ But, unlike the motion picture, you can stop the action, flip it back and forth, change the emphasis and tempo, take up a full page for an expansive, liberating image, cram it with small panels to create a sense of claustrophobia, sharpen the angles to express paranoia, or use splitting-images to suggest the schizophrenic. The  

In Mythologies, pp. 92–93. I quote from a review by Bill Manhire of editions of Macbeth, illustrated by Von, and of Othello, illustrated by Oscar Zarate (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1982, 1983), in The New Zealand Listener (19 January 1985), p. 34.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts positioning of balloons to give the temporal sequence of lines is ingeniously contrived to create a text which, like theatre itself, combines the verbal, visual, gestural, and colourful, in yet another regeneration in response to what publishers conceive as new – so to put it – cultural needs. I hasten to add that I am not endorsing the form as a suitable one for Shakespeare, but simply stressing the point that such a construction of words and graphics is a complex, composite text, which seeks to impart in print at least some of the elements of performance. The relation of textual criticism to the realities of theatrical production has always been one of embarrassed impotence. The dramatic text is not only notoriously unstable, but, whatever the script, it is again never more than a pre-text for the theatrical occasion, and only a constituent part of it. The sources of such an event are the dramatist, director, designer, composer, technicians; its messages are conveyed by body, voice, costume, props, set, lights; the signals are made in the form of movements, sound, colour, even smells; light waves and sound waves channel the messages of speech, gesture, music, and scenic forms to the senses – mainly the eyes and ears – of an audience. These reader-receivers will interpret them variously and respond with laughter, tears, yawns, applause, whistles, boos, or even by leaving early. Those responses in turn sustain, or disturb, the actors in their roles. As Thomas More pointed out in Book I of his Utopia, if audience and actors fail to observe the conventions which allow this complex text to come into being, there is utter confusion. The range of codes and subcodes at work here is extremely wide. They function in movement, space, costume, make-up, setting, music, architecture, rhetoric, as well as in the idiolectal ways in which individual actors work, and in the dialectical relationships of the play’s themes, or of the company which performs it, to the community for which it is written. In many ways, it is those last considerations – if you like, the sociological dimension of production and reception – which confirm the textual nature of each element in a play. Under certain conditions of censorship, for example, colour can be highly significant; and of course 50

Bibliography and the sociology of texts a theatrical event includes almost all the features of oral performance skills, from repetition to extemporization and audience inter-play. It is in a context like this that texts are perhaps best seen, not as fixed, determined artefacts in a specific medium, but as potential. All the versions imply an ideal form which is never fully realized but only partly perceived and expressed by any one. As such, the dramatic text, like Sterne’s concept of Tristram Shandy, differs only in degree from the dynamic forms of computer graphics. When speaking of Panizzi in a recent bbc programme on the British Library, Mr Alex Wilson said: I think if Panizzi were alive today – as I say to some of my more traditionally-minded colleagues – he would be more radical, more adventurous, more outward looking, have the biggest computer of the lot. He was a man for change and adaptation, as well as a man for tradition. That seems to me absolutely right. And Panizzi, who, we should now recall, edited Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and Bojardo’s Orlando Innamorato, would not, I think, have simply accepted computing as just another technological aid, one more efficient than others for doing certain jobs. He would have asked: on what unifying, intellectual principle, does it relate to books? The round Reading Room itself has become, of course, the figure of the man in expressing his perception of the unity of knowledge. But I should like to remind you of its much earlier expression in his study of Ariosto: The general opinion has been, that the Orlando Furioso is a collection of several poems on distinct subjects; and the number as well as the denomination of these subjects, is determined according to the idea which each critic or commentator has formed of the work. But no one has hitherto tried to discover whether there might not be in the Orlando Furioso one main subject on which all the others depended, or 

Broadcast on 18 November 1985.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts from which they were derived; whether the different branches of this stately tree, although so widely spread, might not be all proceeding from a single stem, concealed from the eye by their own luxuriant foliage. If I might apply the figure in an aptly Renaissance manner: that principle of unity Panizzi was seeking in the Orlando Furioso is no less the subject now of bibliographical inquiry. What seem to be the different branches, each with its own luxuriant foliage, are the several media in which texts are stored and transmitted. But the single, hidden stem, the source of the animating principle which flows in each different branch, is the text. To apply the figure even more specifically, I should like to take an example which reflects on the relationship between computers and books, and may affect any one of us. As of 11 November 1985, under the Data Protection Act, 1984, some 400,000 computer users in Britain were required to register in compliance with the law to protect individuals from the misuse of personal data stored on computer. As from March 1986, anyone might seek compensation through the courts for damage and distress caused by the loss, destruction, inaccuracy, or unauthorized disclosure of information, and they might emend the text by having inaccurate records corrected. As from November 1987, they have had right of access to personal information stored about them on computer. But those rights of legal redress, correction, and access do not apply to the identical information – the same text – if it is stored in the traditional, written, type-written, multi-layered, paper file. One can, of course, understand the arguments from expediency for such a distinction – considerations of ownership, scale, ease of access, and so on. But of any two individuals differently affected by the different manner in which information about them is stored, one might well feel that some central, unifying concept of ‘the text’ had broken down. One individual has access, and legal redress, and can revise the text; the 

Ariosto, Orlando Furioso. With memoirs and notes by Antonio Panizzi, 4 vols (London: Pickering, 1834), I, xcv.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts other has none, and cannot. In arguing for the centrality of a textual principle in bibliography, whatever specific form the text takes, I am not denying that we must ultimately return to the fine detail of each kind of text and the professionalism, the scholarship, proper to it; but just at this time it seems more needful than ever to recover the unity in their otherwise disabling diversity. In that same rich text of his which deals with so many of these questions, Milton reassures those made anxious by the division of Truth into parties and partitions. ‘Fool!’, he exclaimed to one of them, see you not ‘the firm root out of which we all grow, though into branches?’


3 The dialectics of bibliography now 

In the first two lectures I briefly contrasted two concepts of ‘text’. One is the text as authorially sanctioned, contained, and historically definable. The other is the text as always incomplete, and therefore open, unstable, subject to a perpetual re-making by its readers, performers, or audience. To stress the first is to confirm the usual assumptions of historical scholarship: it seeks, as objectively as possible, to recover, from the physical evidence of a text, its significance for all those who first made it. To do that, I have argued, we must have some concept of authorial meaning, consider carefully the expressive functions of the text’s modes of transmission, and account for its reception by an audience or readership. As a locatable, describable, attributable, datable, and explicable object, the text as a recorded form is, pre-eminently, a bibliographical fact. Its relation to all other versions, and their relation, in turn, to all other recorded texts, are, again, pre-eminently, bibliographical facts. No other discipline – and certainly neither history nor criticism – commands the range of textual phenomena, or the technical scholarship, to deal fully with their production, distribution, and consumption. By commanding the one term common to all inquiry – the textual object itself – bibliography can be an essential means by which we recover the past. As a way of further exemplifying one part of that argument – the relation of form to meaning in printed books – I should like to consider the cases of John Locke and James Joyce. Locke was so troubled by the difficulty he had in making sense of St Paul’s epistles, that he decided to go right to the heart of the matter. In 1707 he published An Essay for the 55

Bibliography and the sociology of texts Understanding of St Paul’s Epistles. By Consulting St Paul himself. In this essay he quite explicitly addresses the question of intention, and the role of typographic form in obscuring or revealing it. More than that, he implies that if we do not get these things right, they can have the most serious social and political effects. He ascribes his problems in reading the epistles to: The dividing of them into Chapters and Verses, . . . whereby they are so chop’d and minc’d, and as they are now Printed, stand so broken and divided, that not only the Common People take the Verses usually for distinct Aphorisms, but even Men of more advanc’d Knowledge in reading them, lose very much of the strength and force of the Coherence, and the Light that depends on it. Locke objects to the eye being ‘constantly disturb’d with loose Sentences, that by their standing and separation, appear as so many distinct Fragments’. As he develops it, his argument about editorial and typographic practice has far-reaching implications: . . . if a Bible was printed as it should be, and as the several Parts of it were writ, in continued Discourses where the Argument is continued, I doubt not that the several Parties would complain of it, as an Innovation, and a dangerous Change in the publishing of those holy Books . . . as the matter now stands, he that has a mind to it, may at a cheap rate be a notable Champion for the Truth, that is, for the Doctrine of the Sect that Chance or Interest has cast him into. He need but be furnished with Verses of Sacred Scriptures, containing Words and Expressions that are but flexible . . . and his System that has appropriated them to the Orthodoxie of his Church, makes them immediately strong and irrefragable Arguments for his Opinion. This is the Benefit of loose Sentences, and Scripture crumbled into Verses, which quickly turn into independent Aphorisms. Those comments make it clear that Locke believed the form in which a text was printed not only radically affected the ways it might be read, 56

Bibliography and the sociology of texts but might even indeed generate religious and civil dissension. He then raises the whole question of authorial intention. As printed in verse, the epistles frustrated those sober, inquisitive readers who had a mind like his own ‘to see in St. Paul’s Epistles just what he meant; whereas those others of a quicker and gayer Sight could see in them what they please’. For Locke, an essential condition of following a true meaning was a proper disposition of the text, so that one might see ‘where the Sense of the Author goes visibly in its own Train’. He then adds: And perhaps if it were well examin’d, it would be no extravagant Paradox to say, that there are fewer who bring their Opinions to the Sacred Scripture to be tried by that infallible Rule, than bring the Sacred Scripture to their Opinions, to bend it to them, to make it as they can, a Cover and a Guard for them. And to this Purpose its being divided into Verses, and being brought as much as may be into loose and general Aphorisms, makes it most useful and serviceable. One finds these points repeatedly confirmed in all popular debates on moral issues. The most recent in my own experience is that about a Homosexual Law Reform Bill before the New Zealand Parliament, where, for nearly a year, members shot biblical verses from one side of the House to the other like paper darts in a school-room. Their substance was equally puerile, they made a mess, demeaned serious debate, and generated passions which led to serious civil disturbance. It was an exact replay in 1985 of Locke’s argument of 1707. Some less contentious illustrations of this relation between book forms and textual meaning may be drawn from the work of James Joyce. The 1984 ‘critical and synoptic’ Garland edition of Ulysses has been welcomed as an impressive work of scholarship. It offers in effect a parallel reading of the novel, to which it imputes a ‘many-layered and highly complex text that carries the dynamics of an extended textual development within it’. On one page we have an editorial de-construction of 

Ulysses: A Critical and Synoptic Edition, ed. Hans Walter Gabler, with Wolfhard Steppe and Claus Melchior (New York: Garland, 1984).


Bibliography and the sociology of texts the documents into their successive moments of transmission and modification by typists, printers, and by Joyce himself as he corrected proof. This is imaged on the facing page by a new construction of the work, one presumed to be implicit in the bewildering, genetic detail which opposes it, but with an explicit claim to an authority higher than that of any completed form known to Joyce. This, it is claimed, is ‘the emended continuous manuscript text at its ultimate level of compositional development’. Given the evidence which it chooses to present, what the new edition could not do was to represent the physical form of Ulysses as it was first published. I have therefore been intrigued to learn from Dr John Kidd of ways in which the 1922 edition shows Joyce working to make textual meaning from book forms, rewriting in proof in a creative interplay with the fall of the text on the page, and nudging it into patterns of pageto-text, which offer markers, boundaries, and divisions directly related to its final ‘book’ form. Being largely peculiar to that edition, these correspondent readings are automatically lost in any new setting which does not keep the identical form. They are therefore lost from the new edition, simply because its physical form is incompatible with them. Some suspicion that Joyce, of all authors, would put the medium of the book to work might have been aroused by the consciousness he shows in Pomes Penyeach. His superstition about the number 13 is well attested (‘This year is to be incessant trouble to me’, he wrote in 1921 to Harriet Beacher Weaver, adding in parentheses ‘1 + 9 + 2 + 1 = 13’). His mother died on 13 August 1903, and when he came to publish the poem which he wrote about her death in Pomes Penyeach, he placed it 13th in the book and called it ‘Tilly’ – as in the phrase ‘Twelve and a Tilly’, or a baker’s dozen. Its 12 lines of text and one of title repeat the idea of both acknowledging and denying the reality of the number 13 and its 

The two principal papers from which Dr Kidd has kindly allowed me to cite the examples given are: ‘ “Thirteen. Death’s Number” Structural Symbolism in Ulysses’, delivered at the Second Provincetown Joyce Conference, June 1983; and ‘Errors of Execution in the 1984 Ulysses’, delivered to The Society for Textual Scholarship, New York, April 1985. See also his contributions to The Irish Literary Supplement: A Review of Irish Books (Fall 1985), pp. 41–42.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts associations. The price of Pomes Penyeach was a shilling, or 12 pennies for 12 poems, with the 13th free. For that example and those that follow, and for permission to use them here, I am indebted to Dr Kidd. The first few are small, indicative ones. On reading a letter from his daughter Milly, who had just turned 15 on 15 June, Bloom says ‘Fifteen yesterday. Curious, fifteenth of the month too’. More to the point, Joyce’s revision in proof gives the letter 15 sentences. But every editorial attempt to ‘correct’ Milly’s adolescent syntax and punctuation, by reverting to earlier versions, has of course changed the count and obscured the point. So too, the passage in which Bloom reflects on the rate at which an object falls to earth (‘thirty-two feet per second’) is heavily revised in print to make it the 32nd sentence in the paragraph, where reversion to earlier readings, as in the 1984 edition, obscures that convergence of sign and sense. On page 88, Joyce added in proof a sentence of eight words to expand a newspaper death notice. It reads: ‘Aged 88, after a long and tedious illness’. To page 77 he added in proof the phrase ‘seventh heaven’; and on page 360, Bloom meditates on cycles. It is a commonplace that Ulysses retails the experience of one day and one night in a lifetime, as well as of a whole lifetime compressed into that single day and single night. But those general correspondences emerge more finely in the way Joyce develops them in proof. 1904 was a leap year. Since it is mentioned four times in the book, Joyce must have been highly conscious of it. The total number of days and nights in a leap year happens to be twice 366, or 732. The text of the 1922 edition of Ulysses falls on precisely 366 leaves or 732 pages. In a personal letter to me, Dr Kidd writes: [It] also divides evenly into diurnal and nocturnal halves. The sun sets in the seaside ‘Nausicaa’ chapter, not with a sudden plunge, but with a gradual waning, until daylight and Leopold Bloom’s consciousness are extinguished on page 365. The remainder of the book is set in darkness. . . . Bloom, seated where shore and sea meet, attending the last glimmer of midsummer light, and remarking the semicircular profile of 59

Bibliography and the sociology of texts Dublin Bay, thinks there must be a divine order at work: ‘Done half by design.’ That symmetry last appeared in the Odyssey Press edition of Ulysses, published in Hamburg in 1932. It was issued in two volumes. The final section of the first volume includes the phrase ‘Done half by design’, signalling the reader to move on to volume two, the night volume, after a full day with Bloom. Dr Kidd’s examples do, I think, illustrate the force of at least one half of my argument: that books can be expressive forms of some subtlety, and that an editorial policy which ignores that fact is likely to bring forth a text which, by its author’s standards, is deficient, though I have no wish to criticize the Garland edition, which has its own distinct purpose. Joyce engineered the publication of the 1922 Shakespeare and Company edition to fall on his birthday. He received the first two copies that day, the second of the second, 1922. Some Joyce scholars may be ruefully reflecting that on this day of the year one also celebrates the feast of the purification. I should like now to move back to that other, contrasting, concept of ‘text’ and its nature as open, unstable, indeterminate. In this sense – a sense in which the recent editors of Ulysses have employed it – the ‘text’ is in some degree independent of the documents which, at any particular moment, give it form. It is to recognize too that no text of any complexity yields a definitive meaning. The ostensible unity of any one ‘contained’ text – be it in the shape of a manuscript, book, map, film, or computer-stored file – is an illusion. As a language, its forms and meaning derive from other texts; and as we listen to, look at, or read it, at the very same time we re-write it. The word ‘text-book’, as first defined by Nathan Bailey in his Dictionarium Britannicum of 1730, reminds us of this truth: ‘Text-book (in Universities) is a Classick Author written very wide by the Students, to give Room for an Interpretation dictated by the Master, &c. to be inserted in the Interlines.’ Each student makes his or her own text. That recognition brings us full circle. Whatever its metamorphoses, the different physical forms of any text, and the intentions they serve, 60

Bibliography and the sociology of texts are relative to a specific time, place, and person. This creates a problem only if we want meaning to be absolute and immutable. In fact, change and adaptation are a condition of survival, just as the creative application of texts is a condition of their being read at all. The 1984 critical and synoptic text of Ulysses has physically changed every previous version in the act of replicating it. It has become in its turn a new bibliographical fact; and it is these facts which constitute the primary evidence for any history of meanings. They alone make possible, in their sequence, any account of cultural change. Perceived from a bibliographical point of view, therefore, the ostensible contradiction between those two concepts of ‘text’, the closed and the open, simply dissolves. But implicit in those comments are several points about the nature of bibliography which it might be helpful now to make quite explicit. First, I imply that it is committed to the description of all recorded texts. In principle, it is comprehensive, and therefore indiscriminate. Any national collection formed largely by copyright deposit shows this non-elitist, non-canonical, non-generic, all-inclusive principle at work. International networking simply extends it. Ultimately, any discrete bibliography of subject, person, or collection merely contributes to an ideal of that universal bibliographical control. It thereby enables the discovery of any possible relationship there might be between any one text and any other text – whenever, wherever, and in whatever form. In other words, bibliography is the means by which we establish the uniqueness of any single text as well as the means by which we are able to uncover all its inter-textual dimensions. Second, because it is bibliography’s job to record and explain the physical forms which mediate meaning, it has an interpretative function which complements and modifies any purely verbal analysis. In principle, it can fulfil this function in any of the modes in which texts are transmitted, not just printed books. It is therefore equally relevant, as a discipline, to any structure of meaning which is recordable and discernible. Third, it impartially accepts the construction of new texts and their forms. The conflation of versions, or the writing of new books out of 61

Bibliography and the sociology of texts old ones, is the most obvious case. But the construction of systems, such as archives, libraries, and data-banks, is another. In every case, the elements from which they are constructed are bibliographical objects. A test case would be the sale and dispersal of, say, the library of a seventeenth-century scholar: we become acutely aware at such moments of a library’s status as a text or a meta-text, and of its biographical and intellectual meaning. Fourth, bibliography is of its nature, and not merely as a partial effect of some more essential function, concerned specifically with texts as social products. The human and institutional dynamics of their production and consumption, here and now, as well as in the past, have therefore led me to suggest that we might find in the phrase ‘a sociology of texts’ a useful description of its actual scope. I must now turn to some exemplary cases of non-book texts and at least try to set out my reasons for thinking that bibliography has a duty to these. In doing so, it is worth recalling, I think, Hobbes’s comment in The Leviathan that The Invention of Printing, though ingenious, compared with the invention of Letters, is no great matter . . . But the most noble and profitable invention of all other, was that of Speech, consisting of Names or Appellations, and their Connexion. He reminds us here of what we are now having to re-learn: that print is only a phase in the history of textual transmission, and that we may be at risk of over-stating its importance. The relatively recent introduction of printing into non-literate societies has seldom endorsed our traditional view of its efficacy as an agent of change. Even in our own society, oral text and visual image have not only enjoyed a continuity (albeit, enhanced by print), but they have now resumed their status as among the principal modes of discourse with an even greater power of projection. The origins of that revival are much older than we might 

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan Or the Matter, Forme, and Power of A Commonwealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil (1651), part I, chapter 4.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts care to recall: the telegraph and photograph, telephone and phonograph, and even the motion picture itself, are all nineteenth-century inventions. In retrospect, the failure to develop forms of bibliographic control, adequate archiving, and proper public access on the model of the traditional library is understandable. But the cumulative force of those new media, together with even more recent ones like television, magnetic tape, optical disc, and computers, and the significance of the texts recorded in them, are now such that further neglect is inexcusable. A future social historian, writing about the need for, and the political appeal of, say, ‘law and order’ policies in the 1980s, would find the traditional texts of novels, plays, newspaper reports of football violence, official records of the parliamentary debates and legislation, relevant and accessible. But they would be quite incomplete without some account of television. I think in particular of a clip from a recent news item. A class of small children were being asked if they liked to watch programmes which had lots of violent action in them. One small boy’s eyes lit up as he told the reporter how exciting he found it, how it made him feel that he wanted to be strong like that, to run in and kick, and knock people down. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ asked the reporter. The instant reply was: ‘A policeman’. I am not concerned here to pursue the interpretation of the text, but I am concerned to note that it is a text, and that future access to it might prove extremely instructive, not only about our present society, but about the nature of the one we may have become 20 years hence. But I cannot be sure how easy it might be to see a full range of films, or relevant television programmes; and the chances of a particular newsclip surviving in an easily accessible form are even more problematic. In many ways, the film and video tape are the most complete summation of a tradition of oral, visual, and written and typographic communication. As the forms of text most immediately accessible to non-literate or a-literate societies, they perhaps make the most urgent demands of traditional bibliography for its descriptive methods, and its skill in conserving and accessing textual records. Films are deliberated, composed works in their total organization; as completed texts, they 63

Bibliography and the sociology of texts are objects more amenable to complete study than, say, unrecorded speech or a theatrical event. They have a physical length, a temporal span, and repeatable presence. Their use of sound, image, colour, and movement makes them an ideal starting point for the extension of bibliographical principle from book to text. But I think it is only proper to select an undisputed classic in which to explore the analogies I should like to draw, and so I turn now in tribute to the work of Orson Welles, in particular of course, to Citizen Kane. It is a film I think which might be familiar to most of us; certainly it is one of the few to be given high canonical status, and therefore to have an unusually rich supporting literature. It opens and closes with a literal sign denying access, an image that is both verbal and visual. It is posted outside Kane’s immense mansion of Xanadu, and reads ‘NO TRESPASSING’. It is a playful image of enclosure, a detail of the film’s tight textual construction, and of the intimate reciprocity of its verbal and visual text. Xanadu is no true pleasure dome. Reviewing the film in 1946, Borges saw in it the familiar structure of the centreless labyrinth, a world of fragments without unity, a recurrent symbol of the archive, the library, the museum, posing the same challenge to order, creating the same fears of failure. With the prodigality of a Huntington or a Folger, or in this case even more pertinently a Pierpont Morgan, Kane poured into Xanadu specimens of the world’s treasures in the hope of modelling in them a system which eluded him in life. Lying old and ill in their still dis-ordered midst, Kane dies muttering the word ‘Rosebud’. We hear it in his ‘old, old voice’ at the start of the film, which then proceeds by flashback to recover the story of his life, the business of what Pauline Kael has called ‘raising Kane’. In hopes of pinning down the meaning of the enigmatic ‘Rosebud’, a reporter resurrects Kane’s public life by running a nine-minute newsreel made up of clips of its main events, but this ostensibly factual source of evidence, the contemporary record of ‘News on the March’, 

Jorge Luis Borges in Focus on ‘Citizen Kane’, ed. R. Gottesman (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1971), pp. 127–8.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts turns out to be as fragmentary and as full of false emphases as the printed newspapers which Kane himself published. As if to prove yet again that the truest poetry is the most feigning, Welles’s own film supplants the newsreel as the source of truth. In doing so, it re-presents the ‘news’ in its true complexity with a clarity and a penetration which shows up the coarse conventions at work in the ‘factual’ documentary record. Welles can re-present and date those conventions all the more readily because flashback in films has always required a high consciousness of sign systems in order to establish a difference from the narrative present. It is a resource that Woody Allen exploits to hilarious effect in Zelig and The Purple Rose of Cairo. The first, if you are so inclined, may be read as a parody of all historical scholarship; the second, of all post-structuralist criticism. But my point of course is that films use, in a way more accessible than in books, formal systems of datable signs to recover the past. The conventions change with extreme rapidity, as we can tell from our own experience of re-viewing an old film we had thought quite natural when first we saw it. What once seemed to have the innocence of truth betrays – before long – an embarrassing artifice. The press reporter’s search for the explanation of ‘Rosebud’ is frustrated. Oral witness fails too in its variant versions of the same events. The documentary ‘facts’ are silent. Only as the film ends, and we see a workman toss an old sledge into a fire, do we catch a glimpse of the answer in the period lettering of the word ‘Rosebud’ painted on the sledge. It is a trite, sentimental, novelettish note, but in it Kane’s voice becomes visible. The verbal image takes on graphic form, and like the script itself becomes the necessary complement to the non-verbal, visual constructions, which would fail of meaning without it. As a text, Citizen Kane generates a critical dialogue which has numerous affinities with literary criticism. In its counterpointing of an elusive past with a questing present, its contrasting of the sub-literary genres of newsreels and newsprint with the high-culture of the canonical art-film, in its posturing with hermeneutics as the search for meaning within a closed structure, it is as fruitful a subject for critical inquiry as most printed texts. If that seems too solemn an account of its range of 65

Bibliography and the sociology of texts interests, then we can find in its cinematic poetry, as we can in The Dunciad, a vulgar, rumbustious, and always entertaining satire on the muck-raking press as one aspect of the social history of printing and publishing. Indeed, in its own attack on William Randolph Hearst, it imitates its subject. Those themes are not trivial, and they are recorded in a form which is so central now to the experience of our society, in particular that of the students who will be tomorrow’s scholars, as to warrant an advanced scholarship to serve it. Such a scholarship might note in Orson Welles himself the role, familiar in publishing, of the outsider as a significant source of innovation, the problems of funding, the threats of libel actions, the plot to buy up the film before its release and destroy the negative and all the prints; the formal features of the finished film, the semiotics of its textual detail; the constraints of censorship – indeed, the film’s effectual suppression during the McCarthy era; the authorship and versions of the script, and subsequent re-releases; the manner of its distribution, the history of its reception; the annotational realm of Kane as a figure of Hearst, of the character Thatcher as J. P. Morgan junior, as well as the allusive plundering of the film by a generation of other directors. The film is a total social fact and a total text. Film-makers, spectators, and critics all think in terms of films as texts, because only some such word makes sense of the discrete parts of which a film is constructed. The concept of a text creates a context for meaning. In other words, we are back to the initial definition of text as a web, a construction of warp and weft, and discover that, however we might wish to confine the word to books and manuscripts, those working in films find it indispensable. There is, I think, no profit to be gained by disputing the point: one accepts that the word now has a meaning which comprehends them all. Those who wish to contain it by confining it to books are like Milton’s ‘gallant man who thought to pound up the crows by shutting his Parkgate’. Film theory of the 1960s and 1970s was still strongly influenced by structuralism in one way which bears significantly on my own argument about ‘pure’ bibliography (in the Greg-Bowers sense) and historical bibliography or the sociology of texts. In discussing photography, 66

Bibliography and the sociology of texts for example, Roland Barthes drew a distinction between the finished artefact as a closed construction and its context: The emission and reception of [a photographic] message both lie within the field of sociology: it is a matter of studying human groups, of defining motives and attitudes, and of trying to link the behaviour of these groups to the social totality of which they are part. The message itself, he claimed, had a structural autonomy in what it signified, and describing it was the business of semiotics. So too Christian Metz drew a distinction between the film as a textual system (whether confined to a single film or extended to the infinite text of what we call genre) and the cinema, which is the whole social complex of a film’s production and consumption. It is my contention of course that this distinction ultimately fails, since the definition of meaning – in reading the conventional details of a text – is logically dependent upon prior decisions and social effect. Like typography as a conscious, interpretative skill, every presentational feature of a film is calculated to express symbolic meaning. It is unceasingly deliberate in its selection, shaping and pointing of significance. Since it bears on the parallel I am suggesting between books and films as expressive forms, I should like to take up this last point with a comment from Gregg Toland, the director of photography for Citizen Kane. In ‘How I broke the Rules in Citizen Kane’, he makes a distinction between ‘photographic commands and conventions in shooting the picture’: Photographically speaking, I understand a commandment to be a rule, axiom, or principle, an incontrovertible fact of photographic procedure which is unchangeable for physical and chemical reasons. On the other hand, a convention, to me, is a usage which has become familiar through repetition. It is a tradition rather than a rule. With time, the convention becomes a commandment, through force of habit. I feel that 

Image, Music, Text, p. 15.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts the limiting effect is both obvious and unfortunate. With those definitions in mind, I’ll admit that I defied a good many conventions in filming Citizen Kane. That is precisely what Congreve and Tonson must be said to have done in designing Congreve’s Works (1710). The analogy here with the technologies of print in relation to the finished book could be pushed further by a more technical discussion of how Welles altered our perception of reality by obtaining an unusual depth of field, of the experiments with high-speed film stock, the treating of the lens surface to eliminate refraction, the use of the twin-arc broadside lamp, the lap dissolves and their relation to the foregrounding or backgrounding of images, or the composition of shots. All those technical details are of course peculiar to the construction of film texts, not books, but their function is still to create meanings by the skilled use of material forms. In that, and in the relation of technology to expression, I think the parallel holds. But it may be more readily granted in the area of description. Pauline Kael has edited the final shooting script of Citizen Kane dated 16 July 1940, and the subsequent so-called cutting continuity. She explains the difference between them as that of before and after: The shooting script is written before the film is shot – it is the basis for the film; the cutting continuity is a stenographic record made from the finished film. Cutting continuities tend to be impersonal and rather boring to read, and if one examines only the cutting continuity it is difficult to perceive the writers’ contribution. Shooting scripts are much more readable, since they usually indicate the moods and intentions. 

Focus on ‘Citizen Kane’, p. 73. Robert L. Carringer, The Making of ‘Citizen Kane’ (London: John Murray, 1985), should also be consulted; there is a most useful bibliography at pp. 165–71. In The Citizen Kane Book: Comprising The Shooting Script of Citizen Kane by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles; The Cutting Continuity Transcript of the Completed Film; preceded by Raising Kane by Pauline Kael (London: Methuen, 1985), p. 83.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts Her use of the word ‘intentions’ is only the most immediate note of a congruence with the traditional concerns of bibliography and textual criticism. The relationship of the shooting script to the finished script is much like that of a manuscript draft, not even perhaps a fair copy, to a printed text, whereas the more boring cutting continuity comes closer to the iconic record of a bibliographical description. There are three versions of the shooting script as preserved in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Another, described as the second, revised final script, dated 9 July 1940, and earlier than any of the other three, was submitted to the Production Code Office for clearance. It passed the test except for some four or five details. One of them recalls the effects on Shakespeare’s text of the Act of Abuses of 1606: ‘Please eliminate the word “Lord” from Kane’s speech “. . . the Lord only knows . . .”.’ Another puts one in mind of Polonius, concerned lest his son ‘enter such a house of sale, Videlicet, a brothel’, because there was such a place nominated as a locale for set C. But the Production Code demanded that it be dropped. What it is important to know, as an aspect of Welles’s intention, is that the scene had only been written in for trading purposes in the sure knowledge that it would have to be cut, but in the hope that other, less obtrusive, items would then slip through, as they did. Pauline Kael reprints the shooting script as revised, although there is no table of variants. What we do have are brief notes on departures from the script as the film was made. Then there is the RKO cutting continuity, dated 21 February 1941. Its apparatus consists of a brief note (‘Slightly amended to correct errors in original transcription’), but for the rest, it represents a version of the full film text which, in default of being the film itself, is a bibliographer’s dream of iconic accuracy. Like a description of ideal copy, it enables one to test all actual copies in the minutest details for sequence and completeness. For example, to correspond with the authentic version, a copy must run for one hour, 59 minutes, 16 seconds, though it will run shorter on television. There are seven reels, each divided into numbered scenes. The left-hand entries in the description are details of the length of each of these in feet; in the


Bibliography and the sociology of texts centre are notes on the scene, the camera’s and the actors’ movements, and, under centred speech headings, the dialogue; on the right, is a description of the manner in which the scene is changed. To anyone familiar with the making or teaching of films, these details are commonplace. Again, my concern is merely to establish the point that the older disciplinary structures of bibliography, in the description of books and the construction of texts from the extant versions, are closely comparable to those required for film, and that the common interest is at this stage served by acknowledging that the discipline comprehends them both. It is ironic that in an age when type for books is film-set, and when, for purposes of storing the information content of books, we would now turn them into photographic images on plastic, the film itself should still be labouring for bibliographical and textual attention. Those which get it, like Citizen Kane, are the rare exception. Bibliographers – as ‘pure’ bibliographers – may of course continue to insist on making a rigorous distinction between books as we commonly know them and non-book forms, and on the restriction of ‘pure’ bibliography to description and analysis of the book as a physical object. But libraries – and especially national libraries, with a responsibility to the culture at large, past, present, and future – are under significant pressure to evolve systems which accommodate these new forms of text in a rational, coherent, stable, and yet socially accessible way. The pattern is already pragmatically there in the transformation of our personal and city libraries. Some of us still buy books, of course; but we also borrow them, and we have left to the public conscience and public institutions the responsibility for preserving the newspapers and periodicals that we dispose of. Most of us have music, and could have videos, on disc or tapes, and the machines required to hear and see them. We are beginning to store information at home in our own computer files, or to buy access to other systems. That principle of buying access is simply an extension of the old idea of the lending library: we do not buy the book so much as the time in which to read it. With new forms of text, we buy, in bulk, the reading, viewing, or listening time in 70

Bibliography and the sociology of texts the form of an entrance fee to the cinema, a hiring fee for the disc or video, or a wireless and television licence fee for all or any texts that might be made and transmitted in the year ahead, or we pay an access fee for the information in a data bank. By decision of the United States Supreme Court, it is no infringement of copyright there to record television programmes in order to shift time. But in fact the technical capacity most consumers now command – as readers, listeners, or viewers – to copy texts in that way, has also in part transformed the notion of purchase as a form of acquisition and the ways in which – some of us at least – form our personal libraries. Such reflections form the terms of an all too familiar litany over the demise of the book. My concern is different. It is to find the continuity of these forms with past forms, of our new libraries with past libraries in their traditional function as collectors, conservators, classifiers, and communicators, as classically exemplified by Panizzi. Even the use of computer technology to supply information changes in only one respect that traditional function. Whereas libraries have held books and documents as physical objects, computer systems have been mainly concerned to retrieve content. Library conservation and interlending policies are already pushing certain classes of existing document into that mode; and the creation and supply of new texts in non-printed form for direct consultation on screen, or subsequent hard-copy print-out, is increasing. The principle of record and access, of catalogue and holdings, is not changed but only refined. It is too seldom remarked that library systems influenced computing in the development of its capacity to process basic catalogue functions by symbolic listing, selection, and arrangement. It should also be remembered that it was not the sophistication of computing in its early stages which biased its use towards science, but its limited memory and therefore its inability to handle the complexity and range of verbal language as distinct from combinations of the numbers o to 9. Only as its memory systems have grown has the computer changed its nature from blackboard to book. It has at long last become literate and qualified to join other textual systems. In time, I suppose, as it now learns to speak, it will constitute an oral archive as well. 71

Bibliography and the sociology of texts But one consequence of the computer’s retarded development for many years has been a much slower recognition of the essential consonance of its functions, like that of other non-book texts, with the traditional purposes of libraries. Large, long-established, institutional structures are not notable for their ability to adapt rapidly to changed conditions, but if a common principle can be perceived and acted upon, it does at least open up to us a politically important leadership role. Once that is acknowledged, it is not a question of creating a monolithic institution with the curatorial role of preserving all forms of text (the National Sound Archive is part of the British Library; the British Film Archive is not). What is important is the promotion of inter-institutional collaboration in the pursuit of a common aim, and the proper provision at last for the archiving and accessing, the bibliographical control, of the new kinds of text. That reflection returns me to film as my chosen case. The concept of the archive has of course been recognized now in the use of the name in several countries. Where ‘film library’ implies active lending and limited retention, the ‘film archive’ implies the primacy of a custodial function and a principle of access restricted to conditional consultation. But despite much individual, dedicated work, it is rare to find resources available on a scale commensurate with the need. MARC (machine readable cataloguing) standards have been set by the Library of Congress for the description of films, but books remain privileged over them, and in default of political imperatives with matching resources, the application of standards – as in my own country – is at best fitful or highly selective. Although films enjoy the benefits of 

The British Library Act specifically empowers The British Library to extend its sphere of interest into films and other non-print materials. In a position statement prepared for The British Library in 1985 on non-book materials, Catherine F. Pinion wrote: ‘It is clear that [non-book materials] represent a major and increasing part of the nation’s and the world’s output and heritage of recorded knowledge. It is arguable, if not self-evident, that they should receive equivalent treatment to printed material, with regard to collecting, availability, preservation and “bibliographic” control. In actual fact, the position is distinctly inferior in all those respects.’ The use of the word ‘bibliographic’ is inevitable in such a context, but it is to be hoped that its still equivocal status, as signalled by the quotation marks, will be speedily resolved.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts copyright protection, in neither Britain nor New Zealand is there any provision for their legal deposit. What is done is again done by personal or commercial initiative, without legal sanction, and usually without adequate funding for archiving in the full range of its obligations. The problems of access can therefore be acute. They range from the philistinism which, in the name of commerce, has completely destroyed artefacts of outstanding merit, to mutilation by censorship, cutting, gross imping out with commercials, or the private retention or suppression of cultural documents of such quality and significance that they should be in the public domain. In the 1960s, British television drama, in quality of scripting, performance, and production, was of a standard it has rarely achieved since. But it might be difficult to prove the point because many of the programmes have been destroyed. After the exact number of transmissions for which, by contract, the performers had been paid, Equity rules required the master and all copies to be destroyed lest the contract be infringed by later, unauthorized transmissions. I think those conditions force us to ask: ‘What principle, if it is not a bibliographical principle, determines questions of authority, transmission, and reception in all those cases? And in what measure must a public library as the traditional custodian of books, and bibliography as the relevant discipline, take up the cause for such texts?’ I stress ‘public’ because commercial considerations rarely bear upon the past with much responsibility to historic depth. There are basically three points: copyright, storage, and access. Copyright deposit puts all specified works into the public domain and thereby ends all the uncertainties that informal and private arrangements are heir to. Storage will always be costly of space and labour, if the original artefacts are to be kept. Just as vellum manuscripts were scraped clean for re-use, so too 

The position is improving. While correcting proof for the first edition of this text, I purchased (Woolworth, £7.95) a video-cassette of Citizen Kane. The regular note in TV Times, however (paralleled in The Radio Times), makes an important textual point: ‘Feature films shown on television are not necessarily in the form seen in cinemas. Often several variations are made at the time of production for use according to the intended outlet. In some cases cinema versions may be used, with minor cuts for violence, explicit sex and bad language.’


Bibliography and the sociology of texts are magnetic tapes vulnerable to re-use, with the destruction of the texts already in them. A principle of economy in the service of private interest renders all records vulnerable. Why keep them if the demand year by year diminishes to the point where they are seldom consulted and it becomes unprofitable to maintain the structures which house and service them? Even in the public realm, some texts are more equal than others, a principle of frequency of use is invoked, and policies of selective retention constantly advocated. But even given deposit and proper storage, access to original artefacts which are machine-specific will need batteries of historic equipment on which to re-play them. In fact, it is more likely to involve the frequent re-copying (and, by a wellknown textual principle, their gradual degeneration?) to make them compatible with new technology. Those considerations suggest that only a traditional, bibliographically informed concept of library service, dedicated to the public interest as a matter of principle and not of profit, will effect the preservation of such texts, guarantee their authenticity, and ensure access to them. I hope it is unnecessary for me to stress my personal interest in bibliography as the study of books and their history, but I hope there is no mistaking either the earnestness with which I have been concerned to argue the case for a comparable attention to other forms of recorded texts. I may be mistaken in my premises and in my logic, but I have tried to argue the case in terms of principles and continuities as I have come to experience them. The book as we know it will, of course, remain an important form of text – for many purposes, the most important. I want nothing to do with fashionable claims that – as Tom Stoppard might have put it – the pages of the book are numbered. I am well aware that, when we are so committed to the force, indeed here to the encircling presence, of their tradition, it seems impossible, this side of tragedy, to live without them. And yet there has always been that counter-mythology which has affirmed the demands of the world, against those of the book. We find it at work even in such a bookish novel as Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. You will remember that a bibliographical curiosity there flowers into life as Eco reconstructs from it an elaborate figure 74

Bibliography and the sociology of texts of the ingeniously ordered, but labyrinthine, Alexandrian archive, only to deconstruct it again in the old and fearful symbolism of the library as a furnace. Fire consumes the books. As it rages, the librarian as jealous conservator of knowledge, the reader (if you like) as bookworm, literally – letter by letter – eats the sole text of Aristotle’s treatise on comedy in a desperate effort of enclosure. It is a last-ditch denial of the multiple life of the text as a communal property, the ultimate image of the library as a closed-book system. At the same time as it disappears from view into its only reader, the text itself, unique and therefore indistinguishable from the poisoned state of its physical form, consumes and destroys him as it becomes wholly his. The moral is deadly: we can become too absorbed by books. Brilliant though it is, the factitious density of its inter-textual comedy has The Name of the Rose, like all accounts of texts and their readers, ending up as just another fiction about a non-existent text, yet another story (so to say) of Echo and Narcissus. By contrast, Marlowe’s Faustus gives us, perhaps, the most poignant statement we have of the tragedy which books can entail. When this scholar Faustus selects his texts and constructs from them his own version, his book of the self, he reads his way to hell. Ieromes Bible, Faustus, view it well. Stipendium peccati mors est: ha, Stipendium, &c. The reward of sinne is death: thats hard. Si peccasse negamus, fallimur, & nulla est in nobis veritas. If we say that we have no sinne, We deceiue our selues, and theres no truth in vs. Why then belike we must sinne, And so consequently die. Faustus reads in Jerome only a single sense dictating a fixed fate. What he omits are the words that refer to mercy, the very foundation of which – if I may so put it – is the variant reading, an openness to interpretation, a deference to the spirit in preference to the letter. Trapped by the paradox that texts are both closed and open, fixed and flexible, defined by one context only to be redefined in others, Faustus despairs. 75

Bibliography and the sociology of texts Instead of using judgement, he suffers it; and with his agonized cry – ‘I’ll burn my books’ – he rejects the whole tradition of book-learning. Of all the traditional enemies of books in this counter-mythology, none are so powerful as fire and water. These will devour sense, or drown it, with more dextrous celerity than a whole cortège of critics. If Faustus invokes the one, it is Prospero who invokes the other. The Tempest towers above all other texts as an exposition of the instrumentality of the book, a key to open the mysteries of nature, a tool to oppress and confine the savage mind. Prospero makes plain how much they meant to him when he recalls Gonzalo who, of his gentleness Knowing I lou’d my books, . . . furnish’d me From mine owne Library, with volumes, that I prize aboue my Dukedome. And yet one of the most remarkable perceptions in that spare but infinitely generative play is Prospero’s even greater need to surrender his power, and with it the books which bestowed it: And, deeper than did euer Plummet sound Ile drowne my booke. Encased by his library, he had shut out the world. Me (poore man) my Librarie Was Dukedome large enough . . . At the heart of the English Renaissance, a period unprecedented for its readerly-ness and writerly-ness, two voices warn us that books are not always enough. It seems a simple point to end on, but the times again give it proof. As the British Library begins like Prospero to dismantle itself, and surrender its magic circle for the square, its redefinition as a library of texts, verbal, numeric, and visual, and in many different media, is also imminent. Defining the ways our world might use them, the structure that orders them, and the future scholarship that they must serve, will demand of bibliographers more than I think we currently offer. It asks no less than a new concept of the text in history. 76

T H E S O C I O LO G Y O F A T E X T: O R A L C U LT U R E , L I T E R AC Y, A N D P R I N T I N E A R LY N E W Z E A L A N D 

Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand In New Zealand the twenty years or so immediately preceding 1840 span the movement from orality, through manuscript literacy, to the introduction of printing. In a minor way therefore they replicate in a specific and largely quantifiable context the Gutenberg revolution in fifteenth-century Europe. In that New Zealand context one significant document, the Treaty of Waitangi, witnesses to a quite remarkable moment in the contact between representatives of a literate European culture and those of a wholly oral indigenous one. It can be used as a test case for measuring the impact of literacy and the influence of print in the 1830s; and it offers a prime example of European assumptions about the comprehension, status, and binding power of written statements and written consent on the one hand as against the flexible accommodations of oral consensus on the other. Its variant versions, its range of ‘signatures’, and the conflicting views of its meaning and status bring all those questions sharply into focus. Conversely, a fuller understanding of the conditions of orality and literacy at the time it was signed may help to define more accurately the ways in which the treaty might now be reconstructed, interpreted, and applied. On 6 February 1840 forty-six Maori chiefs from the northern regions of New Zealand ‘signed’ a document written in Maori called ‘Te Tiriti o Waitangi’, ‘The Treaty of Waitangi’. In doing so, according to the English versions of that document, they ceded to Her Majesty the Queen of England ‘absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty’ which they themselves individually exercised over their respective territories. That act of assent became the substantive ground of British sovereignty over New Zealand. Beneath a statue  

This paper is based on an address delivered to The Bibliographical Society, London, on 15 February 1983. I have consulted the treaty documents as reproduced in Facsimiles of the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Waitangi, ed. H. H. Turton (Wellington, 1877; reprinted 1960). I am most grateful to Paul McHugh for his legally informed endorsement of my claim that Maori assent to the treaty became the substantive ground of British sovereignty over New Zealand. There is, however, a body of opinion which regards the treaty as having had no effect and British sovereignty as arising rather from the occupation and settlements of lands inhabited by uncivilized native peoples.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts

2 From a bas-relief on a statue of Queen Victoria, Cambridge Terrace, Wellington, erected to mark the Queen’s jubilee in 1887. Governor Hobson is seated; Henry Williams (with glasses) stands to his right; the Maori chief is anonymous


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand of Queen Victoria in the city of Wellington, the European literacy myth implicit in that event of 1840 is complacently enshrined in the image of a Maori chief – as I say – ‘signing’ the treaty with quill pen (see plate 2). The reality, as the printer William Colenso knew, and as we shall see as we meditate the sociology of that text, was different. Twenty-five years earlier, the indigenous New Zealanders had been completely illiterate. They were a neolithic race with a wholly oral culture and their own body of myths. Not one of their myths, however, was so absurd as the European myth of the technologies of literacy and print as agents of change and the missionaries’ conviction that what took Europe over two millenia to accomplish could be achieved – had been achieved – in New Zealand in a mere twenty-five years: the reduction of speech to alphabetic forms, an ability to read and write them, a readiness to shift from memory to written record, to accept a signature as a sign of full comprehension and legal commitment, to surrender the relativities of time, place, and person in an oral culture to the presumed fixities of the written or printed word. When Samuel Marsden bought 200 acres of land at Rangihoua in 1814 for the first mission station, he drew up a deed of conveyance and solemnly had the Maori chief ‘sign’ it by drawing on it a copy of his moko or facial tattoo pattern. The price was twelve axes, itself a potent symbol of the shift from a neolithic culture to the iron age, the de-afforestation of New Zealand and the pastoral economy to come. But the subtler, much more elusive and indeterminate technology was literacy. Consider its stages. In 1815 Thomas Kendall, the first resident missionary, faced the problem of re-enacting one of the most momentous transitions in human history, the reduction of speech to its record in alphabetic form. Put like that, it sounds portentous, as in a literal sense it 

The phrases ‘European myth of . . . literacy and print as agents of change’ and ‘from memory to written record’ allude to Harvey Graff ’s The Literacy Myth: Literacy and Social Structure in the Nineteenth-century City (New York, 1979), to Elizabeth L. Eisenstein’s The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early Modern Europe, 2 vols (Cambridge, 1979), and to M. T. Clanchy’s From Memory to Written Record: England 1066 –1307 (London, 1979).


Bibliography and the sociology of texts was. But just imagine the problems of trying to capture strange sounds alphabetically, the miracle that underlies all our books. When one early traveller recorded what he thought he heard as the Maori word for a paradise duck, he wrote pooadugghiedugghie (for putangitangi) and for the fantail diggowaghwagh (for piwakawaka), neither of which forms translates visually the aural beauty of the originals. The place-name Hokianga was rendered Showkianga, Sukyanna, Jokeeangar, Chokahanga. Another village, Kerikeri, was heard and rendered as Kiddeekiddee, Muketu as Muckeytoo. Those spellings are not only aurally inefficient, but to a differently accultured English eye they may appear crude and culturally primitive, thus reinforcing other such attitudes. The absence of a philology (let alone a grammar and syntax for a non-European language) made a rational orthography hard to devise. Yet until there was an orthography, the teaching of reading and writing was obviously impossible, and printing of course depended upon a standard set of letter forms. Kendall’s first rough list of 1815 was revised and sent off to Samuel Lee, Professor of Arabic at Cambridge. Kendall and two Maori chiefs, Hongi and Waikato, joined him there in 1820, and together they produced A Grammar and Vocabulary of the Language of New Zealand. It was printed later that year by R. Watts, printer to the Church Missionary Society in London. Kendall, unlike Marsden, was 

William Colenso, Fifty Years Ago in New Zealand. A Commemoration; a Jubilee Paper; a Retrospect: a Plain and True Story (Napier, 1888), p. 27. Edward Markham, writing in 1834, took a different view, criticizing what he saw as an over-simplified orthography because it obscured regional and dialect differences, ‘Thus Making the Language Poorer instead of Enriching it’: New Zealand or Reminiscences of it, ed. E. H. McCormick (Wellington, 1963), p. 62. The circumstances surrounding the reduction of spoken languages to their first alphabetic or syllabic forms seem to have received little attention. Judith Binney, The Legacy of Guilt (Auckland, 1968), pp. 177–85, discusses Kendall’s work in the Maori language; see also Johannes Andersen, ‘The Maori Alphabet’, in A History of Printing in New Zealand 1830–1940, ed. R. A. McKay (Wellington, 1940), pp. 57–74. Joyce Banks, of the National Library of Canada, has worked on the Cree syllabary (which is still in use). Tamsin Donaldson, ‘Hearing the First Australians’, in Seeing the First Australians, ed. Ian Donaldson and Tamsin Donaldson (Sydney, 1984), looks at the motives underlying nineteenth-century attempts at writing down two Australian languages, Ngiyampaa and Wiradjuri, and at the effects of European assumptions on the forms these writings took.


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand determined that Maori should not be anglicized; c, q, and x were dropped for a start, but the Grammar at that stage still included letters for non-Maori sounds thought necessary for foreign words – f, hard g, j, v, z – and so it still ran to five vowels, eighteen consonants, and one digraph ng. It included sample sentences such as ‘the performance of the white man is good, the performance of the white man is exceeding good’, but linguistically at least the performance of the white man still left room for improvement. Should stress marks be included, how should long vowels be distinguished (by macron or doubling?), were all remaining letters really needed (since greater simplicity would enhance its efficacy)? In the next ten years – by 1830 – the alphabet was in fact reduced to five vowels and nine consonants, with only two forms remaining unsettled, h and w. There were attempts to indicate a palatal h by adding an apostrophe (as in H’ongi) and the voiced w (pronounced rather like f ), again by an apostrophe or by the combination wh. Colenso, as printer, argued for the doubling of long vowels (to avoid special sorts), the simple h (to avoid the troublesome Greek-style apostrophe), and a digammic v for wh (to avoid setting two letters where one would do) although wh was confirmed in 1842. By then the foreign consonants plus b, d, l, s, and y had been dropped and foreign words were rendered in Maori forms: so ‘missionary’ became mihanere, ‘governor’ kawana. Those decisions about letter forms were typographically efficient but culturally explosive, for by giving English words a Maori semblance they disguised their quite different conceptual import. But, clearly, the first great book printed in New Zealand, Colenso’s Maori New Testament of 1837, is inconceivable without this prior shift from acoustics to optics, the visualization of sound in a simplified and standardized alphabet, and the human motivations at work in bringing it about. Today the Maori language is written with the five vowels, and ten consonants h, k, m, n, p, r, t, w, ng, wh. 

The length of vowels is an important discriminator of meanings in Maori: kaakaa is a parrot; kaka a garment, fibre, or stalk; kakaa is red-hot; kaaka a bittern or, as adjective, poisoned-by-the-tutu. Practice in indicating long vowels still varies. Fifty Years Ago, pp. 24–27, 47–49.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts The pre-print years of its evolution (1815–30) were also those in which the missionaries made a tentative start to teach reading and writing. The decision to teach those skills in the vernacular had long since been settled elsewhere; in Bengal, for example, it generated a remarkable renaissance in the indigenous culture. It also seemed an efficient policy. English was difficult to master and would have split the population; a universal conversion of parent and child, of old and young, was only conceivable if they were bound together by a common speech within which the new learning could pass quickly, unimpeded by language barriers. More than that, the missionaries were all too well aware that English would give the Maori access to the worst aspects of European experience. By containing them culturally within their own language, they hoped to keep them innocent of imported evils. By restricting them further to the reading of biblical texts and vocabulary, they limited the Maori to knowledge of an ancient middle-eastern culture; at the same time the missionaries enhanced their familiar pastoral role by making the Maori dependent on them morally and politically as interpretative guides to Pakeha realities. Missionary expectations of a firmly directed Maori literacy policy are betrayed in comments by Williams and Puckey. In 1833 William Williams wrote that ‘A reading population, whose only book is the Word of God, cannot fail to make a great moral change in the face of the country, as soon as that Word begins to take effect’. And in 1842, when he should have known better, William Puckey rejoiced that the Maori, ‘having no other books to read but Scripture and productions from Scripture, their pursuits must all 

See David Kopf, British Orientalism and the Bengal Renaissance: the Dynamics of Indian Modernization 1773–1833 (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1969). A distinction must be drawn, of course, between reviving in print an already literate culture, as in Bengal, and capturing the current forms of an oral culture in all its diversity and levels of textual authority: see Bruce Biggs, ‘The Translation and Publishing of Maori Material in the Auckland Public Library’, Journal of the Polynesian Society 61 (1952), 177– 91. Letter of 1 October 1833, Missionary Register (November 1834), 513. William Brown, New Zealand and its Aborigines (London, 1845), p. 101, had been told ‘the natives would only learn every species of vice through the medium of the English language’.


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand be of a sacred nature’. Such a vision implied that priority be given to the translation of the Scriptures into Maori. This ideological bias was reinforced by doctrinal strife in 1839–40, just when the policy should have been relaxed but when the Church Missionary Society faced competition from Bishop Pompallier’s Catholic mission and press. To study Colenso’s printed output is simply to look at the expression of those policies. Later in the century that emphasis on biblical texts was to have a profound effect on Maori consciousness, providing a new source of imagery in song and story and sharpening the expression of economic and political pressures on Government. But no such consequence was in the minds of the missionaries in the 1830s when the stress they placed on the scriptures in Maori implied ideals whose naivety is now patent. It is also present in the programme to teach reading and writing in the mission schools. The enthusiastic reports back to London of the remarkable desire of the Maori to learn to read, the further stimulation of that interest through native teachers, the intense and apparently insatiable demand so created for books, formed the cumulative pressure to supply the one instrument thought essential to give instant and local effect to universal literacy as the principal means to personal salvation. I mean of course printing. But what was the reality? Kendall set up the first school with thirtythree pupils in 1816, but it was not until the early 1830s that numbers were at all significant. There is almost complete accord in the reports, not only that the schools were effective but that the Maori achieved literacy with the greatest of ease. Of another school it was said in 


Letter of 6 June 1842, cited by C. J. Parr, ‘A Missionary Library, Printed Attempts to Instruct the Maori, 1815–1845’, Journal of the Polynesian Society 70 (1961), 429–50 (p. 445). Woon to the Wesleyan Mission Society, 24 November 1838: ‘The press will be a mighty engine in exposing the errors of [the Papists’] system’, Wesleyan Mission Notices, n.s. 9 (September 1839), 142. Henry Williams, 2 December 1840: ‘[we need] a vigorous effort at this time to meet the present demand for books before the Papists come forward with their trash’, cited by Parr, ‘A Missionary Library’, p. 447. The Roman Catholic mission arrived in 1838, its main press (a Gaveau) on 15 June 1841.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts 1829: ‘Not six years ago they commenced the very rudiments of learning: now, many of them can read and write their own language, with propriety, and are complete masters of the First Rules of Arithmetic’. A visitor to one mission in 1833 noted: I was not prepared to find, among a people who had previously no written language, so many who had benefitted from the instruction given in our Mission Schools . . . [In the Boys’ School] I observed all ranks and ages, Chiefs and subjects, old and young, bound and free, receiving and communicating instruction, with a degree of decorum and regularity which would have reflected credit on a school of the same kind in England. Catechisms, reading, spelling, writing on slates from dictation, and cyphering, formed the employment of the upper classes, while the lowest were engaged in learning the alphabet and forming letters . . . [In the Girls’ School] The senior classes read remarkably well, and write equally from dictation on slates . . . Men of hostile tribes, even, now lay aside their antipathies, and unite for instruction, disregarding the person of a teacher, even if a slave, and valuing instruction even from a child. The highly literate rhetoric of that description is itself revealing: the writer, a Captain Jacob, transforms the school’s routines into a vision of the society he wishes to see evolving, one indeed better than his own. Of the mission station at Waimate he remarked: The writing of the senior classes was really better than that of most schoolboys in England; and what struck me much, it was remarkably free from orthographical mistakes; which can only be accounted for from the simplicity of their language, each letter of which admits but one simple sound. Here also I observed Chiefs and subjects, freemen and slaves, all incorporated into classes.  

G. Clarke, Missionary Register (December 1829), 372. William Jacob, 13 March 1833, Missionary Register (January 1834), 60.



Ibid., 61.

Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand Hobbs, writing in January 1833, noted: For this long time past it has become fashionable for the young people to try to learn to read . . . Such is the wish of many of the Natives to learn to read, that on several occasions they have brought pigs, which would weigh from fifty to an hundred pounds, and offered them as payment for a book, consisting of sacred portions of the Scriptures, and the Liturgy of the Church of England. The impression is also given by the missionary reports that once the rudiments were known, many a Maori pupil would go off and teach others: In every village there are several of the Natives who can read and write: and a School is established among them by the Natives themselves, where a number are taught to read and write; and old and young are taught their Catechism. Their desire for books is very great. . . . many of the Natives, who are living at a distance, manifest a great desire for instruction; and with very little assistance from us, they are learning to read and write; and their efforts have so far been crowned with success that they know some of the letters of the alphabet and can write them. . . . there are many villages where Schools are conducted entirely by the Natives, and some of them making considerable proficiency in reading and writing. The day is not far distant, when the people generally will be able to read for themselves, in their own tongue, the wonderful works of God.    

Missionary Register (February 1834), 119. G. Clarke, 4 June 1833, Missionary Register (December 1833), 550. William Puckey, 6 January 1835, Missionary Register (July 1836), 155. G. Clarke, 12 February 1833, Missionary Register (October 1833), 468.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts But such reports are essentially anecdotal and less informative as objective accounts than they are as expressions, at worst, of wishful thinking or, at best, of a readiness to define literacy, and therefore later the effective impact of printed texts, at a level far below that demanded by the social changes to which the Maori were being exposed. It is as if the very notion of literacy itself compelled a heightened language of self-approval and infinite promise. Victims of their own myths, the missionaries found what they wanted to find, and reported what they knew their London committee wished to hear. Marsden, Williams, 

The most useful accounts of literacy among Maori in the early period are C. J. Parr, ‘A Missionary Library’, loc. cit., and ‘Maori Literacy 1843–1867’, Journal of the Polynesian Society 72 (1963), 211–34; and Michael D. Jackson, ‘Literacy, Communications and Social Change’, in Conflict and Compromise: Essays on the Maori since Colonizations, ed. I. H. Kawharu (Wellington, 1975), pp. 27–54. Related studies are G. S. Parsonson, ‘The Literate Revolution in Polynesia’, Journal of Pacific History 11 (1967), 39–57, and Gérard Duverdier, ‘La Pénétration du livre dans une société de culture orale: le cas de Tahiti’, Revue Française d’Histoire du Livre n.s. 1 (1972), 27–51. Parr’s thoroughness in noting so many primary references to Maori reading and writing in the 1830s and 1840s has greatly eased my own search, and I have found Jackson’s admirable discussion most pertinent to my own because it is specifically concerned to examine Maori social change from the useful vantage point of literacy (p. 28). Michael Jackson also directed me to Manfred Stanley’s ‘Technicism, Liberalism, and Development: a Study in Irony as Social Theory’, in Social Development: Critical Perspectives (New York, 1972), pp. 274–325, a suggestive discussion of the philosophical implications of technology for social structure and (if proleptically and only implicitly) histoire du livre. Nevertheless I argue that early missionaries and recent historians alike have misread the evidence for Maori literacy. If it ceases to be true of the 1840s, the conventional view of the rapid attainment of literacy by the Maori in the 1830s must be wrong: a literacy with any potency for social change is not so short-lived. Having accepted the missionaries’ euphoric accounts of the 1830s, Parr asks of the 1840s: ‘What happened? Where were the self-appointed teachers, the hundred mile journeys to obtain books and instruction, the eager learners of letters, the crowded day schools of only a dozen years before?’ (‘Maori Literacy’, p. 221). Although few Maori are today, in the simplest functional sense, illiterate, the written and printed word is not the mode which they habitually use. The question is therefore an even more fundamental one than whether or not the Maori failed to become fully literate in the 1830s, or why the missionaries failed to teach them full literacy. It is, rather, why has the Maori ‘failed’ to become literate at all? Or, to shift the burden of guilt, what is it about literacy and books that makes these technologies so inadequate to cope with the complex realities of a highly civilized social experience which the Maori know but which the literate mind too readily and reductively perhaps tries to capture in manuscript and print?


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand Hadfield, and Pompallier were intelligent men, but what could they have understood by the words ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ for them to say: The natives . . . were carrying in their hands, the Litany, and the greater part of the Church Service, with their Hymns, written in their own language. The Church Service, as far as it has been translated, they can both read and write with greatest ease. I was much pleased to find, that wherever I went I found some who could read and write. The Church Service had been translated into the Native language, with the Catechism, Hymns, and some other useful pieces. They are all fond of reading; and there are many who have never had an opportunity of attending the schools who, nevertheless, can read. They teach one another in all parts of the country. What ‘teaching one another’ might have meant is suggested by Henry Williams: One young man began to ask the meaning of letters. I wrote them down for him, and in half an hour he knew them all, and was teaching several outside. Numbers of others came until I had no paper left of any description on which to write a copy. At length they brought small pieces, to have the letters written for them, and about 200, old and young, were soon employed teaching and learning the letters with the greatest possible interest. [Next morning] the boys brought their papers for me to hear them their letters and asked what they were to learn next. Vast numbers learn to read and write who do not attend school, by possessing themselves of a book or part of a book,

  

Marsden, 14 March 1830, Missionary Register (January 1831), 58. Marsden, February 1837, Missionary Register (April 1838), 137. The Life of Henry Williams, ed. H. Carleton (Wellington, 1948), p. 137.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts and spelling it over until they are fully acquainted with every word in it. They easily learn to read and write without the necessity of constant teaching. It is only necessary to give them a few leaflets of easy reading, and to write some characters on bits of slate to enable them to read and write their own language within three months. By comparison, R. K. Webb, in The British Working-class Reader, says that at the Borough Road School, London, in the early nineteenth century, it took twelve months to teach a child to read, and between three and four years to write well and calculate. A more realistic account of the nature of Maori literacy is that given by Fairburn in 1838: There is scarcely a petty tribe now to be met with, where there are not some who can write and read. I mention this more particularly, as it must sound strange to an English ear to be told that we have met with many of the self-taught Natives who could write on a slate or paper so as to make their wants known, while they could not read a single line from the book. Their habits of idleness . . . are in some respects favourable to their learning to read. Since they have got books among them, they make use of them, I have not the smallest doubt, in the way of amusement, in teaching each other; it seems to have superseded their once favourite game of Draughts. That at least suggests the minimal competence achieved by many socalled ‘readers’.   


Hadfield, 22 July 1840, cited by Parr, ‘A Missionary Library’, p. 438. J. F. B. Pompallier, Early History of the Catholic Church in Oceana (Auckland, 1888), p. 47. (London, 1955), p. 17. Illiteracy was probably high among British working-class settlers. My own paternal grandfather was illiterate, signing both his marriage certificate and his will with a cross; and my paternal grandmother, like many a Maori chief and medieval king, ‘wrote’ her letters by dictation. 30 April 1836, Missionary Register (July 1839), 348.


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand If we reflect that the teaching of elementary reading is primarily oral/aural, not visual, because it involves the pronouncing and repetition of letters, syllables, and words (a practice reinforced where there are few books, fewer texts, and group teaching), we can appreciate how oral repetition from memory might masquerade as reading; and the Maori – used to an oral tradition – had a most retentive memory. The interconnection is evident in Kemp’s report of 1832: ‘For want of more Translations of the Scriptures, the Natives are almost at a stand: some have committed to memory all that has been printed: I hope this will soon be remedied by more being printed’. Or Williams in 1832: ‘We feel the want of books for the Natives very greatly: what they at present possess, they, generally, know by heart’. Other specific reports have their general interest: The Natives manifest a strong desire to learn to read the Scriptures . . . Wherever I go amongst the Natives, I hear portions of the Catechism repeated. One Native, who, though he cannot read, has learned a considerable part of the Catechisms, puts the Questions to those around him; and then he and the others repeat the answers. [I] visited a tribe in which the only teaching was done by a Maori who had learned to read at Paihia and, returning to his village, read the Scriptures to his countrymen. Before this time they were in the habit of meeting, and repeating from memory, the Confession and Lord’s Prayer, not any one being able to read. My attention was called . . . to a blind man reading the Scriptures . . . He came to me some time since, and requested that 

   

See Duverdier, ‘La Pénétration’, pp. 42–42, and William Ellis, Polynesian Researches, during a Residence of Nearly Eight Years in the Society and Sandwich Islands, 2 vols (London, 1829), I, 429– 93, II, 20. Duverdier draws most of his material from Ellis. 3 January 1832, Missionary Register (September 1832), 406. 6 July 1832, ibid. (May 1833), 243. C. Baker, 26 December 1831, ibid. (September 1832), 407. Fairburn, 30 April 1838, ibid. (July 1839), 348.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts I would let him have a complete book. I asked of what use a book would be to him, as he was blind. He replied that it would be of great use; for though he could not see, he could hear, and by possessing one he could let others read to him, until he should see it with his heart . . . I [later] saw the poor fellow lying on the ground with his book open before him, as though he was pondering over its contents, repeating aloud verse by verse. ‘Poor fellow’? The memorized text of course makes one a living library in a way the read book cannot. Repetition of the catechism – known by heart, not read by eye – was after all the higher proof of conversion. Simply to illustrate the illusory nature of the presumed shift from orality to literacy, I quote Sir Apirana Ngata, writing on ‘The Maori and Printed Matter’ as late as 1940: The people preferred to hear the matter, whether written or printed, read to them. Not only did this relieve the labour of spelling out words, syllable by syllable, but it was closer than mute transference through the eye to what they had been accustomed to: it was nearer the old-time narrative of adept raconteurs, or of poetical and priestly reciters. More than that, the genius of the race preferred education through the ear, conveyed by artists in intonation and gesticulation . . . The printed matter indeed achieved a limited popularity, but for every one who owned a copy of the Scriptures and Church Liturgy or Rawiri, there were in my boyhood days still fifty or more content to listen to and memorize the words which were read out of the printed books by the ministers, teachers, or lay-readers. If reading, the passively receptive and more easily acquired art, could be so easily evaded, what of writing? This was the active counterpart of reading, a personally expressive skill, but one much harder to acquire.  

Henry Williams, 29 August 1834, ibid. (November 1835), 258. In McKay, A History of Printing in New Zealand, pp. 48–49.


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand It was inhibited by the primitive nature, cost, and scarcity of quills, ink, and paper. A slate may prove that one can write, but not that one can write to any purpose. Just as the oral element in reading persisted to limit the full and easy visual perception of texts, so too a reliance on writing and a readiness to use it could only grow slowly from a long acquaintance with documents. Oral witness held its primacy over written evidence for centuries in Europe; to have expected a non-literate people to reverse that disposition within a decade was unrealistic, and to presume that it has yet happened would be a mistake. The main use of literacy to the Maori was not reading books for their ideas, much less for the access they gave to divine truths, but letter writing. For them, the really miraculous point about writing was its portability; by annihilating distance, a letter allowed the person who wrote it to be in two places at once, his body in one, his thoughts in another. It was the spatial extension of writing, not its temporal permanence, that became politically potent in gathering the tribes and planning a war a decade and more later. Historical time, defined by  


This point is well made by Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record. Among those who currently affirm Maori rights and protect Maori mana, those more conciliatory towards European attitudes stress the complimentary ease and speed with which Maori are said to have become literate, those less conciliatory and more radical, the supreme importance of the oral tradition and virtual irrelevance of the European ‘book’. In practice, the oral mode rules. By compelling those who speak eloquently to substitute a mode in which they are less fluent, literacy can function insidiously as a culturally regressive force. Such at least is how many Maori experience it. As Jane McRae reminds me, there are few Maori writers and very few who write in Maori, but the tradition of oral composition and exposition continues, it is the only tradition with ‘literary’ structures or styles, and the ‘sound’ text is usually all there is to be read. Even within University Departments of Maori Studies, the book is suspect. Manuscripts and printed texts in libraries, publications by Europeans on Maoridom, are seldom consulted; oral etiquette, debate, and transfer of knowledge on the marae are what matter. Such conditions encourage the spontaneous, orally improvised, dramatic recreation of shared stories or themes and an evolutionary concept of texts; the fixed text, catching in print an arbitrary moment in the continuum of social exchange, demands a different sense of history and its own literal re-play. See Michael King, ‘Some Maori Attitudes to Documents’, Tihei Mauri Ora: Aspects of Maoritanga, ed. Michael King (Auckland, 1978), pp. 9–18. Jackson, ‘Literacy, Communications and Social Change’, p. 38; see also A. Buzacott, Mission Life in the Islands of the Pacific (London, 1866), pp. 66–67.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts dated and legally binding documents, represented a much more profound challenge to an oral culture used to reshaping its past traditions to accord with present needs. It is a challenge that is still resisted. On a journey in 1833 Williams received several letters which had been sent on to him and his Maori attendants and he records the reaction of other Maori who had not seen letters before: This was an interesting particular for the people of the place, as they were thus enabled to see the nature and value of written characters, by the testimony of these their countrymen. Our boys seemed to look for, and read over their letters, with as much pleasure as we did ours, to the delight of all around; they repeated them aloud, to the admiration of their auditors, who were struck with wonder at hearing, as they described it, ‘a book speak’: for though they expect that a European can perform an extraordinary thing, yet they cannot understand how it is that a New Zealand youth can possess the same power. In the early 1830s we see the hesitant beginnings of letter writing in written requests for baptism, proving (as William Yate put it) that ‘the heart of the sanguinary and untutored New Zealander is as the heart of the civilized and polished Englishman’. The originals of course were in Maori. I, Pahau, am now writing a Letter to you. Perhaps you will not be pleased with it, and send it back; and then, perhaps, my heart will be sad, and I shall cry. Now, then, I am going to write to you. Read it first, from the top to the bottom, on this side and on that side, before you say ‘Nonsense,’ and throw it away from you and tear it to pieces. Now, Mr Yate, listen to what I am going to say upon this paper. I have been thinking and thinking about what I am going to write; and now I am thinking you will shut your ears, and will not listen to me. This is what I am going to write: – Remember, that if you say 

Missionary Register (September 1834), 418–19.



Ibid. (April 1832), 192.

Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand ‘Nonsense,’ it was you who said we were to put down our wishes in a book. Another letter begins, in a vein reminiscent of Caxton: ‘My ink is not good, my paper dirty, and I am altogether ashamed’. Yet another, from husband and wife: ‘There are many mistakes in our two’s Letter: and Mary says, “Do not send it: wait and talk when he comes to Kerikeri” ’. Those translations are insensitive (Yate’s use of ‘our two’s’ for the dual pronoun in Maori reflects upon him, not the writer), but there is no mistaking the diffidence, the insecure handling of this tool, the anxieties attending exposure by this medium. These were not untutored New Zealanders. They were the literate élite in Maori, not draughtplayers turned scribblers but those trained to readiness for baptism. The effective use of letters for political purposes was many years away. Nor did printing of itself become a re-expressive tool for the Maori until the late 1850s. When it did so – in Maori newspapers – the essential motives, the effective contextual forces, were economic, political, and military, not religious. He wahine, he whenua, e ngaro ai te tangata – by women, and by land, men perish. The forcing issue for the Maori, then as now, was land. Only when literacy began to serve that supreme social interest could it be significantly achieved. Its roots in the texts of an alien religion were inevitably shallow, despite the technology of printing. But for the missionaries, printing was the great hope. ‘We feel very much the want of a Printing Press, to work off some copies of portions of Scripture, which could be read by several natives now with us,’ Davis had written to the Church Missionary Society in 1827. In 1828   


 Ibid., Letter 6. Ibid., Letter 7. Ibid. (October 1834), 460. See also Letters to the Rev. William Yate from Natives of New Zealand Converted to Christianity (London, 1836). See W. J. Cameron, ‘A Printing Press for the Maori People’, Journal of the Polynesian Society 67 (1958), 204–10; and Johannes Andersen, ‘Maori Printers and Translators’, in McKay, A History of Printing in New Zealand, pp. 33–47. An official Government newspaper, Te Karere o Nui Tireni, later Te Karere Maori, had been printed in Maori from 1842 to 1846 and doubtless established an early role for this medium. Cited by Parr, ‘A Missionary Library’, p. 432.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts Williams wrote: ‘We want a printer, and a printer we must have’. The plea to the Church Missionary Society was twice repeated in 1829. When the long-sought-after press did arrive, it was an anticlimax, proving that technology in itself is nothing without a human mind and dedicated skill to make it work in a context where it matters. In 1830, William Yate brought a small press from Sydney, and a fifteen-year-old James Smith to help him. Neither Yate nor Smith had any professional competence. In his journal for September 1830 Yate noted that, in printing off a few hymns in the native language, ‘we succeeded beyond our most sanguine expectations’. These were the first items ever printed in New Zealand. ‘We thank you for the Press,’ he wrote back to London, ‘and have no doubt but that, with the blessing of God, it will be an instrument of great good in this Land. You will perceive by a copy of a Hymn forwarded by this conveyance, that we shall be able, in a short time, to manage it.’ Others took his tone. Kemp reported that ‘The Schools will receive great benefit from the Press, for we shall be able to get portions of the Scriptures printed, as they are wanted’. No copy of their Hymns is known to survive but Yate and Smith also printed a small catechism in Maori, both extant copies of which testify to the printers’ gross incompetence in planing the type, locking the forme, and making ready. Writing of a new translation a year later, Yate faced facts: ‘We shall not . . . be able to print it here’. Henry Williams, two years after that first experiment, told his masters: You have sent us out a Printing Press of a certain description and a specimen of its production has been sent to you, accompanied with many expressions of delight – but these were first feelings excited by the novelty of the work: there stands the poor thing enshrined in cobwebs as an exciter for further expectations and desires. It has been examined by a printer of

 

Ibid. Ibid.

 

July and September 1830, Missionary Register (January 1831), 67. 28 April 1831, ibid. (March 1832), 150.


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand some experience who said he would not possess it as a gift . . . Had we something respectable, our work would be more so than it is at present. As the Maori proverb says (one later recorded by Colenso), ‘even a little axe, well used, brings plenty of food’. But with Yate as food gatherer, the missionaries starved. Defeated in his own efforts, Yate returned to Sydney the following year to supervise the printing of what, when it arrived, he described as ‘the most valuable cargo that ever reached the shores of New Zealand’ – 1800 copies of a book containing eight chapters of Genesis and almost half the New Testament. On receiving these books in 1833, Williams wrote home: ‘I hope our good friends in London will see in time the necessity of allowing a press and a printer. The book contains 250 pages and abounds in typographical errors, not less . . . than two to a page. It must not be offered without correction. So much for colonial work’. In 1836 Colenso was even less complimentary about this early Australian export to New Zealand: ‘poor things, they reflect no credit on the printer, less on the binder, and still less on the editor – it has been computed that there are not less than 1000 errors in the work’. Yate’s ignominious effort in 1830 deprived William Colenso of the honour of being literally New Zealand’s first printer, a New Zealand Caxton, as Coupland Harding was later to call him. William Colenso, a cousin of the bishop of that name, was born in Penzance in 1811 and on 3 September 1826 was bound for six years to a local printer, John Thomas. While still in his time he read his first    

6 July 1832, Letters of Henry Williams, vol. II (1830–38), typescript in the Auckland Institute and Museum. An Account of New Zealand (London, 1835), p. 232.  Life of Henry Williams, p. 185. Letter to Dandeson Coates, 9 January 1836. A. G. Bagnall and G. S. Petersen, William Colenso; Printer, Missionary, Botanist, Explorer, Politician; His Life and Journeys (Wellington, 1948) is the standard life. Colenso’s journals and his correspondence with the Church Missionary Society are in the Hocken Library, Dunedin; his Day- and Waste-book, Paper-book and printing-house ledger are in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington; his correspondence with Coupland Harding is in the Mitchell Library, Sydney; his personal memorandum book, kept while he worked for Watts and travelled to New


Bibliography and the sociology of texts paper to the Penzance Natural History and Antiquarian Society (on Phoenician trade with west Cornwall) and compiled a history of Penzance, The Ancient and Modern History of the Mounts, which was printed and published by Thomas in 1831. In October 1833 he moved to London and found work with Richard Watts and Son, Crown Court, Temple Bar, printers to the Church Missionary Society and the British and Foreign Bible Society. Some anonymous articles he wrote for the religious serial The Pilot came for printing to Watts who recognized Colenso’s handwriting. This led to an introduction to Dandeson Coates, lay secretary to the Society, just as the New Zealand missionaries were again supplicating for a press. Commissioned as printer by the Society and preparing to leave for New Zealand in 1834, Colenso wrote in his diary: ‘In addition to Satan’s temptations at having no interest in Jesus, he assails me with “You are going abroad, and are unfit for the work” ’. In fact there was none fitter. Colenso arrived at Paihia in the north of New Zealand on 30 December 1834. The next day, he records, ‘Numbers of Natives came to see me – and when they found I was a Printer were quite enraptured – crying out Pukapuka’. Saturday 3 January 1835 was, as he wrote to Coates,


Zealand, and his will, are in the Hawkes Bay Museum and Art Gallery. An edition of his printing-house records and a thorough study of his work as a printer remains to be done. R. Coupland Harding has written three brief accounts: ‘New Zealand’s First Printer’, The Inland Printer 7 (1889–90), 504–6; ‘Relics of the First New Zealand Press’, Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 32 (1900), 400–4; ‘William Colenso: Some Personal Reminiscences’, The Press (Christchurch), 27 February 1899. Harding also printed several of Colenso’s papers, including Fifty Years Ago in New Zealand. See also H. Hill, ‘The Early Days of Printing in New Zealand: a Chapter of Interesting History’, Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 33 (1901), 407–26; and Johannes Andersen, ‘Early Printing in New Zealand’, in McKay, A History of Printing in New Zealand, pp. 1–31. The fate of Colenso’s Stanhope press is unknown; his Columbian is probably that now in Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington; his table model foolscap Albion (Hopkinson and Cope No. 1964, dated 1845) is in the Hawkes Bay Museum and Art Gallery. Colenso’s memorandum book for this time details his wages and the way in which they were made up for composing, correction, altering heads, share of ‘fat’, or reduced by candle fine and error in casting (the last cost him 16s 4d.), along with other sharply observed features of an early nineteenth-century printing house.


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand A memorable epoch in the annals of New Zealand – I succeeded in getting the Printing Press landed. I was obliged to unpack it on board, but, I am happy to say, it is all safe on shore. Could you, my dear Sir, but have witnessed the Natives when it was landed, they danced, shouted, and capered about in the water, giving vent to the wildest effusions of joy. Enquiring the use of this, and the place of that, with all the eagerness for which uncivilized nature is celebrated. Certes, they had never seen such a thing before! I trust soon to be able to get it to work. May the father of Mercies . . . grant me strength and ability to work it for His Glory! May it be instrumental, under His blessing, in bringing thousands to the Cross of our Immanuel! – and of sending away that Sombre pall of darkness and gloom, which ‘the Prince of the power of the Air’ has so long successfully wrapped around the inhabitants of these islands. In fact, getting the Stanhope ashore had been far from easy and lest the parcels of type be seized for making musket balls they could not be unpacked until safely landed. Most revealing, however, for what it implies about the symbolic power of ‘the press’ as distinct from the realities of using one, is Colenso’s list of necessary articles which he found to be absolutely wanting: For the information of Printers I will just set down a few of them; though I almost fear my relation will scarcely be believed. There was no wooden furniture of any kind, nor quoins, . . . no galleys, no cases, no leads of any size, no brass rule, no composing-sticks, (save a private one of my own that I had bought two years before in London, a most fortunate circumstance!) no inking table, no potash, no lye-brushes, no mallet and shooter, no roller-irons and stock, though there was


Colenso Papers, Hocken Library.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts


Colenso’s case


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand a massy cast-iron roller mould, and . . . no imposing-stone nor page-cord; and, worst of all, actually no printing paper!!  So ignorant and incompetent were Colenso’s mentors about the art by which they set so much store. Colenso found a local joiner who made him a few galleys, a small inking table, some furniture and quoins, although he complained that these last ‘were wretched things (partly owing to the want of proper and seasoned wood,)’ and gave him ‘an enormous amount of labour, vexation and trouble’. The joiner also made him two or three pairs of type-cases for the printing office after a plan of my own. For as the Maori language contained only 13 letters (half the number in the English alphabet), I contrived my cases so, as to have both Roman and Italic characters in the one pair of cases; not distributing the remaining 13 letters (consonants) used in the compositing of English, such not being wanted . . . Such an arrangement proved to be a very good one while my compositing was confined to the Maori language only; but when I had any English copy to compose it was altogether the reverse! then I had to pick out the discarded English consonants as required from their lots put up in paper parcels. Fortunately this occurred but rarely; except at the time of the Treaty of Waitangi (1840), when I had necessarily much printing work to do for the Government of the Colony; and having no extra cases, was obliged to place the letters required in little lots on tables, and on the floor! With the press in place and the type disposed, it was agreed that as all parties, European and Maori, wished to see something printed, the 


Fifty Years Ago, p. 6. Writing to Coupland Harding on 31 December 1890, Colenso recalled Williams’s first encounter with practical printing: ‘Mr W., evidently, had never seen Type-setting before: he was often in the Pg. Office, & well do I remember his Exclamation of pleasing surprize on seeing a line spaced out in cpg. stick – “he had often wondered how it was done to have all the lines of equal length” ’. Fifty Years Ago, p. 7.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts missionaries should supply some writing paper, that the first sheet from the press should be in Maori from the New Testament, and that it should be small. The Epistles to the Ephesians and Philippians was chosen. Colenso set it up, and on 17 February 1835 pulled proofs of what he then thought was the first book printed in New Zealand, ‘the printing office being filled with spectators to witness the performance’. On 21 February, twenty-five corrected copies were printed and stitched and cut round for the Missionaries; their wives kindly furnishing a few sheets of pink blotting-paper from their desks wherewith to form coloured paper covers for these tracts; which, of course, had first to be pasted on to stronger paper. This little book was in post 8vo., Long-Primer type, and consisted of 16 pages in double columns. For leads I was driven to the miserable substitute of pasting paper together, and drying and cutting it up! . . . And not being able to manufacture a roller, I was obliged to do my best with a small makeshift ‘ball’ of my own contriving. Knowing nothing of Yate’s earlier efforts, Colenso wrote home to Coates: This ‘first fruits’ of the New Zealand Press, which the Lord hath pleased to allow me to begin and complete, is very much liked by the Natives. – May it, being the ‘Word of God’, be the means of making thousands ‘wise unto Salvation’ – and the preface, as it were, to a more glorious diffusion of Gospel light over these benighted lands. On 19 May he printed what was in fact the first English book, eight pages octavo, a report of the New Zealand Temperance Society. Given the later history of New Zealand’s licensing laws, it was indeed a prophetic start.  

Ibid., p. 9. 16 March 1835, Colenso Papers, Hocken Library; also Missionary Register (July 1836), 164.


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand Earlier that year, on 23 March, having heard that supplies of paper and more equipment for him had reached Sydney, he began setting his one great work, the complete Maori New Testament. It was a demy-octavo, set in small Pica, and running to 356 pages. He pulled the first sheets of a run of 5,000 copies on 23 June 1836. The Maori pressmen he later employed and paid 3s. a week were soon disenchanted by ‘the many disagreeables inseparable from this new and wonderful art of printing’, as Colenso put it, but on two subsequent occasions he was able to secure the help of some American sailors who had trained as pressmen before going to sea. Of the second pair he wrote: The wages I paid these two men were, at first, the same as to the two former pressmen, 5/- per day; but after a short time, at their own request, their pay was altered to 25 cents, or 1/- each per ‘token,’ (10 quires = 1/2-ream,) besides which, as they could not be always at press-work, they were paid 12 cents, or 6d per hour for other work connected with the Printingoffice and Binding-room, and Warehouse, – as, in drying, and pressing, and folding the sheets, &c.; but would never do anything in the way of distributing type, and even if a letter should be drawn out, or be broken in their working-off the forms, (which sometimes though rarely did happen,) they would not, or more properly could not well, replace it; and spoiled paper (if any) they had to pay for, – which, however, did not amount to much. Upham worked alone at Press for a period of six months, after his companion left, (always a disagreeable and slow process for one person,) and, of course, from that time he was paid 2/- per ‘token.’ He was a very good and trusty pressman, and kept the ‘colour’ well up, and his rollers, &c., in nice working order. Colenso records that when the book was finished a year and a half later, in December 1837, ‘the demand for copies became great beyond expression, from all parts of New Zealand’, and finding it impossible to bind 

Fifty Years Ago, p. 19.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts them fast enough he sent off lots of 500 at a time to Sydney to have them done (poorly done, as he later complained). Since the Maori were said to value more highly any article they paid for than one given to them free, the books were sold at 4s. each. As evidence of interest and demand, Colenso makes the incidentally valuable point (distinguishing reading from writing) that ‘as not many of the principal Maori Chiefs or their sons could then write, many of them travelled on foot and barefooted to Paihia, from very great distances, to obtain a copy’. William Jowett, responding as clerical secretary of the Church Missionary Society to Colenso’s expressed wish for ordination, advised him to turn his thoughts to the peculiarly useful (and therefore honourable) department which you do occupy. The sight of that New Testament in the Native language, which you have been privileged to carry through the Press, is such a sight as fills my heart with indescribable joy. Think now to what great ends it is capable of becoming instrumental . . . it will, moreover, help the fixing of the language; and schoolbooks, and many other books, will grow out of it. No doubt the spirit of God will use this sword. There is one excellent point in Jowett’s response to which I shall return, but here I just wish to note again the ecstatic tone which belies both the actual achievement and the future promise of literacy. How many Maori could read before Colenso arrived? In 1833 Yate had estimated that some 500 in the north could do so. In 1834, Edward Markham ventured ‘not less then ten Thousand people that can Read, write and do sums in the Northern end of the Island’. Refining such impressionism by apparently objective fact, one historian turns to the presumed demand for and effects of printing: between January 1835  

17 December 1838, reprinted in Fifty Years Ago, pp. 21–22. For Yate, see Eric Ramsden, Marsden and the Missions (Sydney, 1936), p. 28; for Markham, New Zealand or Recollections of it, p. 55. Sensing that the figure he had heard might be optimistic, Markham qualified it in a note: ‘For fear of exageration [sic] say 8000’.


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand and January 1840 Colenso printed 3,500,000 pages of religious material, and in 1840 produced over 2,000,000 more – figures as ignorantly impressionistic (though true) as Yate’s and Markham’s. Added to the further information that Colenso’s New Testament was reprinted in London in 1841, 1843, and 1845 (each time in 20,000 copies), it reinforces the missionary notion of widespread literacy and the immense impact of print. On those figures, by 1845 there was at least one Maori New Testament for every two Maori people in New Zealand. Colenso felt confident to write in his journal in 1840: Here I may be permitted to remark the Press has been an inst[rument] of very great good in this land . . . Howr. partial it may be supposed I am in my opinion, I believe (and that belief too is deduced from what I have seen and heard on the spot) that the press has been more effective (under God) as an instr[ument] of good among this people during the last 5 yrs. than the whole body of miss[ionaries] put together. As Colenso’s Day- and Waste-Book, paper-book, and ledger all survive, we can detail everything he printed for the years 1836–43. In terms of histoire-du-livre econometrics we can say exactly what his output was; but instead of using figures like three and a half million and two million pages, a printer or bibliographer would use a quite different measure. The basic unit of printing is not the page but the sheet, and in the five years from January 1835 until January 1840 Colenso’s output amounted to only 16 items and required type to be set for only 34.15 sheets. The New Testament alone accounted for 22.5 of those 34.15 sheets and for 122,500 of the grand total of 145,775 perfected sheets 

Harrison M. Wright, New Zealand, 1769 –1840: Early Years of Western Contact (Cambridge, Mass., 1959), p. 53. Wright’s figures are calculated from the tables (titles, formats, edition quantities) supplied by Colenso in The Missionary Register (1840), p. 512, and (1841), p. 519. To keep the comparative base I have used the same source, but a more exact calculation would have to include a few jobbing items excluded from Colenso’s reports but included in his ledger. I have taken no account of items printed before 1840 by the Wesleyan and Roman Catholic missions. Were these added, they would simply reinforce the argument that literacy is not so easily implanted as the arrival of printing might imply.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts

4 Page of text from Colenso’s New Testament


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand which came off his press and made up the various copies of those 16 items. A single octavo book of 224 pages printed in 5000 copies will run up a total of 1,120,000 pages. It sounds impressive but in printing terms it is only 5000 copies of each of 14 sheets. In 1840, Colenso printed 11 items, involving 18.875 sheets and 89,313 perfected sheets. One book, the Psalms, accounted for a third of the setting and two-thirds of the presswork. Colenso’s output as printer and therefore the effects of his work were not at all on the scale suggested by ‘millions of pages’ and by the self-congratulatory tone of missionary reports and his own letters. If this technical view of Colenso’s output checks us slightly, what other evidence is there of reception? It is well known that people in an oral society, seeing books for the first time, often treat them as ritual objects. Many people who know not a letter wish to possess themselves of a copy of the translated Scriptures because they consider it possesses a peculiar virtue of protecting them from the power of evil spirits. At an early church service, Many of [the Maori] thought it highly proper that they should be armed with books. It might be an old ship’s almanac, or a cast-away novel, or even a few stitched leaves of old newspapers. The book was given a totemic power of warding off not only evil spirits: in 1836 it was said that a Maori fighting party had refused to storm a pa because of a printed Bible inside it and contented themselves with a blockade. In 1839 Taylor recorded seeing Maori with mission books (or at least odd leaves from them) rolled up and thrust through holes in the lobes of their ears. Books were also useful for making roll-your-own cartridges. One book so used was Milner’s    

Richard Davis, 10 November 1832, cited by Wright, p. 176. G. Clarke, Early Life in New Zealand (Hobart, 1903), p. 31. Whiteley, 22 December 1836, cited by Parr, ‘A Missionary Library’, p. 445. 28 April 1839, ibid.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts Church History, thus giving a slightly different sense to the phrase ‘the church militant’. Colenso picked up such a cartridge in which the paper came from II Samuel and bore the words from chapter 19, v. 34: ‘How long have I to live?’ Markham said his servants melted down his pewter spoons in 1834 to make musket balls of them, ‘and the first Volume of my Voltaires, “Louis 14. et 15.” torn up and made Cartridges of them’. As the number of New Testaments disseminated was reaching saturation point (one to every two Maori) in the early 1840s – just when the impact of printing should have been at its height – we find Selwyn noting ‘A general complaint in all parts of the country, that the schools are not so well attended as heretofore’. He remarked ‘a growing indifference to religion, and a neglect of the opportunities for instruction’. Another missionary comments that ‘We have gained a very large portion of this people but we have no hold on their children’. By 1844, Hadfield could say at last It appears every year more evident that our present system of conveying instruction to these people is wholly inadequate to their present wants; they have been brought to a certain point, and we have no means of bringing them beyond that. What we have here is not only disillusionment about the actual extent to which literacy of the most elementary kind had been achieved, but a clear example of the way in which even the most sophisticated technology (print) will fail to serve an irrelevant ideology (an alien religion). The missionaries and their great instrument of truth      

 Life of Henry Williams, p. 60. Fifty Years Ago, p. 42. New Zealand or Recollections of it, p. 32. 15 June 1843, cited by Parr, ‘Maori Literacy’, p. 212. Thomas Chapman, 28 March 1846, ibid., p. 213. Cited by Parr, ‘A Missionary Library’, p. 446. As Stanley writes, ‘Physical machinery [sc. books?] cannot “make” men do anything. People act or fail to act on the basis of their interpretations of the world around them, interpretations embodied in language, institutions, and social organization. The physical world created by human innovative effort reflects – in the forms of material objects – human assumptions, values, desires, and aspirations’ (‘Technicism, Liberalism, and Development’, p. 279). The first part is true of Maori resistance to literacy, the second of the missionaries in the value they


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand had failed lamentably to equip the Maori to negotiate their rights with the Pakeha in the one area that really mattered to them – land. Nor was it merely a failure in creating literacy in Maori. In 1844 almost no Maori spoke (let alone read) English. In that year a settler said he had met only two who did so. Selwyn had recognized the need to break away from the old policy and in 1843 produced the first primer to help Maori read English. Colenso followed up in 1872 on a Government commission with Willie’s First English Book, ‘Written for young Maoris who can read their own Maori Tongue and who wish to learn to read the English language’. For all his piety, Colenso saw also the need for another innovation: ‘in order to the greater and more general use of the work, all words and sentences of a strictly religious nature have been purposely omitted’. Historians have too readily and optimistically affirmed extensive and high levels of Maori literacy in the early years of settlement, and the role of printing in establishing it. Protestant missionary faith in the power of the written word, and modern assumptions about the impact


imparted and imputed to the book. Paradoxically the Maori is very sensitive to (because suspicious of ) the very form of a book, and gives an expressive intention to features which a European takes for granted as mere ‘accidentals’ and has virtually ceased to see. For example, in a review of Michael King’s Maori – a Photographic and Social History (Auckland, 1983), Keri Kaa questions the very depiction of corpses: ‘The pictures of the tupapaku (corpses) I found most disturbing . . . My initial reaction was to ask: Whose Nanny is that? Whose Mother is that? Do their mokopuna mind about their taonga being displayed for all the world to see?’ And again ‘There is a strange combination of pictures on page 35. At the top of the page is a picture of a tangi [mourning], underneath it one of a woman cooking. Anyone who understands the concepts of tapu and noa [lifting of tapu] would appreciate that the two should never be mixed by being placed together on a page.’ (my italics) The New Zealand Listener (24 September 1983), p. 99. Brown, New Zealand and its Aborigines, p. 99. Augustus Earle, Narrative of a Residence in New Zealand, ed. E. H. McCormick (Oxford, 1966), pp. 133–34, wrote: ‘I cannot forbear censuring the missionaries, inasmuch as they prevent the natives, by every means in their power, from acquiring the English language’. See also J. S. Polack, Manners and Customs of the New Zealanders, 2 vols (London, 1840), II, 147: ‘[The Maori] take much delight in speaking the English language, and had the Missionaries chosen to have taught the children this tongue, what an immense store of able works could at once have been put into the hands of the native youth, instead of a few imperfect translations on one subject, that may teach mechanical devotion, but can never mentally illuminate the native mind’.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts of the press in propagating it, are not self-evidently valid, and they all too easily distort our understanding of the different and competitively powerful realities of societies whose cultures are still primarily oral. Yet, as Jowett told Colenso when congratulating him on completion of the Maori New Testament, printing had helped to fix the Maori language – albeit in one dialect and with some dangerous neologisms. Colenso himself was later to make the point that the oral memory, as a faculty, too easily absorbed and perpetuated the new and corrupt words born of settlement and trade, taking up the simpler and degenerate forms used by the settlers. Had it not been for the missionaries and Colenso’s printing, the language as it was at an early stage of European contact might well have been irretrievably lost. I wish now to focus on one test of the missionaries’ efforts to teach literacy in the 1830s, one test of Colenso’s effect after five years’ printing, one example of a ‘text’ which offers textual and contextual problems. I return to the Treaty of Waitangi. (The name, by the way, means ‘the waters of lamentation’.) The Authentic and Genuine History of the Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi was written at the time by Colenso although it was not printed until 1890. On the morning of 30 January 1840 Colenso printed in Maori one hundred copies of a circular letter inviting Maori chiefs in the northern area to meet at Waitangi on 5 February. An English draft of the treaty (a composite version by three men, Hobson, Freeman, and Busby) had been cobbled together by the 3rd and was given to Henry Williams on the 4th to translate into Maori. The first English draft has not survived. Williams’s translation was discussed with the chiefs on 


‘On Nomenclature’, in Three Literary Papers (Napier, 1883), p. 9. In this paper Colenso also discusses the orthography of place names on maps and in school geographies, raising many of the issues dramatized by Brian Friel in his play Translations (1981). See also, H. W. Williams, ‘Reaction of the Maori to the Impact of Civilization’, Journal of the Polynesian Society 44 (1935), 216–43, esp. 234–35. Some drafts survive: one by Hobson of the preamble; one in the hand of Freeman, Hobson’s secretary, of the three articles and another version of the preamble; a fair copy of a draft by James Busby. But they do not themselves constitute the English text given to Williams to translate. Although Colenso provides an unrivalled


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand Wednesday, 5 February; alterations were made and the revised Maori version copied on to parchment that night by Richard Taylor. The original copy of that revised Maori version has not survived. The fair copy of it, made by Taylor on Wednesday night, was presented to the chiefs next day, 6 February, for their signatures. It is this document in Maori, a revised version of a translation into Maori made from a composite English draft no longer extant, which is in the most literal sense the Treaty of Waitangi. But its textual complexities do not end there. Hobson also sent abroad, either to Sydney or London, five English versions of the Treaty. There are minor differences in three of them, but the other two bear a different date, differ from the others in the wording of their preamble, and differ critically from each other in the second article. According to Ruth Ross, the extant Maori version, the actual treaty as signed by the chiefs on 6 February, is not a translation of any one of these five English versions, nor is any of the English ones a translation from the Maori. They must therefore descend, with greater or less accuracy and no authority, from the first full English draft, now lost, and made before the Maori translation in its first and revised forms. One English version sent to the Secretary of State was endorsed by Williams, who said it was ‘as Literal a translation of the Treaty of Waitangi as the Idiom of the Language will admit of’. This cannot have been true, but a comparable disregard for strict textual accuracy in our own day has led to the inclusion of one of the unauthoritative English versions as a Schedule to the Waitangi Day Act (1960). Other complications of textual authority derive from the fact that names were added to the treaty over the next seven months, thirtynine such names being found on an English copy which the signatories, being pre-literate, could not have read even if they had known the language.


account of the treaty occasion, by far the most perceptive analysis of the texts and their implications is that of R. M. Ross, ‘Te Tiriti o Waitangi: Texts and Translations’, New Zealand Journal of History 6 (1972), 129–67. The account I give of the relationship of the texts is based wholly on Ross. To add insult to injury, the Maori text printed as the first schedule to the Act contains, in the second article, numerous misprints.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts That last example puts at its most extreme my argument about the non-literate state of the nation in 1840 after ten years of intensive teaching and five years of proselytic printing. But even if we confine ourselves to the Maori text, how literate were the signatories? As Cressy has said, ‘only one type of literacy is directly measurable – the ability or inability to write a signature’ and because the evidence of signatures or marks is, in Schofield’s words, ‘universal, standard and direct’, it has come to displace the merely anecdotal, subjective, inescapably impressionistic evidence found in missionary reports and hitherto accepted by historians. Applying this test to the Treaty of Waitangi, what do we find? The number of signatories is in fact uncertain; estimates vary from 512 to 541 and, in the manner common to many societies with mass illiteracy, many of the names given were written out by the government clerk on behalf of the chief concerned. On my count the highest possible number of personal signatures, as distinct from crosses, moko-patterns, or apparently quite meaningless marks, is seventytwo. In almost every case the signatures are so painfully and crudely 


It is also the most reductive form of ‘literacy’ test. See David Cressy, Literacy and the Social Order: Reading and Writing in Tudor England (Cambridge, 1980), p. 53; and R. S. Schofield, ‘The Measurement of Literacy in Pre-industrial England’, in Literacy in Traditional Societies, ed. Jack Goody (Cambridge, 1968), p. 319. Although signatures are the only absolute test of minimal literacy, many who signed with a mark may have been able to read but not write. See note 79, below. See plate 5b for a sample. The treaty is supplemented and ultimately constituted by a collection of sheets subscribed in different parts of the country between 6 February and 3 September 1840. In later times some Maori who could in fact write their own names are said to have used their moko to give documents a more sacred sign of approval, but in the 1840 treaty genuine moko appear to be rare. The seventy-two signatures suggest a maximum literacy level of about 12 per cent or 13 per cent or, to use the international convention of stating illiteracy levels, an illiteracy level of between 87 per cent and 88 per cent. Margaret Spufford, Small Books and Pleasant Histories (London, 1981), p. 21, offers a convenient comparison. In East Anglia in the seventeenth century ‘11 per cent of women, 15 per cent of labourers, and 21 per cent of husbandmen could sign their own names, against 56 per cent of tradesmen and craftsmen, and 65 per cent of yeomen.’ In a survey taken in 1848, European population in the larger Wellington area was given as 4824. Of those, 2530 or some 52 per cent (1583 male, 947 female) were said to be able to read and write, and 924 to be able to read only. A general summary of the Maori population in much the same area taken in 1850 records (under ‘Moral Condition’)


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand written as to show clearly that they have not been penned by signatories practised in writing and therefore fluent in the art. We are forced to conclude, given these numbers, that the Maori in the commemorative plaque is unlikely to have been able to read what he was signing in even the most literal way. Even if he could do that, the odds are loaded against his knowing how to write his own name. Even if he could do that, the evidence suggests that he wrote painfully and with only the most elementary competence. Of course there were exceptions. But the presumed wide-spread, high-level literacy of the Maori in the 1830s is a chimera, a fantasy creation of the European mind. Even at Waitangi the settlement was premised on the assumption that it was, for the Maori, an oral-aural occasion. Consider the way in which the treaty was presented: it was read out in Maori by Henry Williams. That is, it was received as an oral statement, not as a document drawn up in consultation with the Maori, pondered privately over several days or weeks and offered finally as a public communique of agreements reached by the parties concerned. Without begging any questions about Pakeha intent to deceive, even the Maori language itself was used against the Maori. First, much of the detail of the English draft was presumed by Williams to be inexpressible in Maori translation. Second, the forms of Maori used to communicate Pakeha intentions were, as Ruth Ross has said, not indigenous Maori but Protestant Pakeha Missionary Maori, learnt from the distinctive dialect of the northern Ngapuhi tribe. Not only the concepts, but many of the words, for all their Maori form, were English. This is not to say that the Maori present were unaware of such things but only that their mode of dealing with them was oral. It is a mode which has its own dignities, but it has left virtually no matching record to complement the Pakeha one. Those present were free to speak on Wednesday, 5 February, but not thereafter. Hobson had intended a total of 4711, of whom 1148 or some 24 per cent were said to be able to read and write, and 414 to be able to read only. See Statistics of New Munster, New Zealand, from 1841 to 1848 (Wellington, 1849), Table 30; and New Zealand: Further Papers Relative to the Affairs of New Zealand [Papers by Command 1420.] (London, 1851), p. 245.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts to allow them the whole of Thursday to talk among themselves and gave notice that the meeting would be reassembled on Friday for the signing. The plan was changed and somewhat to Hobson’s surprise the meeting resumed on Thursday, 6 February. Hobson was content to receive any signatures on that day from those willing to sign and anxious to leave; but he would not allow any discussion, ‘this not being a regular public meeting’. This meant the effective proscription of any further oral argument by those who might have wished to discuss the matter further, and none at all by those chiefs who only arrived at Waitangi on that Thursday. Although Hobson assumed that a public meeting would still be held on the Friday, the parchment copy of the treaty in Maori was read out as a finished document on the Thursday (its completion on the Wednesday night presupposed that Maori modification would go no further). Those present on Thursday were called upon to sign, and the business of Waitangi was fully despatched that same day. On the Wednesday Hobson had explained, with Williams translating, that if the chiefs did sign the Queen would protect them. In an important sense this was true: many Maori wanted the British to establish some legal authority over their own unruly European settlers and traders and incidentally by their authority to inhibit inter-tribal strife. Busby, in a half truth, said the Governor had not come to take away their land but to secure them in the possession of what they held. But Te Kemara called his bluff and asked for the return to him of the very land on which they were standing. Rewa, eloquent but sad, added, ‘I have no lands now – only a name, only a name!’ Kawiti rejected Hobson’s plan: ‘We are free’. Hakiro supported him: ‘We are not thy people. We are free’. Tareha: ‘We, we only are the chiefs, rulers. We will not be ruled over. What! thou, a foreigner, up, and I down! Thou high, and I, Tareha, the great chief of the Ngapuhi tribes, low! No, no; never, never’. With a flair for the dramatic, he held a canoe paddle high in the air to deride Hobson’s intolerable ambition. Tareha, says Colenso, was also clothed in a filthy piece of coarse old floor matting simply to ridicule Hobson’s supposition that New Zealanders needed


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand the extraneous aid of clothing, &c, from foreign nations. At the end of that day – the only one of public debate – Maori opinion was clearly opposed to the surrender of sovereignty and therefore of the absolute control of their own lands. The next day, Thursday 6 February (now celebrated as a public holiday), some three to four hundred Maori were, in Colenso’s words, ‘scattered in small parties according to their tribes, talking about the treaty, but evidently not understanding it’. Nevertheless, Hobson now wanted to make an end. Colenso’s printed report runs: The Native chiefs were called on in a body to come forward and sign the document. Not one, however, made any move nor seemed desirous of doing so till Mr. Busby, hitting on an 

Graphic as it is, Colenso’s account of the Maori-speeches understandably does scant justice to the originals. As he wrote much later, ‘Some of the New Zealanders were truly natural orators, and consequently possessed in their large assemblies great power and influence. This was mainly owing to their tenacious memories, to their proper selection from their copious and expressive language; skilfully choosing the very word, sentence, theme, or natural image best fitted to make an impression on the lively impulsive minds of their countrymen . . . the orator’s knowledge of their traditions and myths, songs, proverbs and fables was ever to him an inexhaustible mine of wealth . . . All the people well knew the power of persuasion – particularly of that done in the open air – before the multitude’ (The New Zealand Exhibition (Wellington, 1865); section on ‘Ethnology: On the Maori Races of New Zealand’, pp. 70–71). What Hobson was up against may be judged from his letter of 17 February 1840, reporting the Hokianga meeting at which he had sought further subscriptions to the treaty: ‘The New Zealanders are passionately fond of declamation, and they possess considerable ingenuity in exciting the passions of the people. On this occasion all their best orators were against me, and every argument they could devise was used to defeat my object’ (Facsimiles, p. [x]). Maori orators, it should be noted, often enjoyed playing devil’s advocate. Colenso vividly recounts the anger of Te Kemara (‘eyes rolling . . . extravagant gestures and grimace’), but adds: ‘And yet it was all mere show – not really intended; as was not long after fully shown, when they gave their evidence as to the fair sale, &c., of their lands before the Land Commissioners, I myself acting as interpreter’. All quotations here and below relating to the discussion and signing of the treaty on 5 and 6 February are taken from Colenso’s own eye- and ear-witness report, The Authentic and Genuine History of the Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi (Wellington, 1890), principally pp. 32–33. Written immediately after the events described, it was read and its accuracy confirmed by James Busby who was also present.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts expedient, proposed calling them singly by their names as they stood in his (private) list, in which list the name of Hoani Heke (known, too, to be the most favourable towards the treaty) happened to be the first – at least, of those who were this day present. On his being called by name to come and sign, he advanced to the table on which the treaty lay. At this moment I, addressing myself to the Governor, said, – ‘Will your Excellency allow me to make a remark or two before the chief signs the treaty?’ The Governor: ‘Certainly, sir.’ Mr. Colenso: ‘May I ask your Excellency whether it is your opinion that these Natives understand the articles of the treaty which they are now called upon to sign? I this morning’ – The Governor: ‘If the Native chiefs do not know the contents of this treaty it is no fault of mine. I wish them fully to understand it . . . They have heard the treaty read by Mr. Williams.’ Mr. Colenso: ‘True, your Excellency; but the Natives are quite children in their ideas. It is no easy matter, I well know, to get them to understand – fully to comprehend a document of this kind; still, I think they ought to know somewhat of it to constitute its legality . . . I have spoken to some chiefs concerning it, who had no idea whatever as to the purport of the treaty.’ Mr. Busby here said, ‘The best answer that could be given to that observation would be found in the speech made yesterday by the very chief about to sign, Hoani Heke, who said, “The Native mind could not comprehend these things: they must trust to the advice of their missionaries”.’ Mr. Colenso: ‘Yes; and that is the very thing to which I was going to allude. The missionaries should do so; but at the same time the missionaries should explain the thing in all its bearings to the Natives, so that it should be their own very act and deed. Then, in case of a reaction taking place, the Natives could not turn round on the missionary and say, “You advised 116

Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand me to sign that paper, but never told me what were the contents thereof.” [a comment implying Maori inability to read it].’ The Governor: ‘I am in hopes that no such reaction will take place.’ So Colenso gave up, having expressed his conscientious feeling and discharged what he felt strongly to be his duty. Then forty-six chiefs, anxious to get home, played this new game and put their marks on the parchment they could not read. They included chiefs who had declaimed against signing; but (as Colenso records of one of them) ‘Marupu, having made his mark (as he could neither read nor write), shook hands heartily with the Governor’ and left. In one sense of course the still pre-literate state of the Maori was not in itself the critical problem: an oral contract before witnesses could be given legal standing and marks are legally acceptable as signatures. The reality, however, is that all who draft documents secure an initiative, determine the concepts, and choose the linguistic terms by which to reveal or conceal them. A collective oral response is rarely unanimous about details of wording; it tends to assume continuing discussion and modification; and, lacking a documentary form, it is weaker in its power to bind when a group disperses. For the Maori present, the very form of public discourse and decision-making was oral and confirmed in the consensus not in the document. It is inconceivable that Williams’s explanations to them in Maori were wholly one way, that there was no response and no demand for reverse mediation. In signing the treaty, many chiefs would have made complementary oral conditions which were more important than (and certainly in their own way modified) the words on the page. For the non-literate, the document and its implications were meaningless; for the barely literate, the ability to sign one’s name was a trap. At the end of the first day, as Hobson went to his boat, an elderly chief rushed in front of him and looked staringly and scrutinizingly, says Colenso, into the Governor’s face. Having surveyed it, he exclaimed in a shrill, loud, and mournful voice, ‘Auee! he koroheke! Ekore e roa kua mate’. Colenso was reluctant to translate but on being pressed did so: 117

Bibliography and the sociology of texts

5a From the verso of the Declaration of Independence subscribed by thirty-four hereditary chiefs or heads of tribes at a meeting convened at Waitangi on 28 October 1835


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand

5b From a sheet supplementary to the Treaty of Waitangi listing those chiefs of the Otaki, Kapiti, and Manawatu districts who assented to its terms


Bibliography and the sociology of texts ‘He says, “Alas! an old man. He will soon be dead!” ’ – and he was, but the document lives on. At this point we may return to textual criticism. The circumstances described above do not mean that the treaty is a fraud and the documents useless. It means that they are only partial witnesses to the occasion. Reconstructing a more authentic version of the understandings reached between Maori and Pakeha in 1840 is a demanding task, but not one unusually so to those who edit texts or construct statutes. One of the most important elements in any such textual reconstruction is recognition of the Declaration of Independence (see plate 5a) as a complementary document, first subscribed on 28 October 1835 by thirty-four chiefs of whom only four signed their own names. In the next four years a further eighteen chiefs subscribed, of whom only three signed (again with difficulty) their own names. It was these chiefs who constituted the invitation list for the meeting at Waitangi on 5 and 6 February 1840; it was these chiefs who were on Busby’s private list and whom he called upon to sign ‘singly by their names as they were written in the List of the Confederated Chiefs’. (I quote Colenso’s manuscript draft of his account: the printed version refers simply to Busby’s ‘(private) list’.) Because the last signature to the Declaration had been subscribed as late as 22 July 1839, it is clear that this Declaration of Independence continued to be a living affirmation of Maori sovereignty. Its second article specifically refers to Ko te Kingitanga ko te mana . . . ‘All sovereign power and authority’ was said ‘to reside entirely and exclusively in the hereditary chiefs and heads of tribes in their collective capacity’. The third article provided for annual meetings at Waitangi, and it was these chiefs who were the main guests there on 5 and 6 February 1840. As Claudia Orange has shown, Maori understanding of the treaty was undoubtedly formed by their sense that the independence (the rangatiratanga) and the sovereignty (the mana) they had affirmed in 1835 and reaffirmed by further subscriptions as late as 1839, were not nullified by the treaty. British Colonial Office attitudes may have changed in the meantime, but for the Maori one document did not supersede the other: they lived together, one complementing the other. 120

Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand It is in this context now that we must ask what it was that the Chiefs of the Confederation are presumed to have surrendered at Waitangi in agreeing to the first article of the treaty. In all the English versions of the treaty the chiefs ‘cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England, absolutely and without reservation, all the rights and powers of Sovereignty’. The question here is what the English meant and the Maori understood by the word ‘Sovereignty’. Did it mean that the chiefs gave up to the Crown their personal power and supreme status within their own tribes, or was it only something more mundanely administrative, like ‘governorship’? In fact the word used by Henry Williams to translate ‘Sovereignty’ was precisely that: kawanatanga, not even a translation but a transliteration of ‘Governor’ (kawana) with a suffix to make it abstract. Such was his translation for the order of morning service: ‘that all our doings may be ordered by thy governance’. What he significantly omitted in translating ‘Sovereignty’ (which the Maori were being asked to surrender) was the genuine Maori word mana, meaning personal prestige and the power that flowed from it, or even the word rangatiratanga, meaning chieftainship, the very words used in 1835 to 1839 to affirm Maori sovereignty over New Zealand. He had used both words in translating Corinthians chapter 15, v. 24 with its references to the ‘kingdom of God’ and ‘all authority and power’. By choosing not to use either mana or rangatiratanga to indicate what the Maori would exchange for ‘all the Rights and Privileges of British subjects’, Williams muted the sense, plain in English, of the treaty as a document of political appropriation. The status of their 

I do not impute to Williams any will to deceive the Maori by his choice of terms. Attempts to establish a legal basis for the control of British subjects in New Zealand by extra-territorial jurisdiction had proved unsuccessful. Furthermore, unless Britain formally secured sovereignty, neither Britain nor the Maori could establish an exclusive claim to the islands as against claims that might be made by other European powers. (The Declaration of Independence of 1835 was a device to establish the chiefs’ collective territorial rights and forestall an imminent French claim.) In furthering both concerns, however dubious the exact legal status of the treaty, the British Government was anxious to secure Maori assent and genuinely hopeful that British sovereignty would not disrupt Maori life. Nevertheless, cultural and linguistic suppositions on both sides, compounded by European assumptions


Bibliography and the sociology of texts assent is already questionable enough, but (since he did not read) had any Maori heard that he was giving up his mana or rangatiratanga he could never have agreed to the treaty’s terms. Williams’s Maori version of Hobson’s composite English one set the trap which King Lear fell into when (in a version published in 1608) he said to Albany and Cornwall: I doe inuest you iointly in my powre, Preheminence, and all the large effects That troope with Maiestie, . . . onely we still retaine The name and all the addicions to a King

about literacy and the status of documents, frustrated that hope, and later (if then still unforeseen) patterns of immigration destroyed it. Williams certainly shows himself, at that critical time, to have been less sensitive than Colenso to Maori modes of understanding. A succinct and balanced account of many of the issues pertinent to the treaty and British annexation of New Zealand will be found in Mary Boyd’s ‘Cardinal Principles of British Policy in New Zealand,’ The Treaty of Waitangi: Its Origins and Significance (Wellington, 1972), pp. 3–15. W. A. McKean discusses aspects of international law as they affect the status and interpretation of the treaty (ibid., pp. 35–48) but does not substantiate his claim that there is no substance in the argument that the chiefs were misled or failed to understand the purport in English of what they were signing (pp. 45–6, nn. 91 and 92). The best account of the evolution of Colonial Office attitudes to British sovereignty and Maori interests is Peter Adams, Fatal Necessity: British Intervention in New Zealand 1830–1847 (Auckland, 1977). An interesting account of later Maori interpretations of the treaty is Claudia Orange, ‘The Covenant of Kohimarama. A Ratification of the Treaty of Waitangi’, The New Zealand Journal of History 14 (April 1980), 61–80. The minutes of the Kohimarama Conference of July 1860 reveal confusion or ignorance about the meaning of the treaty. One Ngatiawa chief said, ‘It is true I received one blanket. I did not understand what was meant by it; it was given to me without any explanation by Mr Williams and Reihana.’ Paora Tuhaere dismissed the treaty as ‘Ngapuhi’s affair’, and the Ngapuhi chiefs there present did reveal greater understanding and acceptance of it as a covenant unifying Pakeha and Maori. Tuhaere also remarked: ‘The Treaty is right, but it came in the time of ignorance and was not understood,’ adding that those Maori who signed but were not present at Waitangi had least understanding of it. The Conference skirted the delicate issue of sovereignty to stress rather the Queen’s role as protector, allowing the Maori to believe that they retained sovereignty or mana over the land and political equality with the Governor under the Queen’s protection.


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand where ‘addicions’ implies mana, the attributes of ultimate personal prestige and sovereignty as distinct from merely delegated authority. Other textual problems are created by the versions. In the second article the word rangatiratanga does appear in a context which (in Maori) seeks to assure the chiefs of the rangatiratanga or ‘full possession of their lands, their homes and all their possessions’. Four of the five English versions, however, spell out that provision to read ‘full, exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates, Forests, Fisheries and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess’. Although technically the English versions have no textual authority, these explicit references to forests and fisheries have become a matter of great import and Maori today have found good reason to plead the intention of those English versions against the sparer wording of the Maori one. On the other hand, the Maori word for what is guaranteed by the Crown (taonga, or precious possessions) is almost infinitely extendable and may include any or every element of Maori culture, including the language itself. Even more significantly, indeed tragically, the English versions of the second article also require the chiefs to ‘yield to Her Majesty the exclusive right of Pre-emption over such lands as the proprietors thereof may be disposed to alienate, at such prices as may be agreed upon’. Williams’s Maori version omitted to spell out and thereby legitimate under the treaty the Crown’s pre-emptive right to purchase Maori land. As a consequence, the English versions have been taken to bestow legality on the actions of successive Governments, while the Maori version seems morally to justify the deep sense of grievance still widely suffered over Maori land issues. Once more, Colenso, writing to the Church Missionary 


Fishing rights became a matter of contention when in 1983 the then Government proposed to direct into the sea effluent from a synthetic petrol plant at Motunui. The subsequent Report, Findings and Recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal on an Application . . . on Behalf of the Te Atiawa Tribe in Relation to Fishing Grounds in the Waitara District (Wellington, 1983) includes a valuable résumé of many textual issues raised by the present paper. Sir Apirana Ngata’s literal translation from the Maori of the second article reads: ‘The Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes and to all the people of New Zealand the full possession of their lands, their homes and all


Bibliography and the sociology of texts Society, did not ‘for a moment’ suppose that the chiefs were aware that ‘by signing the Treaty they had restrained themselves from selling their land to whomsoever they will’, and cited one Maori who, although he had signed the treaty, had since offered land for sale privately. On being told that he could not do that, he replied: ‘What? Do you think I won’t do what I like with my own?’ From a European point of view, one conditioned to accept and apply document-based historical evidence as ‘literally’ true or false, the English versions of the treaty have proved a potent political weapon in legitimating government of the Maori, even though standards of textual and historical truth also derived from European traditions oblige us to acknowledge the Maori version as the only authoritative document, that which states the terms and bears the written marks of assent. On any reasonable reading of the Maori, it surrenders less and guarantees more than any of the English versions. Even so, from a


their possessions, but the chiefs assembled and all other chiefs yield to the Queen the right to alienate such lands which the owners desire to dispose of at a price agreed upon between the owners and person or persons appointed by the Queen to purchase on her behalf ’ (The Treaty of Waitangi: an Explanation (Christchurch, 1950), p. 7). Letter begun 24 January 1840, cited by Bagnall and Petersen, pp. 93–94. Again I acknowledge the kind help of Paul McHugh. The Crown’s pre-emptive right to extinguish the native title had been long practised in colonizing overseas territories and was most vigorously affirmed in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which was seen as protecting North American Indian lands from unscrupulous appropriation. The English land law assumption that all rights to land derive from a grant by the Crown clearly did not apply to new territories, where the aboriginal title rested at law, not upon a grant from the Crown, but (exceptionally) upon the Crown’s recognition of aboriginal rights. To the British mind, however, it was unthinkable that aboriginal and heathen notions of title should control the form of land transfers to British settlers, and so the pre-emptive right was adopted as a way of converting Crown-recognized title into Crown-derived title. From the British point of view, it was undoubtedly seen as preventing the chaos which must have followed from the operation of a mixed system, and at the same time (if fairly administered) as protecting the Maori from land-jobbers. One has to concede that neither Hobson nor Williams could have communicated the full import of ‘pre-emptive’ to those who were asked to assent to the treaty, but by so simplifying the issue in his translation of the second article into Maori, Williams again showed less readiness than did Colenso to penetrate ‘the Native mind’ and ‘explain the thing in all its bearings . . . so that it should be their own very act and deed’. One might be accused of arguing from hindsight were it not for Colenso’s contemporary insight.


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand Maori point of view, the truth is not so confined, and signatures bear no absolute authority. For the Maori, as I have already indicated, the ‘text’ was the consensus arrived at through discussion, something much more comprehensive and open than the base document or any one of its extant versions. Williams later defended himself, saying that he had explained the text orally; but only the documents survived, and successive Governments have chosen the English ones to act on when these best served their ends. At a later treaty meeting, Mohi Tawhai said that ‘the sayings of the Pakeha float light, like the wood of the whau tree, and always remain to be seen, but the sayings of the Maori sink to the bottom like stone’. Manuscript and print, the tools of the Pakeha, persist, but words which are spoken fade as they fall. Print is still too recent for the Maori. Oral traditions live on in a distrust of the literal document, and in a refusal by many young Maori to accept political decisions based on it. Pakeha and Maori versions of the past continue to collide. During a Russian scare in the 1880s the Government of the day pre-empted the purchase of Maori land at Bastion Point, a fine site overlooking Auckland harbour. When a more recent Government proposed to resell it for luxury housing, it was occupied for more than a year by Maori protesters. In my mind’s eye, I can still read the vivid television news pictures of police and military vehicles as they moved in on 25 May 1978 to evict the squatters. At such moments literacy defines itself for many as a concordat of sword and pen, of politics and script – to the dismay and frustration of those


Cited by Ross, op. cit., p. 152, from British Parliamentary Papers, 1845, XXXIII, 108, p. 10. Despite the transience of the spoken word, there is a wealth of Maori speech in manuscripts still to be studied. Some are tapu and unable to be consulted, but the written transcripts of evidence delivered in Maori land courts are a rich source of information about language and forms of oral witness to land rights as declaimed in court. Elsdon Best records that when he was secretary to the Land Commission, an old man recited 406 songs for him from memory, a genealogy which took three days to recite and included over 1400 persons in proper sequence, and much other evidence on the occupation of certain lands: The Maori School of Learning: Its Objects, Methods and Ceremonies (Wellington, 1923), p. 5. See also Jane McRae, ‘Maori Manuscripts in Public Collections,’ New Zealand Libraries 44 (March 1983), 8–11.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts whose modes are oral. Pakeha continue to assume ‘Sovereignty’ where radical Maori persist in believing that nothing so sacred as mana has ever been ceded under the treaty, that Maori sovereignty was, and is, intact. As it happens, the Maori text supports them. In the reports Colenso has left us, he shows his perception of the complex relationships of oral witness, text, print, and political and economic power. For us, the texts in context quickly deconstruct and lose their ‘literal’ authority – no book was ever bound by its covers. The book, in all its forms, enters history only as an evidence of human behaviour, and it remains active only in the service of human needs. But must the story end there, in a conflict of irreconcilable versions? In terms of a sociology of the text, it is impossible to regard the Maori version as quite complete, although it carries the highest authority, nor the English ones as authoritative, although they are far more explicit. Like many dramatic texts, each has been born, here maimed and deformed, of the pressures of context. In the rarefied world of textual scholarship, it would be commendably scholarly to deny any possibility of conflation, any notion that ‘the text’ of the Treaty of Waitangi is anything other than its distinct historical versions. To conflate the versions would be to create a text that never was. The distinguished textual scholar Sir Walter Greg had little patience with such timidity: many editors, he wrote, ‘produce, not editions of their author’s works at all, but only editions of particular authorities for those works’. The principle of reconstructing an ideal text from all the versions is vitally operative in legal opinion on the interpretation of treaties as documents which must be interpreted in the spirit in which they are drawn. In New Zealand, under the Treaty of Waitangi Act, an advisory tribunal was set up and directed by Government ‘to determine the meaning and effect of the Treaty as embodied in the two [sic] texts’ and ‘to decide issues raised by differences between them’. It was essentially 


See, for example, Donna Awatere, Maori Sovereignty (Auckland, 1984), and Bruce Jesson, ‘Reviewing the Sovereignty Debate,’ The Republican 48 (December 1983), 3–17, 19–20. ‘The Rationale of Copy-text’, in Collected Papers, ed. J. C. Maxwell (Oxford, 1966), p. 384.


Oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand an editorial direction which recognized the social inutility of a clutter of versions, as distinct from the social value of a harmonized text. The Waitangi Tribunal, however, affirmed an even higher principle: A Maori approach to the Treaty would imply that its wairua or spirit is something more than a literal construction of the actual words used can provide. The spirit of the Treaty transcends the sum total of its component written words and puts narrow or literal interpretations out of place. That spirit is only recoverable if texts are regarded not simply as verbal constructs but as social products. Crucial to that development is Pakeha recognition of their own myth of literacy and recognition of the status of oral culture and spoken consensus. For many Maori, the spirit of the treaty is best served by the Maori text, in which kawanatanga means what it says (governorship, not sovereignty), in which the taonga guaranteed by the Crown include all that is materially and 

Report pp. 52–63; the immediate quotation is on p. 55. A Bill of Rights for New Zealand. A White Paper (Wellington, 1985), p. 37, proposes ‘that the Treaty of Waitangi is to be regarded as always speaking and shall be applied to circumstances as they arise so that effect may be given to its spirit and true intent.’ Nevertheless, Pakeha intentions to give legal effect to the treaty in a Bill of Rights, however strongly entrenched, would destroy its tapu state and make it vulnerable to legislative change: its mana would then be lost. As indicated in note 35 above, an oral culture will generate, not a fixed text, but a variety of versions which have their local and topical value in giving life to the wairua of the ‘text’ which comprehends and transcends them all. Treaties are likely to become a more frequently used resource, not only for ethnohistorical studies, but for concepts of text in complex political, linguistic, and cultural contexts, for their mixed modes of oral and written discourse, for their synchronic and diachronic dimensions, for their continuing human implications (they are not exactly dramatic fictions), and for the forcing circumstances which compel the law to offer what are essentially editorial judgements. David R. Miller of the Newberry Library tells me that the microfilming of 9,552 Iroquois treaty documents has been completed, and an associated study published: The History and Culture of Iroquois Diplomacy: an Interdisciplinary Guide to the Treaties of the Six Nations and League (Syracuse, 1985). The value of treaties as texts for analysis of diplomacy as a matter of cultural as well as political contact is well demonstrated in Dorothy V. Jones’s Licence for Empire: Colonisation by Treaty (Chicago, 1983). A. S. Keller, O. J. Lissitzyn, and F. J. Mann, Creation of Rights of Sovereignty through Symbolic Acts, 1400–1800 (New York, 1938) remains a convenient historical summary of European attitudes and practice.


Bibliography and the sociology of texts spiritually precious, in which Maori and Pakeha share the Queen’s protection as equal partners. So understood, the treaty in Maori is a sacred covenant, one which is tapu, and with a mana which places it above the law, whereas the English versions distort its effect and remain caught in the mesh of documentary history and juridical process. As the Maori always knew, there is a real world beyond the niceties of the literal text and in that world there is in fact a providential version now editing itself into the status of a social and political document of power and purpose. The physical versions and their fortuitous forms are not the only testimonies to intent: implicit in the accidents of history is an ideal text which history has begun to discover, a reconciliation of readings which is also a meeting of minds. The concept of an ideal text as a cultural and political imperative is not imposed on history but derives from it and from an understanding of the social dynamics of textual criticism. Colenso died in 1899 at the ripe old age of eighty-eight, thirty-six hours after penning his last letter to Coupland Harding. He left to Harding two hundred pounds for his son, William Colenso Harding, and all his printing materials, including ‘my sole composing-stick – with which I did so much work both in England and in New Zealand’. Harding was a worthy recipient and was later to note: ‘It was in this stick that the Maori New Testament of 1837 was set, and also the Treaty of Waitangi – Truly, a venerable relic’. 

Letter to G. Robertson, 1 March 1899: Mitchell MS AC 83/4.


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