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Style Matters: The Influence of Editorial Style on the Publishing of English

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posted on 22.03.2017, 01:08 by Jocelyn Hargrave
A consideration of the ‘style matters’ of this thesis entails an investigation into the evolution and practice of editorial style in early-modern England. Its two objectives are to provide a historical study on the evolution of editorial style and its progress towards standardisation through an examination of early-modern style guides; and to explore how multiple stakeholders—namely authors, editors and printers—either directly implemented, or uniquely interpreted and adapted, the guidelines of contemporary style guides as part of their inherently human editorial practice. Several questions emerged from contemplating the modern concept of editorial style and its practice by stakeholders in the print trade: when and how did style guides originate; how did they contribute to the evolution of editorial practice; and how did they impact on the publishing of content in English historically.
   Editorial style relates to rules designed to ensure not only consistency within and across all titles produced by a publishing company but also the consistency and effectiveness of meaning. These rules are known as house style and are typically associated with editors whose responsibility, among many others, is to prepare manuscripts for typesetting and eventual publication. Stakeholders such as authors, editors and printers typically refer to style guides for instruction on editorial style. Style guides outline the rules pertaining to grammar, punctuation, spelling, hyphenation, capitalisation and italicisation, for example; explain the parts of a book, such as the preliminaries, headings, body text and end matter, their typography and typesetting; and include proof-correction symbols that are used to mark authorial and editorial corrections, either interlineally or in margins, on manuscript and typeset page proofs to be incorporated by typesetters. In early-modern England, these style guides were generally referred to as printers’ manuals or grammars. Those to be considered in this thesis are Joseph Moxon’s 'Mechanick Exercises or, The doctrine of handy-works. Applied to the art of printing' (1683), John Smith’s 'The Printer’s Grammar' (1755), Philip Luckombe’s 'A Concise History of the Origin and Progress of Printing' (1770) and Caleb Stower’s 'Printer’s Grammar' (1808).
   This thesis demonstrates that the majority of work towards editorial standardisation in England was started by Moxon in the late seventeenth century and comprehensively extended by Smith in the mid-eighteenth century, with legal modernisation by their successors, such as Luckombe and Stower, revealing a punctuated evolution of editorial style, rather than a gradual one, through a process of generational intertextual inheritance. That is, editorial development began with German corrector Hieronymus Hornschuch, advanced in England with Moxon and Smith, and then was modernised by Luckombe and Stower. The latter appropriators’ work is consistent with that of modern-day scholarly editors, who modernise the texts to be appropriate for their intended audience.
   The editorial standards provided by the printers’ manuals informed editorial decisions and influenced the presentation of early-modern texts; however, interpretation and application differ. To elucidate the semiotics of early-modern editing, the following publications are examined: various editions of 'The Elements of Euclid' by Isaac Barrow (1660, 1686, 1705) and Robert Simson (1756); Thomas Holcroft’s translation of J. C. Lavater’s 'Essays on Physiognomy' (1789); and the Thomas Dunham Whitaker edition of 'Piers Plowman' (1813). Also included is the authorial editorial proof-correction, or mark-up, of Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his 'Poems' (c. 1796/97; Ashley MS 408).


Principal supervisor

Peter Groves

Additional supervisor 1

Louise Poland

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Literary and Cultural Studies

Campus location



Faculty of Arts

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