Questions tagged [textual-history]

For questions about the history of the manuscripts, printed texts, or orally transmitted versions of a single work; or when and where a work was first published; or specific features of one or more editions; or how editors establish an accurate or authoritative text, etc. Not to be confused with [tag:publishing], which is about publishing practices generally, or [tag:historical-context], which is about relevant background information.

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What is known, and how, about the dating of the Exeter Book?

The Exeter Book is one of the most important pieces of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) literature, containing a wide variety of works including riddles, elegies, a so-called bestiary, etc. Wikipedia says ...
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How does “handwriting” provide evidence for dating Beowulf's composition to “the first half of the eighth century”?

The Wikipedia article for Beowulf has this interesting bit in the "Authorship and date" section: On the other hand, some scholars argue that linguistic, palaeographical (handwriting), ...
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Gagool, Gagoola, or Gagaoola?

In Chapter One of King Solomon's Mines we have the first reference to one of the main antagonists of the story: Stop, though! there is Gagaoola, if she was a woman, and not a fiend. Throughout the ...
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How does Ahmad Khani's Mem and Zin differ from the pre-existing oral tradition of the story?

Mem and Zin is a classic tale of traditional Kurdish storytelling, passed down through oral tradition for centuries, but also written down in 1692 by the Kurdish poet Ahmad Khani. In the process of ...
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Did “Gargantua and Pantagruel” originally have illustrations?

The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel is a series of novels by François Rabelais, originally published in the 16th century. The Wikipedia article notes this about illustrations: The most famous and ...
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What's the first appearance of the rhyme about “He died defending his right of way”?

There's a little poem that goes something like this: Here lies the body of Thomas Grey, Who died defending his right of way. He was perfectly right as he sped along, But he's just as dead as if he'd ...
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When and why did “No man is an island” start being regarded as a poem?

John Donne's "Meditation XVII" from Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624) includes the following well-known passage: No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the ...
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When was Mem and Zin / Mam û Zîn first printed?

Wikipedia describes Mem and Zin as a Kurdish classic love story written down in 1692 (...). In other words, it was written down roughly two-and-a-half centuries after Johannes Gutenberg invented the ...
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When and how was the phrase “these dark Satanic mills” in Blake's “Jerusalem” first altered to “those dark Satanic mills”?

William Blake's lines of verse "Jerusalem", which appear in the "Preface" to his poem "Milton", were written c.1804 and first printed c.1808. They also appear, but with ...
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Horatio Hornblower book as part of anthology?

I first read C. S. Forester’s Beat to Quarters as a teenager in the mid-1970s. I remember it as having been included in a Readers’ Digest Condensed Book, but the Wikipedia listing of these books ...
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Who classified Rabindranath Tagore's lyrics into the six standard categories?

The standard edition of Rabindranath Tagore's song lyrics, গীতবিতান / giitabitaan, "A Canopy of Songs", classifies the lyrics under six headings: পূজা / puujaa, "Worship" স্বদেশ / ...
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What is the original source of Rabindranath Tagore's “Endless Time”?

There is a poem "Endless Time" by Rabindranath Tagore as follows, which I interpret as being about a mortal human speaking to God, someone living a rushed human life and comparing it to God'...
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“Yum yum pig's bum”

I saw a vernacular poem that appears to have been passed down and passed around in various parts of the UK. A couple of different versions: Yum yum Pig's bum Wrap it up In chewing gum Have a slice ...
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When and how was the manuscript of Fratricide Punished / Der bestrafte Brudermord lost?

Yesterday, I asked a question about the relationship between the Ur-Hamlet and Fratricide Punished / Der bestrafte Brudermord. The Wikipedia page about Fratricide Punished says that the play was first ...
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Earliest known manuscripts of the Shahnameh?

The classical Persian epic poem the Shahnameh was written over a millennium ago, 977-1010 CE, compiled in verse form from traditional mythology and history by the poet Ferdowsi. Wikipedia tells us ...
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Are Barnes & Noble editions of public domain works of reliable quality?

If I buy a "Barnes & Noble Classics Series" edition of a book that is in public domain, can I be confident that it is "correct," in the sense of being unabridged, un-bowdlerize,...
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What manuscript or manuscripts was the first printed edition of the Tale of Genji based on?

The original manuscript of the 11th-century Japanese novel The Tale of Genji has been lost. According to the Wikipedia article Textual tradition of The Tale of Genji, "the number of manuscript ...
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Why are there three different versions of the “solid/sullied/sallied flesh” line in Hamlet?

While looking up about the passage asked about in this previous question, I noticed that there are different versions of the same line in Hamlet, Act I Scene II, line 333: O that this too too solid ...
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Info about “Wisdom is One” by Benjamin Williams Huntsman?

Ran across a title. Out of curiosity, tried trolling the internet for more info. No joy. Does anyone know anything about a book titled "Wisdom is One" by Benjamin Williams Huntsman ...
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Why is the order of The Chronicles of Narnia changed from original publication?

When I originally read The Chronicles of Narnia I read an older boxset which has the books numbered in original publication order: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe Prince Caspian The Voyage of ...
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Was it traditional to omit the prologue from Shakespeare's plays in the First Folio?

In an older question about the purpose of the prologue in Romeo and Juliet, Cory Howell asked in a now deleted answer: For what it's worth, the Prologue is not included in the First Folio version of ...
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How do scholars estimate the original number of copies of the Shakespeare First Folio of 1623?

The first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays was printed in 1623, several years after the author's death, and is known is the First Folio. (Later editions are known as the Second Folio, etc., ...
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Matthew Arnold's anthology of literature for use in schools

While reading Lynette Hunter's lecture text "What Is Literary Value?" (Gresham College, 1997), I came across the following passage (emphasis mine): What gets into and what stays out of the canon is ...
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If I find a book by Nietzsche, how do I know if it's Friedrich's original work, and not work that was edited by his nazi sister, Elisabeth?

Background I've been getting into philosophy lately, and I've been wanting to read some of Nietzsche's work. But history has it that after his mental decline, and subsequent death, his sister became ...
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Which first edition is the “true” first edition of a book?

I've come across books that have multiple first editions that were all published in the same year. For example, the Silmarillion was published in 1977 in a first UK edition, first export edition, and ...
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Which edition of How to Read a Book by Adler and Van Doren is the best?

I have found three editions of How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. One was published on 9/30/14; a second one was from 1972; a third was from the 1940s. Is one of these ...
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Which short stories are falsely attributed to Guy de Maupassant, and why?

Thanks to @GarethRees's sleuthing and editing, I just learned that several French short stories found in the Project Gutenberg version of the "Entire Original Maupassant Short Stories" are in fact not ...
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When were the short stories of Malgudi Days published?

Malgudi Days is a short story collection by R. K. Narayan. According to Wikipedia: Malgudi Days is a collection of short stories by R. K. Narayan published in 1943 by Indian Thought Publications. ...
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In “It”, was Derry, Maine said to be named after Derry or Londonderry?

This might seem like a really obscure question, but it's somewhat significant, because whether the city in Northern Ireland is called "Derry" or "Londonderry" is a contentious political issue. I re-...
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Who edited the second edition of Nicola Tesla's autobiography?

While reading Nicola Tesla's Autobiography "My Inventions" for the second time, I noticed that the book is quite different. Indeed, there seem to be in circulation at least two vastly edited versions: ...
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What manuscript was the first printed edition of the Odyssey based on?

The Wikipedia article about the Iliad says that this work was first printed in Florence in 1488/89. The Wikipedia article about the Odyssey does not mention when this epic was first printed, but it ...
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Empty pages in Kongens Fald

I'm starting to read Kongens Fald by Johannes V. Jensen. I find out that at the first chapter, Mikkel chapter, there are some empty pages. I just want to know if the Spanish version that I bought is ...
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Has “The Duel” by Joseph Conrad been published in any recent story collections?

I'm a fan of the Ridley Scott film The Duellists (1977) which is based on the story "The Duel" by Joseph Conrad. I would like to read the original story, but whenever I search for paperback ...
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Which of these sources is right about “The Tempest”?

This is part of a quote by Ferdinand in the beginning of scene 1 of act 3 of "The Tempest": But these sweet thoughts do even refresh my labours, Most busy, least when I do it. According to ...
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Is there a useful “entry-level” annotated edition of Le Morte d'Arthur

I've always been a huge fan of Arthurian legend, and have read many books and comics etc inspired by it. But I've always wanted to read a telling of the stories that was much closer to the source so ...
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Are all editions of “Joseph und seine Brüder” (by Thomas Mann) the same?

There are several editions of Joseph and his brothers (original German Joseph und seine Brüder). Do all of them contain the same text? Or did Thomas Mann make some "adjustments" for some publishers?
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When was each article of Avowals and Denials written?

Avowals and Denials is a collection of articles by Chesterton first published in 1934. Is it possible to know when each individual article was first published?
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How did the story of Robin Hood pass from oral literature to written?

Robin Hood is a famous figure of English folklore, whose existence or fictionality is still a subject of debate. The stories about him started off as folk tales transmitted orally (ballads), but by ...
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Why was Pygmalion retitled to My Fair Lady?

George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion has been adapted many times for different media, but most notably as a musical entitled My Fair Lady. This musical was so popular that some screen adaptations have ...
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Is there really a single “Old Babylonian version” of the Epic of Gilgamesh?

From the Wikipedia article about the Epic of Gilgamesh: From the diverse sources found, two main versions of the epic have been partially reconstructed: the standard Akkadian version, or He who saw ...
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When was Marlowe's Doctor Faustus written?

I read in a recent answer that "Marlowe's plays are generally hard to date and Doctor Faustus was probably written between 1589 and 1592", and this intriguing situation struck me as something that ...
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Use of Fraktur in 19th Century English Print

Context: I live in Germany. I'm fond of shopping for old books at fleamarkets, second-hand-shops, and online. Mostly interested in English 19th century or early 20th century printed books (date of ...
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Fight Club book editions and different text passages

I found out that there are different editions of Fight Club that contain different text passages. I cannot find any page that would describe these differences and I don't know which version is the ...
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Why does Great Illustrated Classics change details in its abridged versions?

From the Wikipedia article on Great Illustrated Classics: The Great Illustrated Classics series of books offers easy-to-read adaptations of well known classics, featuring large print and ...
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Where can I find details on the original manuscripts for the Miyamoto Musashi texts?

I'm doing a "reliability of the text" study and want to review the reliability of the texts that have been used to substantiate the Miyamoto Musashi texts The Book of the Five Rings and The Path of ...
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How does the editor know that seven lines are missing from Wordsworth's Home at Grasmere?

The Wordsworth edition The Major Works, edited by Stephen Gill and published by Oxford University Press in 1984 (and revised later) was the first selection of Wordsworth's work (...) in which the ...
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Was The Forty Rules of Love originally written in Turkish or in English?

I was trying to figure out whether or not to use the turkish-literature tag for my questions here about Elif Şafak's novel The Forty Rules of Love, i.e. whether or not the book was originally written ...
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Is there any difference between The Motorcycle Diaries Ocean press publication and film tie-in edition?

I recently bought the Harper Perennial Film tie-in edition of The Motorcycle Diaries. But after that I came to know that the original edition was published by Ocean press. So, is there any difference ...
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Why was Far from the Madding Crowd first published anonymously?

I recently learned that Thomas Hardy's novel Far from the Madding Crowd was first published anonymously in Cornhill Magazine. As far as I know, publishing novels as monthly serials was reasonably ...
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How many Elizabethan or Jacobean manuscripts of Shakespeare sonnets have come down to us?

When Thomas Thorpe published Shake-speares Sonnets [sic!] in 1609, the sonnets (or at least a subset of them) had already circulated in manuscript for some time. Francis Meres already mentioned these ...