Why Edit?

Created by , 2023

This course provides a general framework for exploring the field of editing, such as the reasons why you may choose to edit, the differences between historical editing and critical editing, and some of the activities and considerations involved in preparing an edition.

  • Approx. 3 hours to complete
  • Self-paced, progress at your own speed
  • 100% Online
  • Free

This course is part of the Fundamentals Series

Course placeholder image
Current Status
Not Enrolled
Get Started

About this course

This course provides a general framework for exploring the field of editing. This framework arises out of four important exploratory research questions related to editing:

  • Who can be an editor?
  • Why edit?
  • What is historical editing?
  • How do editors do their work?

In order to answer the broader question “Why edit?”, we need to explore the fundamental question of what historical editing is and the conditions under which it occurs. Chiefly, historical editing aims to publish historical documents and make them accessible to a variety of audiences. It’s also important to be historically aware of editorial theories, methodologies, text technologies, traditions, and the origins of the documents you wish to publish. Editing does not consist of one simple process; rather, it’s a legacy of practices that comes with many kinds of outputs, biases, and strategies for collecting and understanding cultural heritage. As we lay the theoretical groundwork for this course, we’ll also focus on how to think like an editor as well as how to distinguish between different forms of historical editing and critical editing. Ultimately, editing requires you to gain a historical understanding of the documents you wish to publish as well as a cultural understanding of their significance. This unit concludes by helping you to articulate the significance of the work in your project documentation and identify the editorial principles you’ll use as a guide through the process.

What you'll learn

  1. to identify who can be an editor.
  2. to list the reasons why individuals and teams (scholars, historians, local interest groups) edit documents.
  3. to explain how the context of historical documents can influence the reasons people edit.
  4. to recognize the historical forms of editing.
  5. to explain why it is important to be aware of the media history of the text one is editing.
  6. to explain why it is important to have audience awareness when editing.
  7. to explain the goals of historical and critical editing.
  8. to apply historical and critical methodologies to specific situations.
  9. to explain how to approach text as data when editing.
  10. to articulate the roles, practices, and continuities of editors and archivists.

Course Glossary

AJAX progress indicator
  • The “supports” of any edition (other than the reading text itself) that are created for the purpose of providing additional clarifying information. Typically, this term is applied to textual and contextual notes, but it can also apply to introductions, headnotes, dictionaries, lists, indexes, and appendices as well as newer, innovative annotation types, such as data visualizations.

  • A collection of textual and non-textual artifacts in physical and/or digital form; records created or received by a person, family, or organization and preserved because of their continuing value. See also the definition provided by the Society of American Archivists: https://dictionary.archivists.org/entry/archives.html.

  • A reconstructive form of editing that establishes an authoritative reading text based on a critical examination of existing witnesses—i.e., imposing change on a text through correction, emendation, or apparatus. See in contrast documentary/historical editing.

  • A handwritten, printed, or oral type of source material. Documents may include letters, diaries, financial records, invitations, event flyers, newspaper articles, poems, speeches, interviews and more.

  • Editing documents (either private or public documents) with the goal of making them accessible and, in some cases, reproducing their content as closely as possible to their original form. This form of editing has often been distinguished from critical editing, which focuses on editing documents with the goal of establishing an authoritative text, yet many practitioners now agree that historical editing incorporates many aspects of critical editing as reflected in decisions about  presentation, formatting, and annotation.

  • The process of writing down the policy decisions that you have made in order to share them with readers and ensure that you apply them consistently.

  • Changing the reading of a text to correct an inaccuracy or to reflect a judgment about an author’s intentions.

  • A guided search and navigation feature that lets users filter search results by selecting a range of different attributes. For example, a faceted search of place names allows you to search a list of place names mentioned in a collection of documents. See the Wikipedia entry for more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faceted_search.

  • Essentially, data about data. It can be used to describe the content, physical or structural features, and/or administrative elements of data. In providing such descriptions, metadata supports the management and discoverability of data. See the University of North Carolina Library's definition of metadata for more information: https://guides.lib.unc.edu/metadata/definition.

  • Where documents or data come from, which individuals or repositories have previously owned them, and how we end up accessing them (or how they have changed, through mediation).

  • The act of labeling texts with specific, meaningful categories for machine processing.

  • The core components of a textual artifact, including the material history of communications among humans and their underlying systems of publication and dissemination.