William of Palerne
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William of Palerne
An Electronic Edition Ed. G. H. V. Bunt. SEENET Publications. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002. CD-ROM. <http://www.press.umich.edu/titleDetailDesc.do?id=6462>

Gerrit Bunt’s digital edition of William of Palerne shares many characteristics with Matsumoto’s Destruction of Troy, reviewed above, and some of its weaknesses as well. Both digital editions function as companions to the print editions produced by the same editors and this occasionally makes them less comprehensive in content than they otherwise would likely be. Like the Destruction, Bunt’s William of Palerne was published in 2002 by SEENET, using the somewhat problematic Multidoc Pro browser, and as with the Destruction, the editor acknowledges at the beginning that there are a few glitches in the program that could not be rectified. The opening explanation of tags, the search guidelines, and then the Multidoc user manual to which the reader is referred in this edition all reinforce the challenges the Multidoc Pro program poses to the general user. Although I am not a technical expert, I am more than computer literate and would consider myself a quick study in things technological. Even so, I found the technical guidelines and directions in this edition particularly tiresome; I imagine this is largely because in 2012 the market demands programs that are intuitive and approachable: programs that the layperson can easily navigate. The Multidoc Pro browser is neither of these things, unfortunately, which is certainly part of the reason why it is no longer used.

Having said this, these technical hurdles are not the fault or responsibility of Bunt, whose edition of William of Palerne I found to be eminently easy to read and navigate. Despite the minor irritations of footnotes opening in separate windows (the same problem encountered in Matsumoto’s edition of the Destruction) and the difficulty of maintaining one scribal style sheet when in the Navigation menu (one of the glitches prefaced in the Instructions), I had a clear sense of the different textual layers being presented. Although Bunt states in Section 10 of his introduction that his text is a diplomatic edition, he includes style sheets for a scribal edition and a critical edition as well. Users can switch styles by accessing the “Styles” menu at the top of the browser window. The diplomatic version presents a simple transcription of the manuscript, with no notes and no corrections. The scribal version uses simple color coding to highlight words that are likely erroneous (but does not [End Page 163] correct them) and includes footnotes either suggesting emendations or identifying the emendations of previous editors. The critical edition, as would be expected, incorporates some of the emendations, retains the footnotes explaining past editorial decisions, and discontinues the color-coding. Bunt uses the term “critical edition” rather loosely in this context, as his emendations are highly conservative. For example, he keeps the double “f” for capital “F” and retains readings such as worngley (line 530) even though they seem to be obvious instances of metathesis. Bunt clearly states his justification for these unusual editorial choices in the Introduction: “[these errors] may be due to scribal error, but, since forms with metathesis occur several times, they might be instances of authentic variation in the scribe’s dialect. My policy has been to respect these forms as possibly authentic variants.” Bunt indicates that metathesis occurs repeatedly, but only gives one example (wolnk) of it occurring more than once with the same word, a situation that may indeed suggest “authentic variation” but which, without further evidence, may just as well be random.

Bunt acknowledges that his conservative editorial policy has been criticized by other scholars. One such scholar is Ralph Hanna, whose positive review of Bunt’s 1985 edition of William of Palerne is somewhat tempered by his doubts regarding the edition’s conservative stance. Hanna, like George Kane, believes that conjectural emendation or speculation can be, in fact, less risky than adhering slavishly to the manuscript; maintaining the latter position does not necessarily make an editor objective. Bunt is aware of these criticisms but maintains and justifies his conservatism in this revised and compacted version of his 1985 text. I...