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Conrad: Cambridge Edition
Joseph Conrad. An Outcast of the Islands. Allan H. Simmons, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xlix + 477 pp. $120.00

AS WITH THE OTHER VOLUMES in The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Joseph Conrad, Allan H. Simmons, the editor of An Outcast of the Islands, eschews the social text theory of textual editing that argues that a text is a social product, with contributions by the author, publishers, and others involved in the publication such as typesetters, editors, compositors, and so on. Instead, Simmons, like the other volume editors of this edition, wants to recover Conrad’s text in order to produce an edition that best represents Conrad’s work, without the errors of typists and compositors and without changes introduced by editors to correct perceived errors or to conform to publisher house style or editorial preference. To be sure, this task is a difficult one, particularly [End Page 549] when prepublication documents, such as in this instance typescripts and proofs, are no longer extant. Nevertheless, Simmons has done an admirable job of approaching success in this task. Of course, any scholarly edition is an interpretation to some degree, but Simmons produces a text that appears to be closer to what was likely Conrad’s text than any other edition of the novel that has been published to this point.

Simmons has corrected obvious errors of transmission, typographical errors, and other similar errors, as any thorough editor would. However, he goes much further, attempting to remove the layers placed on top of Conrad’s text by editors, publishers, and others. Simmons’s familiarity with Conrad’s composition and revision practices helps enormously in particularly tricky textual concerns that would likely leave other editors forced simply to guess. It is impossible to be completely sure in each individual textual crux, even were the typescript and proofs still extant, but Simmons presents a text that certainly seems closer to what Conrad originally wrote than what we have had to date. One particularly insightful tool Simmons employed in his attempt to remove the layer of Unwin’s house style editorial changes was (in the absence of documentation on that house style) to compare a Maugham manuscript that was published by Unwin about the same time as An Outcast of the Islands. By doing so, Simmons was able to compare the changes made to that manuscript with the changes to the manuscript of An Outcast of the Islands and deduce the patterns of editorial change the Unwin employed. Along with the careful attention to detail in choosing among textual variants, he provides an extensive list of textual notes outlining the reasons for making some of the more difficult textual decisions.

Again, as with the other volumes in this edition, the text is accompanied by a variety of helpful supporting materials: an extensive introduction to the text, a glossary of nautical terms, a glossary of foreign words and phrases, a contemporaneous map of the geography of the Malay Archipelago at the time of the events of the novel, the Author’s Note to the Collected Edition of the novel, an alternate Author’s Note that Conrad wrote several years earlier (of whose existence I was completely unaware), and various other materials relevant to the editing of the text, including a lengthy note on the texts and growth of the novel, emendation tables, and the most complete set of explanatory notes yet included in an edition of the novel. [End Page 550]

John Peters
University of North Texas