Critical apparatus
The critical apparatus is the critical and primary source
Primary source
Primary source is a term used in a number of disciplines to describe source material that is closest to the person, information, period, or idea being studied....

 material that accompanies an edition of a text. A critical apparatus is often a by-product of textual criticism
Textual criticism
Textual criticism is a branch of literary criticism that is concerned with the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of manuscripts...


Many editions employ a standard format for a critical apparatus, as illustrated by a line from Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

, which the Oxford Complete Works (1988) prints as follows:
LAERTES. Alas, then is she drowned.

The apparatus for the line might be rendered as:
4.7.156 Alas, then is she drowned.] HIBBARD; Alas then, is she drown'd? F;
Alas then is she drownd. Q3; Alas, then, she is drownd. Q2;
So, she is drownde: Q1.

The format of the apparatus has several parts:
  • The location of the variant in the text (act, scene, line number)
  • The lemma, which is the portion of the text to which the note applies
  • A right bracket (])
  • The source from which the edition took its reading
  • A list of variants, in each case followed by the source in which the variant is found, and set off with a semicolon.

To save space, frequently cited sources are usually assigned an abbreviation called a siglum. In Shakespeare editions, F always signifies the First Folio
First Folio
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio....

; the second through fourth folios are referred to as F2 through F4 respectively. Similarly, Q1 is the first quarto
Quarto could refer to:* Quarto, a size or format of a book in which four leaves of a book are created from a standard size sheet of paper* For specific information about quarto texts of William Shakespeare's works, see:...

, Q2 the second quarto, and Q3 the third.

In the example given, the first folio (F) and the three early quartos (Q1 to Q3) each have a different reading of the line in question. The editors have concluded that all four early sources are corrupt, and instead have adopted a reading suggested by G. R. Hibbard. Other editors of the play may choose a different reading of the line. The apparatus summarizes all of the textual evidence, allowing readers to assess for themselves whether the editor has made the best choice. Sometimes the editor will add a commentary, defending the choice made, explaining why other readings were rejected, or discussing how other editors have treated the passage.

This format has been used for critical apparatuses of Shakespeare and many other authors. In variorum
A variorum is a work that collates all known variants of a text. It is a work of textual criticism, whereby all variations and emendations are set side by side so that a reader can track how textual decisions have been made in the preparation of a text for publication...

 editions, the apparatus is often placed at the bottom of the page. Sometimes a three-part format is employed, with the main text at the top of the page, textual variants in the middle, and the editor's commentary at the bottom. This remains the most common format for Shakespeare editions, although the Oxford Complete Works breaks with tradition by putting its critical apparatus in a separately published volume.

In the United States, bibliographer Fredson Bowers
Fredson Bowers
Fredson Thayer Bowers was an American bibliographer and scholar of textual editing.-Life:Bowers was a graduate of Brown University and Harvard University...

 established a tradition of putting the critical apparatus at the back of the book, leaving the edited text clear of apparatus. This has the advantage of leaving the main text uncluttered with editorial details that may not be of interest to the general reader. However, this format is a disadvantage to scholarly readers, who are not able to see all of the textual evidence in one place.


The first printed edition of the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 with critical apparatus (noting variant readings among the manuscripts) was produced by the printer Robert Estienne
Robert Estienne
Robert I Estienne , known as Robertus Stephanus in Latin and also referred to as Robert Stephens by 18th and 19th-century English writers, was a 16th century printer and classical scholar in Paris...

 of Paris in 1550. The Greek text of this edition and of those of Erasmus became known as the Textus Receptus
Textus Receptus
Textus Receptus is the name subsequently given to the succession of printed Greek texts of the New Testament which constituted the translation base for the original German Luther Bible, the translation of the New Testament into English by William Tyndale, the King James Version, and for most other...

(Latin for "received text"), a name given to it in the Elzevier
House of Elzevir
Elzevir is the name of a celebrated family of Dutch booksellers, publishers, and printers of the 17th and early 18th centuries. The duodecimo series of "Elzevirs" became very famous and very desirable among bibliophiles, who sought to obtain the tallest and freshest copies of these tiny...

 edition of 1633, which termed it as the text nunc ab omnibus receptum ("now received by all").

Electronic Representation

The de facto standard for the representation of critical apparatus in digital scholarly editions is to follow the recommendations of the Text Encoding Initiative
Text Encoding Initiative
The Text Encoding Initiative is a text-centric community of practice in the academic field of digital humanities. The community runs a mailing list, meetings and conference series, and maintains a technical standard, a wiki and a toolset....

. While other formats are also used in digital literary studies this has become the most accepted storage format.
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