Nineteenth-Century Editorial Style at Work: Thomas Dunham Whitaker’s Piers Plowman

  • Jocelyn Hargrave
Part of the New Directions in Book History book series (NDBH)


This chapter seeks to understand the extent of the influence of Caleb Stower’s The Printer’s Grammar (1808) on the presentation of Thomas Dunham Whitaker’s controversial 1813 folio edition of William Langland’s dream-vision poem, which was written in the fourteenth century. More specifically, it is through an examination of Whitaker’s usage of black letter and red ink and his punctuation style that this chapter demonstrates how Whitaker’s Romantic medievalism and interpretative but practical application of contemporary editorial style both assured the clarity of authorial content, and enabled Langland’s potentially anachronistic poem to be accessible to, and appreciated by, his nineteenth-century audience.


  1. 1820. The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historicle Chronicle. Vol. 90, Part 2.Google Scholar
  2. 1822. The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle. Vol. 92, Part 1.Google Scholar
  3. 1823. The Annual Biography and Obituary, for the Year 1823. London: A. & R. Spottiswoode.Google Scholar
  4. Barker, Nicolas. 2010. The Morphology of the Page. In The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain Volume V: 1695–1830, ed. Michael F. Suarez and Michael L. Turner, 248–267. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bray, Joe. 2000. “Attending to the Minute”: Richardson’s Revisions of Italics in Pamela. In Ma(r)king the Text: The Presentation of Meaning on the Literary Page, ed. Joe Bray, Miriam Handley, and Anne C. Henry, 105–119. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  6. Brewer, Charlotte. 1996. Editing Piers Plowman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Crosby, Alan G. 2013. Whitaker, Thomas Dunham (1759–1821). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Accessed 26 Feb 2019.
  8. D’Israeli, Isaac. 1841. Amenities of Literature. Vol. 1. London: Edward Moxon, Dover Street.Google Scholar
  9. Dahl, Eric. 1993. Diuerse Copies Haue it Diuerselye: An Unorthodox Survey of Piers Plowman, Textual Scholarship from Crowley to Skeat. In Suche Werkis to Werche: Essays on Piers Plowman, in Honour of David C. Fowler, ed. Míc˙eál F. Vaughan, 53–80. East Lansing: Colleagues Press.Google Scholar
  10. Gorton, John. 1851. A General Biographical Dictionary. Vol. 4. London: Henry G. Bohn.Google Scholar
  11. Greenwood, James. 1711. An Essay Towards a Practical English Grammar. London: Printed by R. Tookey.Google Scholar
  12. Hanna, Ralph. 2014. The Versions and Revisions of Piers Plowman. In The Cambridge Campanion to Piers Plowman, ed. Andrew Cole and Andrew Galloway, 33–49. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Justice, Steven. 2014. Literary History and Piers Plowman. In The Cambridge Companion to Piers Plowman, ed. Andrew Cole and Andrew Galloway, 50–64. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kelen, Sarah A. 2007. Langland’s Early Modern Identities. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kuhn, Sherman. 1983. Middle English Dictionary, Part 4. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  16. Langland, William, and W.W. Skeat. 1873. The Vision Concerning Piers Plowman, Part 3, ed. W.W. Skeat. London: Published for the Early English Text Society, N. Trübner & Company.Google Scholar
  17. Langland, William, and Thomas Dunham Whitaker. 1813. Visio Willi de Petro Plouhman, item visiones ejusdem de Dowel, Dobet et Dobest. Or, the Vision of William Concerning Peirs Plouhman, and the Visions of the Same Concerning the Origin, Progress and Perfection of the Christian Life. Ascribed to Robert [or Rather William] Langland and Written in, or Immediately After, the Year 1362. Printed from a MS. Contemporary with the Author, Collated with Two Others; … Together with an Introductory Discourse, a Perpetual Commentary, Annotations, and a Glossary, by T. D. Whitaker. London: B.L. L.P.Google Scholar
  18. McKerrow, R.B. 1913. Notes on Bibliographical Evidence for Literary Students and Editors of English Works of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. The Library TBS-12 (1): 213–318. Scholar
  19. Monteith, Robert. 1704. The True and Genuine Art, of Exact Pointing ; as Also What Concerns the Distinction of Syllables; the Marking of Capitals; and Italick, or Different Character : To Be Used, in Prints and Manuscripts, as Well Latine, as English. Edinburgh: Printed by John Reid Junior.Google Scholar
  20. Moxon, Joseph. 1676. Regulæ trium ordinum literarum typographicarum, or, The Rules of the Three Orders of Print Letters viz. the Roman, Italick, English Capitals and Small : Shewing How They Are Compounded of Geometrick Figures, and Mostly Made by Rule and Compass, Useful for Writing Masters, Painters, Carvers, Masons, and Others That Are Lovers of Curiosity. London: Printed for Joseph Moxon.Google Scholar
  21. ———. 1683. Mechanick Exercises: Or, the Doctrine of Handy-Works. Applied to the Art of Printing. The Second Volumne [sic]. London: Printed for Joseph Moxon on the West-side of Fleet-ditch, at the Sign of Atlas.Google Scholar
  22. Nichols, John. 1822. Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century : Consisting of Authentic Memoirs and Original Letters of Eminent Persons : And Intended as a Sequel to the Literary Anecdotes. London: Printed for the Author by John Nichols and Son.Google Scholar
  23. Parkes, M.B. 1992. Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  24. Phillips, Noelle. 2013. Seeing Red: Reading Rubrication in Oxford, Corpus Christi College MS 201’s Piers Plowman. The Chaucer Review 4: 439–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Regan, Catherine A. 1988. The Shaping and Reshaping of Piers Plowman: Interaction of Editors and Audiences. Literature in Performance 8 (2): 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Rigg, A.G., and Charlotte Brewer. 1983. William Langland, Piers Plowman: The Z Version. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies.Google Scholar
  27. Schmidt, A.V.C. 1995. Introduction. In The Vision of Piers Plowman: A Critical Edition of the B-Text Based on Trinity College Cambridge MS B.15.17, ed. A.V.C. Schmidt, vxii–lxxxvi. London: J. M. Dent.Google Scholar
  28. Smith, John. 1755. The Printer’s Grammar. London: Printed for the Editor; and Sold by W. Owen, Near Temple Bar; and by M. Cooper, at the Globe in Paternoster Row.Google Scholar
  29. Smith, Margaret M. 2010. Red as a Textual Element During the Transition from Manuscript to Print. In Textual Cultures: Cultural Texts, ed. Orietta Da Rold and Elaine Treharne, 187–200. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.Google Scholar
  30. Stock, Brian. 1974. The Middle Ages as Subject and Object: Romantic Attitudes and Academic Medievalism. New Literary History 5 (3): 527–547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Stower, Caleb. 1808. The Printer’s Grammar ; or, Introduction to the Art of Printing : A Concise History of the Art, with the Improvements in the Practice of Printing, for the Last Fifty Years. London: Printed by the Editor, 32, Paternoster Row, for B. Crosby and Co. Stationers’-Court.Google Scholar
  32. Whitaker, Thomas Dunham. 1872. An History of the Original Parish of Whalley, and Honor of Clitheroe : To Which Is Subjoined an Account of the Parish of Cartmell, ed. John Gough Nichols and Ponsonby Annesley Lyons. 4th ed. / rev. & enl. by John Gough Nichols and Ponsonby A. Lyons. ed. London: George Routledge and Sons.Google Scholar
  33. Wilson, Thomas, and F.R. Raines. 1857. Miscellanies: Being a Selection from the Poems and Correspondences of the Rev. Thomas Wilson. Manchester: Printed by Charles Simms and Co. for the Chetham Society.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jocelyn Hargrave
    • 1
  1. 1.Monash UniversityClaytonAustralia

Personalised recommendations