Bannatyne MS Project
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  • 19 July 2019
    • Dr Lucy R. Hinnie

    The Question of W. Tod Ritchie and the 20th Century

    An aspect of this project that has brought some unprecedented, and highly enjoyable, information to light is the role of one W. Tod Ritchie. This name may be familiar for those who have worked with the Bannatyne MS previously, but for those who have not, W. Tod Ritchie was the editor of the full manuscript for the Scottish Text Society in the 1920s and 1930s. In 2017, I had a remarkable encounter in a bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland’s Book Town - I found an edition of William Dunbar’s poetry that I had not previously seen. It was bound in beautiful red, and my magpie tendencies got the better of me. I was astonished to find, upon closer inspection, that this volume was inscribed as having belonged to W. Tod Ritchie himself. It was at this point that I started to really think about the nature of an editor’s relationship with their text. Holding the book in my hands, I could visualise Ritchie reading this volume, considering the choices he would go on to make in his authoritative and exhaustive edition of the Bannatyne, upon which I had so heavily relied throughout my studies.

    I came to my own project with a naïvete: I believed that I had selected a challenge which was a project in objectivity, and that my ‘gift’ to scholarship would be an objective edition. Even now, merely months on from beginning the project, I can see the inherent problems with this. A truly objective edition is an impossibility, and in my own experience with the Bannatyne, I have been privileged to work through the lens of editors and critics such as Ritchie, Denton Fox, Priscilla Bawcutt and Hughes and Ramson. My own interpretation of these texts, while still attached to an overarching goal of providing material for pedagogical and research purposes, will be shaped by my own experience, both scholarly and personal.

    In accepting this, I have decided to utilise this project to contextualise the process of editing the Bannatyne further, by looking at Ritchie’s own experience, his life and work, alongside broader historical questions. It was scintillating to learn that the COCOA-encoded text of the MS, accessed via the Oxford Text Archive, is actually one of their earlier digitisations. In contacting the superlatively helpful Martin Wynne at the OTA, I have discovered a few documents pertaining to this early digitisation, and in cooperation with the DOST, have been able to find out more about A.J. Aitken’s work on this initial digitisation. The generosity of other scholars in sharing this knowledge has been exceptional, and I hope that this prosopography of the digitisation process, from Ritchie’s work onwards, will form an output from this project.

    For now, work continues on adapting the TEI files for the fourth section, and publicising the project to other academic outlets. I hope that future posts will cover things like a glossary of terms pertaining to the project, an overview of the Bannatyne’s place in Scottish history and the process that has been taking place offline, such as the inimitable Bannatyne Focus Group who have been so helpful with their input thus far.