Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Jessie Ann Owens (Brandeis University, USA)

Problems in editing Charles Butler

The modern editor of The Principles of Musick (1637) by Charles Butler (c.1560-1647) faces two issues at least. One concerns the interpretation and transliteration of his system of orthography, the other the dense layers of erudition that Butler provides his reader in the form of marginalia and annotations.

Butler is one of the most interesting, not to say bizarre, figures in early modern England. He was a polymath who published on the entire trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric), part of the quadrivium (music), natural history (he offered the first accurate explanation of the matriarchal organization of bee colonies in The Feminine Monarchie, 1609 and many subsequent editions), and theories of kinship. Trained at Magdalen College, Oxford, he worked for a time as a school teacher and then took up a position as parson in the parish of Wootton St. Lawrence (west of Basingstoke), where he remained for forty years.

The first part of the paper proposes a system of transliteration for Butler's orthography, based in part on his English Grammar. The second attempts to place Butler's dizzying array of references (he uses marginalia, interpolations in parentheses, and annotations or endnotes which themselves contain marginalia and further interpolations) in the context of recent scholarship by on marginalia and control of information in early modern English books. At issue is not only how he presented material to his reader but also the sources of his erudition.

Last updated on 11 May 2004