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The Rationale of Current Bibliographical Methods: Printing House Studies, Computer-Aided Compositor Studies, and the Use of Statistical Methods

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2007

Stanley Wells
Affiliation:
University of Birmingham
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Summary

In many respects the change in our approach to Shakespeare's text brought about by the 'new bibliography' of A. W. Pollard, R. B. McKerrow, and W. W. Greg can be compared to the scientific revolution initiated by Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton. Since the advent of these giants the strictly analytic method of inquiry, whether applied to Shakespeare's texts or to the world in general, has become the dominant principle.

Galileo Galilei, the father of modern science and thus also the father of analytical bibliography, was the first to use a mathematical description of nature. In order to make it possible to describe nature in these terms, he demanded that scientists should restrict themselves to studying only those properties which can be measured and quantified. His postulate was to measure those things which can be measured, and ultimately to make measurable all other things which originally were not measurable.

This approach, which has become the dominant principle of scientific examination, and of scholarly analysis emulating science, has proved extremely successful. Recently, however, not only eminent psychologists, such as R. D. Laing, but also physicists, such as Gary Zukav, Herbert Pietschmann, and Fritjof Capra, have begun to voice critical warnings. They maintain that our obsession with measurement and quantification has changed our ideas of reality and truth, and thus ultimately our world, since properties which cannot be measured (values, for example, such as aesthetic ones, or feelings) tend to be regarded as less 'real'.

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Chapter
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Shakespeare Survey , pp. 145 - 154
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1988

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