November 12, 2012 by Amanda Visconti

Recovering Teena Rochfort-Smith: Complex Edition Prototype, Female Victorian Editor

Textual scholar Alan Galey discussed a fascinating "early new media edition" prototype at the 2012 Society for Textual Scholarship conference, and Matt Schneider followed up by sending me an article by Ann Thompson on the story behind this edition. The Four-Text 'Hamlet' in Parallel Columns prototype, created by the very young nineteenth-century editor Teena Rochfort-Smith, was intended to provide diplomatic transcriptions of Hamlet's first and second quartos (Q1, Q2), first folio (F1), plus Rochfort-Smith's own old-spelling edition based on Q2 but also pulling from F1 (Murphy, Andrew. "Electric Shakespeares, The Arden Shakespeare CD ROM". Computers and the Humanities 32.5 (1998): 411-420. / Thompson, Ann. "Teena Rochfort Smith, Frederick Furnivall, and the New Shakspere Society's Four-Text Edition of Hamlet". Shakespeare Quarterly 49.2 (Summer 1998): 125-139. Textual scholar Thompson writes of this prototype that "the sample demonstrates that, once completed, Teena Rochfort Smith's edition would have been the most complex presentation of the texts of Hamlet ever attempted".

The texts are printed in four columns across each pair of the book's landscape-oriented open pages, two columns per page. The edition employed six varieties of typeface, four inks, three kinds of underlining, and daggers, asterisks, and other symbols call out variants and the extent of variance. The prototype would have been nearly impossible to set and print given contemporary technology, and in fact Rochfort-Smith had agreed after her prototype's initial circulation among Society members to work toward a simpler final version of the edition.

Given the prescience of Rochfort-Smith's vision and her tragic, early death, it really bugged me that the only mention of her on Wikipedia was as a "secretary" (incorrect) for which male editor Frederick James Furnivall had left his wife and young son. So, I created my first from-scratch Wikipedia article on Rochfort-Smith; please edit if you know more!

The Thompson and Murray articles cited below were used throughout this post: