These late eighteenth century variorums are not inevitably merely additive, or decidedly multivocal.
The first variorum edition (as Johnson's Shakespeare edition of 1765 is often called) generated a number of variorum editions combining the contribution of previous editors and commentators.
7) Following this line of thought I argue that while Malone stands for the recently established criteria of modern textual scholarship, the quest to determine the authentic text, the editorial principles of Steevens in his 1793 edition embody a recognition of the merits of the received text and the genre best fitting it, the tradition of variorum editing.
Steevens had followed the same principles from the 1760s to the early 1790s and as Nick Groom notes in his introduction to the reprint of the Johnson/Steevens variorum (1995) Steevens's 1778 edition established "the canons of modern critical method and literary-historical editing.
The form which best reflects the cumulative nature of knowledge in the tradition of the received text is variorum editing.
The form which best represents, in the words of Joanna Gondris, the "interpretative comprehensiveness" of eighteenth-century editing is the variorum edition, the peek of the received text tradition as it collects the best attempts of readings, emendations, conjectures in the practice of collaborative editing.
2] Today's editions point toward digitalized hypertext, whose phenomenal mass of information may encourage and allow readers to become their own editors; and hypertext resembles the Old (Furness) and New Shakespeare Variorums, in the sense that all three contain a super-abundance (overpowering for many users) of sifted and unsifted material on a given play.
If Shakespeare editors are reduced to editing other editors' materials, one would think that Shakespeare variorums would become valued texts, if for no other reason than that they represent huge repositories of centuries of editorial opinion.
This disproportion suggests that variorums may not be so much about Shakespeare's plays as they are about commentators staking claims to their own readings.
Bristol criticizes Shakespeare variorums for being unfinished.
It is time we stopped thinking of Shakespeare variorums as timeless, finished works.
Finally, only Shakespeare variorums reproduce the literary history of editing the words and lines of the playwright so that readers might understand the successive re-creations of Shakespeare to meet the cultural needs and reflect the tastes of different centuries.