Friday, September 3, 2010

19th Century British writing

I'm doing some reading for another class from Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor (first published in 1851) and I came across the following passage that just made my wannabe-editor head spin.
He brings the greengrocery, the fruit, the fish, the water-cresses, the shrimps, the pies and puddings, the sweetmeats, the pine-apples, the stationery, the linendrapery, and the jewellery, such as it is, to the very door of the working classes; indeed, the poor man's food and clothing are mainly supplied to him in this manner.
The use of so much alternate spelling and hyphenations was a little overwhelming, and I honestly don't think 'linendrapery' is a word. It wasn't in any dictionary that I could find.

So, if we are ever called to edit an historical text that includes words that don't exist any longer (or that the author possibly made up?), do you let it stand?

1 comment:

Pat said...

Lisa, this is a good question--and larger than you realize, I think. The fundamental issue here is identifying who we are editing for and why. I'm going to write a post instead of a comment because I want to be sure everyone reads it. Please look for it on Sunday.