First World War Poetry Digital Archive

Wilfred Owen 'Dulce et Decorum Est'

Background information

The Manuscripts

The poem survives in four manuscripts. In reality these have proper shelf marks (i.e. giving information on the library they are stored in, the collection they belong to, and so on). For the purposes of this seminar the four manuscripts will be referred to as manuscript (abbreviated to MS) A, B, C, and D.

On completion of your edition, you will be given full information about the manuscripts in question, as well as a chance to look at an existing edition of the poem.

Stages of Editing

Stage I: Compare manuscript images & choose a base manuscript

To begin with you will be asked to look at the four manuscripts.You will have the opportunity to view each of them in turn, and to compare them next to each other. In reality, these manuscripts are actually stored in two different locations and therefore, without good quality photographs, this task would normally be impossible. Your goal at this point is to choose a base manuscript, i.e. one which will form the main body of your edition.

Stage II: Create your edition

The next step is to create the edition. Here you will be given a transcription from your chosen manuscript and you will be set the task of noting how the other retentions of the poem in the remaining three manuscripts vary. You will be asked to note these variants and to make any editorial decisions relating to punctuation.

Stage III: Compare with a published edition

Finally, you will be given the choice of having your edition e-mailed to you. Furthermore, at this point you will be able to see a published version of the poem (Stallworthy, 1983) to see the decisions of one editor.