The Ossian Online project recently donated three Macpherson editions to the Special Collections section of the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway. The donation includes copies of the first and second editions of Fingal (both dated 1762) and a copy of Temora (1763), and represents the beginning of an initiative to acquire copies of the seven editions that were published under James Macpherson’s authority in the period 1760-73. This will provide a printed analogue of the editions that comprise the focus of Ossian Online and create a new collection unique in the libraries of Ireland.
The edition of Temora donated to the James Hardiman library.
While part of the motivation for Ossian Online is to make facsimiles and accurate transcriptions of the full Ossian corpus available on the web, the project recognises that this is a representation of—not a substitute for—the original print editions. Just as the digital medium enables new orientations towards literary texts—such as the platforms for visualising genetic textual development and collaborative annotation being developed by Ossian Online—the printed book offers opportunities for scholarship that are unique to that medium. Individual copies bear marks of ownership and use—bookplates, signatures, marginalia—that allow scholars to investigate the social history and provenance of the work.
During the era of handpress printing, variations between individual copies within a single edition were common, and surveying multiple printed editions can unearth this evidence—and reveal the circumstances behind such phenomena—in a way that a representative digital facsimile cannot. Forthcoming posts on this blog will examine some bibliographical problems that arise from examining multiple printed copies of Ossian.
Ossian Online team (Justin Tonra, Rebecca Barr, David Kelly) peruse Temora.
Thus, we are delighted to see NUI Galway take the first steps towards acquiring a printed collection to complement the work of Ossian Online. These editions were acquired with the assistance of funding from the School of Humanities at NUI Galway and the Irish Research Council, and the project would like to acknowledge their generosity in helping to establish this important initiative. Thanks also to John Cox, Librarian, and Marie Boran, Special Collections Librarian at the James Hardiman Library for their support in this endeavour.