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Praise for EEBO, a turned around 5, and Scotland wins-England loses (PP and not 6 Nations rugby)

I'm just finishing editing an article about the shining ones who gives Christian gifts at the cross in PP Part I. Part of my research involved looking carefully at the biblical references that Bunyan gives for this portion of text. The first edition (1678) of PP did not have marginal biblical references for each of the gifts of the three shining ones. The second edition (still 1678) does. For the first gift of forgiveness we have Mark 2:2, for the change of raiment (clothes), later identified as a coat we have Zechariah 3:4; and for the seal on the forehead we are given Ephesians 1:8,13.

What I've found interesting is the Mark 2 reference. It is located in the margin opposite the first shining one's pronouncement: 'Thy sins are forgiven thee." This is a direct quotation of Jesus's words in Mark 2. Only they are not found in verse 2, but rather verse 5. So, editors like Roger Sharrock (1960) or W.R. Owens (2003), silently amend their marginal reference to Mark 2:5, even though it is not in the earliest editions they seek to preserve. In fact, throughout the ten editions in Bunyan's lifetime from 1678-1688 it appears that his London press, under Nathaniel Ponder, while making other small edits from time to time, keep Mark 2:2. Its important to say it seems for two reasons: not that many of these early editions survive. It is possible that some book copies from any edition could have had the error caught and just not have survived in the evidence of now extant copies. But the continuity of the error consistently witnessed in book copies from available editions make this unlikely.

And how do I even know this? I am privileged to live not far from the Huntington Library collection here in Southern California, so I could go inspect some of these extant early editions in person. But not all that I surveyed for this research.

My confidence is due to the wonderful resource of EEBO, or Early English Books Online - which pretty much does what it says on the label. It's a virtual storehouse of scanned early English language books up to the early 1720s. On that site I have today consulted Ponders 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th editions. All have Mark 2:2.

It is easy to imagine how, with movable type, a 5 may have been flipped to give a 2. It's possible — we have no manuscripts — that a Bunyan hand written 5 was taken for a 2. In any case, EEBO shows that the very clear error persists.

Photo Credit: David Jones, 'England vs Scotland at Twickenham,' March 2019, Creative Commons License, Flickr

The other find on EEBO was that, in Bunyan's lifetime, this error was caught. But not in London. (The Boston, US edition of 1681 by Samuel Green has none of the marginal notes or references — too complicated for American printers of the day, perhaps?) Two different printers in Edinburgh, Scotland, issue their own 5th and 6th editions of PP. John Cairns in 1680, and the curiously named 'heir of Andrew Anderson, printer to his most sacred Majesty,' in 1681. Both have Mark 2:5 rather than the London mistake of 2:2.

So the correct reference of 2:5 is attested in Bunyan's lifetime, but never by his London Printer. Did Bunyan ever notice the error? Were details of improving the marginal notes in their accuracy ever his concern? Ephesians 1:8, 13 actually appears as Eph 1:83 in the 2nd edition. Someone catches this and changes it later, but within Bunyan's lifetime. It would seem this is more likely the publisher/printer inspecting the copy than the author, if we suppose having Bible references to mind by chapter and verse is important to Bunyan. Afterall, when proofing and correcting the Ephesians reference - verse 83 does not exist - would not the nearby Mark 2:2 mistake have caught the eye? Well, either Bunyan had no hand in the change to the Eph ref, or he did and didn't spot the Mark 2:2 error.

And then, even more speculatively, what did a decade of readers make of the error? A certain cast of scholarship recognizes things like marginal bible references as supporting discontinuous reading, that is, a reflective reading that encourages the reader to introspect as they extrospect, as it were. Readers contemplate the truth of what they read as they turn their eyes, pages and fingers to their family Bibles to look up Ephesians 1 or Mark 2, and thus spiritually turn their eyes from Bunyan's 'dark metaphors' to Jesus, the author and perfecter of their faith...

...except a decade of persistent error at a very prominent episode of the text begs the question not just of author and printer/publisher but also of the readers. Were the English happier to have the biblical proof-text hitting more or less the mark? Were Scottish printer/publishers or readers just more fastidious? Did the Bible references evoke greater actual responses the further north the book appeared, with mere lip service paid to devout reading to the south?

I haven't researched the culture of correspondence, if any exists, between reader and printer/publisher in Bunyan's day. I'm sure there are learned colleagues who would have answers.

What is clear is that when Roger Pooley in his 2008 Penguin Classics edition sticks with Mark 2:2 as an authentic representation of the state of the text in the last edition possibly supervised by Bunyan in his lifetime, he gets it right, even though it is an error. And when Sharrock and Owens silently correct, as per the Scottish editions, among the earliest editions, and within Bunyan's lifetime, they are also right, but in a different way.

So thanks to the wonder of the internet, (and academic subscription access to databases), and to EEBO, for enabling a research query into rare books while running the bath for your kid in the evening.

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