Richard Hakluyt’s The Principal Navigations: TCP and the Development of a Critical Edition


The Text Creation Partnership is not only revolutionizing research and teaching in early modern studies, but also shaping the methodology and relevance of more traditional bibliographical projects such as critical editions. One of the most ambitious projects to draw upon the resources presented by the TCP is the Hakluyt Project. This paper will explore the Hakluyt Project’s use of TCP, our reasons for choosing these resources over other options, and some of the problems we have had to solve. The Hakluyt Project is producing a critical edition of Richard Hakluyt’s The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques, and Discoveries of the English Nation (second edition, 1598-1600), the most important collection of English travel writing ever published covering European activity and ambition from the New World to Muscovy, the Levant, Persia, the East Indies and Africa. Originally published in three massive folio volumes (approx. 1.76 million words), the modern critical edition of The Principal Navigations , is under contract with Oxford University Press in 14 volumes, under the general editorship of Prof. Daniel Carey (National University of Ireland, Galway) and Prof. Claire Jowitt (Nottingham Trent University). Producing such a large critical edition, with 25 participating editors, has only become manageable with the advent of modern communications technology (email, video conferencing, etc.). Our starting point is the TCP text of the Huntington Library copy of The Principal Navigations , which we shall be treating as a “raw” text. This “raw” text will be corrected against the PDF images of the Huntington Library copy, available through Early English Books Online. It is invaluable for a large and international collaborative project such as ours to have a common reference point, which can be transmitted electronically, and as such the resouces provided by EEBO and TCP are invaluable. However, our two central aims in producing this edition also highlight the limitations of the material available through the TCP. The first of these aims is to produce an authoritative text of The Principal Navigations , yet the TCP version does not include an important text cancelled from the 1598 edition of volume one (the so-called “Cadiz leaves”) which raises important questions of copy text. The second is to provide annotations and references to guide the reader through Hakluyt’s dense, lengthy and often difficult text. In using TCP and EEBO more generally, it is important to understand the nature and reliability of the material they make available. The Hakluyt edition aspires to a level of accuracy and contextualisation which TCP is not trying to match; nonetheless TCP has provided invaluable material for the practical process of producing such a large and difficult critical edition. This paper with a call for debate and discussion in the academic community of the character and origin of the material available through TCP, the creative possibilities it raises, and metadata presented alongside it.