Yet if the fine detail of typography and layout, the material signs which constitute a text, do signify in the ways I have tried to suggest, it must follow that any history of the book – subject as books are to typographic and material change – must be a history of misreadings. This is not so strange as it might sound. Every society rewrites its past, every reader rewrites its texts, and, if they have any continuing life at all, at some point every printer redesigns them. The changes in the way Congreve’s text was printed as an epigraph were themselves designed to correct a late Victorian printing style which had come to seem too fussily expressive. In 1946, ‘good printing’ had a clean, clear, impersonal surface. It left the text to speak for itself. This newly preferred form of printing had conspired with shifts in critical opinion. Eliot’s theory of the impersonality of the poet affected to dissociate the writer from his text. The words on the page became what Wimsatt called a ‘verbal icon’, a free-standing artefact with its own inner coherence, what Cleanth Brooks was to call (as it happens) a ‘well-wrought Urn’, a structure complete in itself which had within it all the linguistic signs we needed for the contemplation of its meaning.
McKenzie, D. F. Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge UP, 1999. 25.