Notes on this edition

'The Book Of Revelations'


“she writes not me this like”

The works Hannah Weiner published during her lifetime are never accompanied by an extensive editorial apparatus. Often, indeed, the only thing following the title page and publication information (sometimes actually omitted) is a brief statement by Weiner acknowledging her use of “second sight” in the composition of the text. For many of her readers, it may seem strange, or even opposed to Weiner’s spirit, to confront an essentially scholarly presentation of her work. The question of whether or not such a representation violates Weiner’s profound and costly commitment to deterritorialization at all levels of her poetics has been constantly with me.

At last, two considerations convinced me to proceed as I have. The first consideration is essentially political. In the academic economy in which Weiner now exists — editions signal literary and cultural value — a scholarly edition of Weiner’s work attests to her significance and may help generate further investigation of her work and of all works at the margins of literary history. The second factor issued from Weiner’s own attention to detail in her published works. As her typesetters know, Weiner was deeply mindful about the design of the pages she wrote and meticulous about the translation of even tiny details from typescript to published work. I hoped to bring that level of care to this unpublished document.

Finally, it may help to remember that “back matter” is simply that: materials at the end of a volume that may or may not ultimately belong to it. In the end, The Book Of Revelations may take its chances alone and unaccompanied by any commentary.



“the words told me to get this”


Hannah Weiner’s The Book Of Revelations is housed with the extensive collection of her papers in the Archive for New Poetry, Mandeville Special Collections Library, at the University of California, San Diego. Although clearly a “notebook,” it is not included in the primary sequences of Weiner’s notebooks (1971–1975, 1976–1979, and 1990–1992), but classified as a “Manuscript” (box 10, folder 6), possibly because although it exists in holographic, handwritten form, it does not contain “raw” notes but a text ready for typesetting and publication. The notebook served as the copytext for the transcripts included here.

A digital scan of all the pages of The Book Of Revelations is available online at the New Poetry Archives, University of California, San Diego, and on Weiner’s homepage at the Electronic Poetry Center. This scan was made under the supervision of Lynda Corey Claassen, director of the Mandeville Special Collections Library. The cover was scanned first, followed by shot of each page, folded back one by one. The notebook was scanned at the library’s usual standard of 600 dpi and in color.


Transcripts of the Notebook 


“terrified of all consequences / carefully we cross inbetween”

The Diplomatic Transcript

The primary goal of the diplomatic transcript is to present a deciphered text that gives clarity to a manuscript which is sometimes veiled by the idiosyncrasies of Weiner’s hand, the nature of the media (pencil), and the passage of time. The fundamental requirement for any transcriber is to detach herself from certain fixed preconceptions about the text and the notebook and to act as a reflecting glass for what actually occurs on the page. This is especially challenging in transcribing Weiner, where the temptation to read what is reasonable rather than what is in fact written is strong and compounded by her habit of composing fragmentary phrases for the reader to finish in her mind. Thus during the first transcription of the notebook, we adopted the practice of transcribing individual lines from end to beginning, hopefully short-circuiting our impulse to misread or read willfully. In the second full transcription, we reversed this process, then collated the two transcripts to discover our errors. After this, the transcript was proofread completely three times through a process of reading manuscript and transcript aloud.

The painstaking process of transcription took more than two years. From the outset, we proceeded from the idea that everything on the page was of equal significance: spellings and apparently corrupted spellings, the sizes of words and their position on the page, the angle of the script from line to line, the presence of illegible and stray marks — all may be relevant to a reading of the work and all have been retained. We hope that by following this method we offer a transcript that recovers a least a somatic trace of the original.

To create the diplomatic transcript of The Book Of Revelations, my research assistant Elizabeth Cattarin and I used Photoshop CS3 in combination with Adobe Acrobat 8. We began the transcription process by downloading the scans of the notebook displayed on the UCSD website and then loading them into Photoshop. After capturing each page as a “layer,” we created a template in Photoshop that determined the outermost boundary of all of the pages. The result was a blank document with the same contours as the original notebook. In this template, each page is in fact of set of three layers: the blank canvas, the transcribed text, and the original scan.

Each page of the notebook was transcribed in the same way. The original scan was called to the screen and then faded to approximately 50 percent opacity so that the text remained clearly visible. We then typed directly over Weiner’s handwritten text, using Photoshop tools to adjust the size, spacing, positioning, and alignment of each word, which was then saved separately. The base font set used was Calibri, primarily because it turned out to be a good typographical match for the form/shape of Weiner’s handwriting. Material written in another hand, in this case, Barbara Rosenthal’s, is composed in Calligraph 421 BT.

The desire to record every mark made by Weiner on the pages of the notebook was accompanied by the decision to avoid using editorial symbols in the diplomatic transcript. For the most part, the manuscript evidence is clear; however, when complications arise, these cases are marked in the Microsoft Word transcript and, if necessary, discussed in the appendices. There is one very important omission in this record of textual complications. It is clear from an examination of the notebook that Weiner frequently erased words and passages and wrote over them. This habit, clearly interesting and important to the exploration of her poetics of writing, has not been documented in the Word transcript or in the notes. In the future, Weiner scholars will want to use the various technologies available — filters within Photoshop, for example — to determine what lies beneath the overwritten text.


The Microsoft Word Transcript

The Microsoft Word 2007 transcript reproduces the text The Book Of Revelations. This transcript, like the diplomatic transcript, remains faithful to the words as Weiner wrote them in the notebook — i.e., no misspellings have been altered, no capitals introduced, etc. — though it seems likely given Weiner’s careful attention to textual matters in her published works that she herself would have made changes had she remained in control of the text. There are three exceptions to this general rule. First, in cases where a transcription is uncertain, the word or phrase is placed in {braces} and a list of possible readings incorporated in the appendices. Second, although Weiner did not number the pages of the notebook, page numbers have been added in parentheses to aid the reader who may wish to return to a specific place in the notebook. Finally, changes in the tearing/slicing/knife-cutting patterns created by Barbara Rosenthal have been marked to encourage further investigation of the relationship between textual and material boundaries.

The primary values of the Word transcript are its representation, as far as possible, of the temporal dynamics of Weiner’s writing, i.e., the order in which she composed the words, its electronic searchability, and its future potential for deep encoding. At the moment, readers can search words and parts of words easily; since recurring words are often linked to larger thematic and formal concerns in Weiner’s work, following specific words and word combinations across the notebook may prove significant. Later, the document may be encoded in ways that reveal far more about its visual and linguistic structures.

The Word transcript does not illuminate fully the patterns of cuts and visual relations between and among sections. Nor does the Word transcript adequately illuminate the spatial dynamics of each page. For these features, readers should consult the original notebook, the scans of the notebook pages, and/or the diplomatic transcription.


The “Blank” Notebook

It is not possible at this time to offer a “transcript” of the blank notebook before it was filled with writing. It is hoped, however, that the following description will provide readers with some sense of its strikingly tactile nature. The notebook is a commercially made hardbound blank book with a black, textured leatherette cover and a sewn binding (6” x 9” outer dimensions), of the kind manufactured by companies like Canson or Cachet as “classic sketch books” with acid-free, 70-lb bright white paper, and sold in art supply stores. Besides being a book of writing, it is also an artist’s book, or, more specifically, an “altered” book. Its 110 pages were torn, sliced, ripped, and knife-cut at different lengths and angles by Weiner’s friend and collaborator, Barbara Rosenthal, who, for New Year’s 1989, gave Weiner the notebook. In chapter-like progression, the first third contains pages torn upward against a straightedge to form cascading sequences of what she calls “pagels”; the second is sliced freehand with an X-Acto knife into concentric, rectangular openings she calls “basins”; and the final third is a series of nesting L-shapes she created by one vertical straightedge rip and one horizontal freehand knife-cut (unpublished correspondence, November 2010). Since Rosenthal sometimes “composed” books by layering, hiding, and revealing — see, for example, her offset version of Homo Futurus, published in 1986 by Visual Studies Workshop — The Book Of Revelations may be said to have two authors and to exist in two distinct incarnations.


A collection of straightedges. Photo reproduced by permission of Barbara Rosenthal.


X-Acto knives and other artists’ tools. Photo reproduced by permission of Barbara Rosenthal.

Although Rosenthal “composed” the blank notebook more than twenty years ago, she recalls her working process with great clarity and specificity. Rosenthal created the opening section of the notebook (from “forthcoming and absolutely to “no one can eliminate a particle”) by placing a steel straightedge on the page in sequenced parallels, grasping at the paper at the lower corner with her right hand, bearing down on the steel with her left, and pulling upward to form straight rips with a slightly textured edge; she created a second section (from “read more about it in the papers” to “absence of time between 5 and 7”) by using an X-Acto #2 Fine Point Blade to slice concentric or nested angles or rectangles; she created the final section using a combination of these techniques: “renunciation and something else” to “she writes not me like this” was created using the straightedge, and “the insatiable quotient quote” to “love come to a” was created using the X-Acto knife (unpublished correspondence, November 2010).

Readers interested in altered books/artists’ books in general and in the Weiner/Rosenthal collaborations in particular may wish to explore the following works: Written In (1984), which was “written” by Weiner “in” Rosenthal’s (blank) first version of Homo Futurus (now called Homo Futurus blank book, 1984, eMediaLoft); and Weeks (Xeoxial Endarchy, 1990), for which Rosenthal created photographs of television newscasts to accompany Weiner’s texts of the same.




“report all interference at once”

In addition to the critical introduction and transcriptions of Hannah Weiner’s The Book Of Revelations, this edition includes five appendices detailing misspelled and alternatively spelled words; neologisms; part-words and uncertain transcriptions; proper names; and literary and cultural allusions.