Because on the title and copyright pages of Srila Prabhupada’s books the BBT staff has often been less than meticulous about recording new editions, for some books, especially those published and revised during Srila Prabhupada’s lifetime, one may have a hard time discerning which edition one is reading. Aware of this, the BBT directors have resolved that future printings should make the publishing history more clear.
Additionally, in 2002 the BBT directors hired a consultant to conceive of a comprehensive system for keeping track of the editorial history of each English BBT title. The system, the directors said, should enable us to preserve, catalogue, and access the various edited and unedited versions, and it should tell us, for each version, who did what, when, and why, both in summary and, ideally, at the level of the sentence or the word. And the system should work for other languages as well.
The consultant has provided specifications for such a system, ambitious in scope, and work is underway at the Bhaktivedanta Archives. The envisioned outcome is a searchable hypertext library, perhaps accessible on the internet, that would enable a researcher who selects a particular verse or passage to view the relevant pages of the original and revised manuscripts, any editorial notes, the first and later editions, the Sanskrit or Bengali commentaries Srila Prabhupada consulted, and so on. Also included for each title would be a production history, naming the original editors, typesetters, proofreaders, layout people, and other production people, telling where the prepress work was done, giving the size of the first print run, and telling who were the printers and binders for the original edition.
By this system, the BBT intends to keep, as far as practicable, an “audit trail” for scholars, BBT staff, and other interested readers, so that most readers can have the benefit of books carefully edited yet free from burdensome critical apparatus while those who wish may avail themselves of a detailed editorial history. In advance of such a history, I hope the present overview will be of some service to seekers of editorial truth.