»» INSTRUCTIONS FOR EDITORS ««
1. According to its constitution, the VRS was founded for
the purpose of printing and reprinting ‘scarce and important
books, pamphlets and documents on the history of southern
2. To lay down rigid rules for the editing of historical texts is
undesirable, as each text requires special treatment, but in order
to assure uniformity and a high standard of production, certain
guiding principles must be kept in mind.
3. It is advisable that the editor should be his/her own transcriber
and prepare his/her own text. The text should be computer-typed and
submitted on an IBM-compatible disk together with at least one hard
copy, double-spaced on A4 paper. The preferred programme is MS Word.
If any other programme is used the text should be in RTF (Rich Text
4. Editors should keep the formatting as simple as possible. We
have a book designer so that editors do not have to produce a copy
in the form in which the book is published. Avoid the use of unusual
fonts and complex formatting. Avoid such devices as a double space
after the full stop. Do not indent or tab new paragraphs.
5. In general, the original texts or selections should be reproduced
as faithfully as possible. Any omissions need to be clearly flagged.
6. The spelling of the original must be retained; for example,
archaic forms of place names and surnames. Obvious spelling mistakes
and printer’s errors should be silently corrected.
7. In order to bring the text into line with modern usage and for
the sake of clarity, the language and punctuation may be corrected.
The meaning of the original text may, however, not be altered. When
any doubt exists as to the correct meaning of the text, the editor's
amendment must be explained and the alteration mentioned in a
8. If the first word in a sentence is not written with a capital
letter, or if a surname or place name is written in lower case, the
editor may silently supply a capital letter.
9. Contractions and abbreviations are usually extended, except when
these are in general use today.
10. Brackets occurring in the original text must be given in round
brackets ( ); square brackets [ ] should be retained for the
11. Lacunae in the original text, caused by illegibility or
mutilation, should be noted in square brackets.
12. If the editor decides to leave part of the text out, the
omission should be indicated by an ellipsis ...
13. If there is an omission in the manuscript itself, it should also
be indicated by an ellipsis and an explanation provided in a
14. [Sic] Note that sic, in italics, should be used sparingly
to show an obvious mistake.
15. Alterations in the original manuscript, made by the author,
should be given in the transcribed text, with the first version
supplied in footnotes.
16. When words are underlined in the original manuscript, this may
be indicated in print by the use of italics.
EDITOR’S ANNOTATION IN INTRODUCTION AND FOOTNOTES
17. Dates used in annotations should consistently follow the form 12
July 1768, and not July 12 1768 or 12.7.1768. The names of the
months should not be abbreviated. Do not use numbers for centuries –
preferably write them out, e.g. nineteenth century.
18. Numbers should be written out in full up to ten; after that they
should be given in numerals – 28, 175.
19. For sequences of page numbers, use the following forms: 52–5,
181–4, 1918–25. The symbol called the en-dash should be used in
place of the hyphen.
20. In all publications footnotes (rather than endnotes) are to be
employed, with the numbers running sequentially through each chapter
21. Footnotes may be used for the following purposes:
(a) To elucidate text, explaining or commenting on obscure
(b) To give more particulars about people mentioned in the text.
(c) To explain the position or historical significance of obscure
(d) To explain lacunae.
(e) To provide cross references as required in some texts.
(f) To identify documentary or printed sources.
(g) Footnotes must not be used for pointing out the importance of
certain passages or for personal commentary by the editor.
22. Initial capitals should be used for words in titles of books and
articles, apart from articles (a, the), conjunctions and
23. Titles of books should be in italics.
24. References to books should give the initial(s) and
surname(s) of the author(s), the title in full, the place of
publication, publisher and date of publication (within brackets) and
the pages referred to. For example:
J B Peires, The Dead Will Arise: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa
Cattle-killing Movement of 1856–7 (Johannesburg: Ravan Press,
All subsequent references to the same book should use the surname(s)
of the author(s) and a short title:
Peires, The Dead Will Arise, 67.
25. References to articles in books should give the
initial(s) and surname(s) of the author(s), the title of the article
(within single inverted commas), followed by the full details of the
N Etherington, ‘The Shepstone System in the Colony of Natal and
Beyond the Borders’ in A Duminy and B Guest (eds), Natal and
Zululand from Earliest Times to 1910: A New History
(Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, 1989), 172–7.
All subsequent references to the same source should use the
author’s surname and a short title as above.
26. References to articles in journals should give the
initial(s) and surname(s) of the author(s), the title of the article
(within single inverted commas), the title of the journal in full in
italics (but omit any initial 'The'), and the volume, number, date
and page number(s). For example:
R Levin and M Neocosmos, ‘The Agrarian Question and Class
Contradictions in South Africa: Some Theoretical Considerations’,
Journal of Peasant Studies, 16, 2 (1989), 230–51.
Subsequent references to the same source should use the surname of
the author, and short title, as above.
27. References to theses should give the initials and surname
of the author, the title of the thesis within single inverted
commas, and the degree, the university where it was awarded, and the
date, all within brackets:
M J Rayner, ‘Wine and Slaves: The Failure of an Export Economy and
the Ending of Slavery in the Cape Colony, South Africa, 1806-1834’
(PhD thesis, Duke University, 1986), 260–7.
Subsequent references should be given as above.
28. Archival references should indicate the archival
repository, library or museum, and identify the collection or group
of documents or papers.
Cape Archives Repository (hereafter CA), CO 291, Letters and Papers
Received, Agents in the Interior, 1826, J Melvill to R Plasket, 2
Subsequent references would be as follows:
CA, CO 291, Melvill to Plasket, 5 July 1826.
29. References from newspapers should be in the following
form: Cape Times, 5 August 1903, 33.
30. If two or more consecutive footnotes refer to the same book,
article or archival source use Ibid. (= the same author and title)
plus the page reference:
Peires, The Dead Will Arise, 78.
31. Providing the introduction is one of the most important of the
editor’s tasks. Although the introduction will vary in accordance
with the type of document published, the following general rules
should be kept in mind. The editor should provide:
(a) a description of the provenance of the document;
(b) an indication of the influence of the text on contemporaries,
(c) palaeographic information if necessary, i.e. on the style of
(d) the date or dates of previous publication of the text;
(e) an indication of the relation of the selected text to published
or unpublished material;
(f) typographical conventions;
(g) the editor’s method or principles of editing;
(h) an indication of the historical significance of the work, if
(i) if the text is the work of one person, an account of his/her
life should be given;
(j) an explanation of the relevant illustrations.
32. An index is an essential part of any historical publication.
33. If at all possible, the index should be compiled by the editor
34. In compiling the index the following rules should be kept in
(a) A long string of references under a name or subject is of
little use to anyone. Therefore references should be split up under
convenient groups and subheadings.
(b) Place names should appear in their modern form, with the form
or forms used in the text given between commas or brackets.
(c) Names of ships, books, and Latin and foreign words should be
given in italics.
(d) Persons are classified under family names, and where there is
more than one person bearing the same surname and initial, they must
be given in chronological order. Nicknames are useful for
(e) Surnames are spelt as far as possible according to signature,
with variations of the name used by others given in brackets or
between commas. Where no signature exists, the form that is most
frequently used may be selected.
(f) The English system and not the Continental system of
alphabetical arrangement is used. Thus Van der Merwe, and not
Merwe, van der.
MAPS, DIAGRAMS AND PHOTOGRAPHS
35. Where maps, figures and graphs are included, they must be
professionally produced, and supplied in electronic form. If
possible, figures and graphs should be in Excel.
Photographs may be submitted in electronic format on CDs, usually in
black-and-white. If possible, they should be scanned at a resolution
of at least 250 dpi and saved in jpg or tif files.