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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 Africa’.

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 Format).


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 footnote.

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 editor’s insertions.

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 footnote.

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.


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 or section.

21. Footnotes may be used for the following purposes:

(a)  To elucidate text, explaining or commenting on obscure passages.

(b)  To give more particulars about people mentioned in the text.

(c)  To explain the position or historical significance of obscure places.

(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 prepositions.

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, 1989), 77–8.

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 book:

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 June 1826.

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.
Ibid., 99.


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, if appropriate;

(c)  palaeographic information if necessary, i.e. on the style of handwriting;

(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 necessary;

(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 him/herself

34. In compiling the index the following rules should be kept in mind:

(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 identification.

(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.


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.

36. 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.