Growth is the major mode of text production and subsequent development. But texts may be diminished as well as augmented, mostly by other hands than those of the original author. And even an author making cuts usually does so, not not from a creative impulse, but as the agent of outside opinion, real or anticipated. Rachmaninoff cut his Second Symphony in response to early audience reactions, and Diderot's publisher, unbeknown to Diderot, made numerous and drastic cuts in the later volumes of the Encyclopedie to avoid in advance the danger of arousing conservative hostility. Such are the typical situations in which we find texts being abridged rather than extended. In other cases, material is cut simply to make room for other material.
Lost Shr. Six poems in the Syau Ya section of the Chinese Classic of Poetry (Shr) exist in our text only as titles, without text. There is some difference of opinion over where, in the sequence of extant poems, these six lost poems should come. The likeliest possibility is that they were eliminated editorially, in order to make room for poems which it was desired to add to a repertoire which had already topped out at the desired number of "300 Poems." For a further artifact of this period in the formation of the Shr, see the famous case of Shr 220 under Juxtaposed.
Mencius. The first commentator on this text, Jau Chi, excised as inferior four chapters that were in the text as he found it. Here would be a case of diminution, not to preserve an overall form, as with the Lost Shr, but simply as a judgement of quality.
The politically inflammatory Mencius, with its asserted right of popular revolution, was later deplored by not a few Asian despotic governments (the first Emperor of the Ming was one of its foremost unenthusiasts). One response to such reactions was to issue an edition from which the most incendiary passages had been removed (see the study by Henderson).
Hammurabi's Laws were originally engraved on a stone stele set up in the Babylonia capital in c02250, but later Persian conquerors removed it to their capital Susa, and re-erected it as a trophy. It was probably at this time that five columns of text on the front side of the stele were deliberately effaced; their contents remain uncertain to this day.
The Red Badge of Courage, a novel by Stephen Crane, was recently found to exist in an author's manuscript much longer than the classic published version of 1895. The long version was subsequently published as a vindication of the noble author against the cruel editor. It is not, however, certain that the editor's cuts had not improved the work. Sometimes a second person is the best judge of whether an author's intent has been successfully realized.
Rachmaninoff abridged his Second Piano Sonata, to make it more acceptable to his audiences. Horowitz thought he had gone too far, and proposed to reinclude some of the omitted material. Rachmaninoff approved. Such is the flexibility of a work still in the composer's hand. It can sometimes lead to a shorter rather than a longer final product.
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