In April 1781 the second and third quartos of his History were published.
This prolonged meditation on his design and its execution was ultimately well repaid by the result: so methodical did his ideas become, and so readily did his materials shape themselves, that, with the above exceptions, the original MS. of the entire six quartos was sent uncopied to the printers.
Now, however, the world has well-nigh forgotten the huge quartos.
Another question with which the textual critic of modern authors must be prepared to deal is the relative importance of different editions, each of which may have a prima facie claim to be considered authentic. Thus Shakespearean criticism must decide between the evidence of the first folio and the quartos: the critic of Shelley's poems must consider what weight is to be attached to the readings in the posthumous edition by Mrs Shelley, and in unpublished transcripts of various poems. Where there is great or complicated divergence between the editions, as in the case of Marlowe's Faustus, the production of a resultant text which may be relied upon to represent the ultimate intention of the author is well-nigh impossible.
The best is that by Bishop Law, in four quartos (1777).