Quotations and Dialogue

Q. In paragraph 13.7, in the section on permissible changes to quotations, CMOS says, “Obvious typographic errors may be corrected silently (without comment or sic; see 13.61) unless the passage quoted is from an older work or a manuscript or other unpublished source where idiosyncrasies of spelling are generally preserved.” Earlier in the passage, CMOS states that direct quotes must reproduce exactly not only the wording but the spelling, capitalization, and internal punctuation of the original. It does not mention italicizing. When I’ve edited quotes or extracts from older texts, I’ve, as a rule, reproduced pretty much “everything” as it is in the older text. I am editing a book now with numerous quotes from seventeenth-century books or letters, referencing ships. Before launching forth, thought I would double check. Seems ship names were not italicized back then. My thought is to leave as they are in the original—as roman. That is, do not italicize ship names in the quotes or extracts. Would this be correct?

A. In addition to spelling, capitalization, and punctuation, I’d also preserve the distinction in the original between italic and roman type. It is certainly necessary to retain any italics in quoted text that are there for reasons of emphasis, but it’s also probably best to retain italics used for other reasons and, by the same token, refrain from adding italics (you can of course add italics within a quotation for the purposes of your own emphasis, as long as you clearly indicate where you’ve done this with a bracketed phrase such as “emphasis added”). But the line is not always a clearly etched one. You need not necessarily italicize a quoted passage that’s been presented entirely in italic type, for example. And if you quote a subhead that’s been italicized in the original source for reasons of design, you can certainly present it in roman. Just make sure that whatever you do, do not obscure the meaning of the original passage.