The value which Smollett put upon accuracy in the smallest matters of detail is evinced by the corrections which he made in the margin of a copy of the 1766 edition of the Travels. These corrections, which are all in Smollett's own and unmistakably neat handwriting, may be divided into four categories. In the first place come a number of verbal emendations. Phrases are turned, inverted and improved by the skilful "twist of the pen" which becomes a second nature to the trained corrector of proofs; there are moreover a few topographical corrigenda, suggested by an improved knowledge of the localities, mostly in the neighbourhood of Pisa and Leghorn, where there is no doubt that these corrections were made upon the occasion of Smollett's second visit to Italy in 1770. [Some not unimportant errata were overlooked. Thus Smollett's representation of the droit d'aubaine as a monstrous and intolerable grievance is of course an exaggeration. (See Sentimental Journey; J. Hill Burton, The Scot Abroad, 1881, p. 135; and Luchaire, Instit. de France.) On his homeward journey he indicates that he travelled from Beaune to Chalons and so by way of Auxerre to Dijon. The right order is Chalons, Beaune, Dijon, Auxerre. As further examples of the zeal with which Smollett regarded exactitude in the record of facts we have his diurnal register of weather during his stay at Nice and the picture of him scrupulously measuring the ruins at Cimiez with packthread.] In the second place come a number of English renderings of the citations from Latin, French, and Italian authors. Most of these from the Latin are examples of Smollett's own skill in English verse making. Thirdly come one or two significant admissions of overboldness in matters of criticism, as where he retracts his censure of Raphael's Parnassus in Letter XXXIII. Fourthly, and these are of the greatest importance, come some very interesting additional notes upon the buildings of Pisa, upon Sir John Hawkwood's tomb at Florence, and upon the congenial though recondite subject of antique Roman hygiene. [Cf. the Dinner in the manner of the Ancients in Peregrine Pickle, (xliv.) and Letters IX. to XL in Humphry Clinker.]
After Smollett's death his books were for the most part sold for the benefit of his widow. No use was made of his corrigenda. For twenty years or so the Travels were esteemed and referred to, but as time went on, owing to the sneers of the fine gentlemen of letters, such as Walpole and Sterne, they were by degrees disparaged and fell more or less into neglect. They were reprinted, it is true, either in collective editions of Smollett or in various collections of travels; [For instance in Baldwin's edition of 1778; in the 17th vol. of Mayor's Collection of Voyages and Travels, published by Richard Phillips in twenty-eight vols., 1809; and in an abbreviated form in John Hamilton Moore's New and Complete Collection of Voyages and Travels (folio, Vol. 11. 938-970).] but they were not edited with any care, and as is inevitable in such cases errors crept in, blunders were repeated, and the text slightly but gradually deteriorated. In the last century Smollett's own copy of the Travels bearing the manuscript corrections that he had made in 1770, was discovered in the possession of the Telfer family and eventually came into the British Museum. The second volume, which affords admirable specimens of Smollett's neatly written marginalia, has been exhibited in a show-ease in the King's Library.
The corrections that Smollett purposed to make in the Travels are now for the second time embodied in a printed edition of the text. At the same time the text has been collated with the original edition of 1766, and the whole has been carefully revised. The old spelling has been, as far as possible, restored. Smollett was punctilious in such matters, and what with his histories, his translations, his periodicals, and his other compilations, he probably revised more proof-matter for press than any other writer of his time. His practice as regards orthography is, therefore, of some interest as representing what was in all probability deemed to be the most enlightened convention of the day.