Johnson's 1765 edition has been characterised as the first variorum edition for two reasons.
As Joanna Gondris shows in her study of eighteenth century variora editions, the variorum page triggered mocking reviews already in the 1780s and 1790s.
The variorum editions of the second half of the eighteenth century, however, are not characterised by the personal rivalry typical of the first half of the century as in the editions of Pope, Theobald and Warburton.
Another fundamental characteristic of the variorum is the lack of an exclusively authorial voice.
Groom's analysis of the debate over the authority of Pericles in the Supplement of Malone's to the 1778 Steevens variorum also sheds some light on the importance of process, on articulating diverging opinions and the primacy of dialogue to individual decisions (especially in the light of their repeated experience of being wrong in their editorial practice).
It seems that the eighteenth-century variorum editor does not assume a position of omniscience.
To illustrate the above dynamics of the variorum page, the oscillation between authorial and multivocal, Gondris draws our attention to the fact that Malone's authorial claim that he has established the correct reading "beyond a doubt" is made within the confines of a single note.
Nick Groom argues that Steevens's 1793 edition "was an attempt to make a poetical variorum of conjectural emendation, and he reassessed the old Tonson editions of Rowe, Pope and Warburton.
That is the claim made in a recent essay by Marvin Spevack, the editor of the lately published New Variorum Antony and Cleopatra.
7] This unstable text presents insurmountable problems for a variorum editor, according to Bristol.
It appears that the scholarly autonomy and relatively isolated working conditions of variorum editors lead them to assume mistakenly a similar autonomy on the part of Shakespeare in matters of creation and final intentions.
This means that every variorum editor working on a Shakespeare play for which the 1623 Folio is the sole authority must be resigned to knowing that almost certainly many unknown and uncollated variants of the components of his or her base text exist.
Postmodernist Shakespeareans have seized upon this and other facts to claim that variorum Shakespeares are not possible because every version (or text) of a Shakespeare play is different from every other representation of it (whether among Folio versions or between quarto and Folio versions), and thus that every unique text deserves to be edited without regard to other manifestations of it.
Another postmodernist feature of variorum Shakespeares involves the elimination of the white spaces associated with Steevens in his 1793 edition by the careful reproduction of the lineation and spacing of the editor's base early modern text.
By including the fullest record of alternative textual readings, variorum Shakespeares, unlike other editions, consistently represent significant later 'improvements' of Shakespeare's lines.