Textual Criticism & Editorial Technique

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If the source of one of the variants is a quotation, the assumption that inaccurate memory is responsible for it may in many cases be the likeliest explanation of the discre- pancy. If you think that in general a reading which most of the manuscripts give is more likely to be right than one which only a few give, then to make the same assumption in a particular case where the manuscripts are unevenly divided between plausible readings, and to prefer the one attested by the majority, will be to make the choice that on your view fits the facts best.

That would, of course, be a very naive principle. If the manuscripts happen to be related as in the stemma on p. Manuscripts must be weighed, not counted. That is an old slogan, one of several which deserve remembrance and com- ment in this connexion.

A in the stemma just mentioned 'weighs' equal to the other five copies combined. Let us take a contaminated tradition for which no stemma can be set up. Where the credit of a plausible reading is concerned, a tenth-century manuscript whose scribe is not given to emendation obviously carries greater weight than a fifteenth-century one that is rich in copyist's conjectures, at least if the reading might be a conjecture.

Recentiores, non deteriores: that is the famous heading of a chapter in which Pasquali protested against the tendency to equate the two terms, and showed that true read- ings are sometimes preserved only among the latest manuscripts 1. A propensity to emendation, so far from discrediting a manuscript, may be symptomatic of an interest in the text that also prompted the consultation of out-of-the-way copies, like the use of A by the late manuscript A in the stemma on page Conversely, very old copies such as papyri sometimes disappoint expectation by giving a worse text than the medieval tradition instead of a better one.

The quality of a manuscript can only be established by reading it. And when an opinion has been formed on the quality of a manuscript, it can be used as a criterion only when other criteria give no clear answer. The absurdity of following what- ever is regarded as the best manuscript so long as its readings are not impossible is perhaps most clearly, and certainly most entertainingly, exposed by Housman, D. Iunii Iuuenalis Saturae Cambridge ; , pp.

Each variant must be judged on its merits as a reading before the balance can be drawn and a collective verdict passed. Since the collective judgment is entirely derived from the individual judgments, it cannot be a ground for modifying any of them, but only a ground for making a judg- ment where none could be made before. As Housman puts it, "since we have found P the most trustworthy MS in places where its fidelity can be tested, we infer that it is also the most trust- worthy in places where no test can be applied It is not enough just to say "this corruption of what I take to be the right reading is explained by the fact that the manuscripts in which it appears are generally corrupt manuscripts".

A more particular explanation is called for, in terms of known processes of textual change. Hence the criterion u t rum ina1t e rum a bit u rum era t? Which reading was the more liable to be corrupted into the other? For example, if part of the tradition gives a word or phrase which is absent in the other part, and both versions give equally good sense and style, one may ask whether it is something that a scribe might have added, or whether it is easier to assume an omission.

Where purely visual errors with no psychological side to them are concerned, the criterion has little applicability; it is mainly of use where there has been some mental lapse, or a more or less conscious alteration. Since the normal tendency is to simplify, to trivialize, to eliminate the unfamiliar word or construction, the rule is praestat difficilior lectio 3. For instance, in Horace Odes 1,3,37, nil mortalibus ardui est, some manuscripts have arduum, which is equally good Latin, but also more everyday: to any copyist nil arduum would have seemed more natural and obvious than nil ardui, and it is far more likely that an original genitive was changed to the accusative whether deliberately or not than vice versa.

When we choose the 'more difficult' reading, however, we must be sure that it is in itself a plausible reading. The principle should not be used in support of dubious syntax, or phrasing that it would not have been natural for the author to use.

Textual Criticism and Why It Matters

There is an important difference between a more difficult reading and a more unlikely reading. In deciding that one reading is derived from another and there- fore to be eliminated, we are doing something similar to what we 3 The principle was clearly enunCIated by Clericus, Ars CrttIca Amsterdam , II. The principle can be extended. If there are more than two variants at a given place, we should try to put them into a stemmatic rela- tionship if this has not already been done for the manuscripts in which they appear.

For instance, at Aristophanes Ach. This does not mean that r derived its text from A at that place, only that it derived it directly or indirectly from a copy which had the same stage of corruption as we see in A.

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At the 'stemma variantium' reads: 7[ "1 I A. This assumes that the substitution of Ey- for EX- took place inde- pendently in the Suda or an antecedent copy and in A or an ante- cedent copy. This case where more than one analysis is possible is not exceptional, and the critic must consider what different hypotheses are available, for they may lead to different choices for reading as the original one.

Emendation As the comparison of manuscripts may lead to the reconstruction of a lost archetype, so comparison of the variants at a particular place may lead one to postulate another reading as their common source. Hipponax fro ,49 ap. The reading of A represents a banalization of the Ionic into the familiar form of the name of the festival, the other variant a misreading of uncial T as r. Schneidewin's emendation accounts for both readings and at the same time restores what Hipponax meant to say in the correct dialect; it thus satisfies perfectly the three requirements formulated on p.

But the archetypal reading, reconstructed or extant, may be unsatisfactory. In that case, further conjecture is called for, just as it may be called for if there is complete agreement among the manuscripts. It starts, so far as possible, from the 'paradosis' ncxpclaocrtc; , which is a rather imprecise but convenient term meaning 'the data furnished by the transmission, reduced to essentials'.

Evangelical Textual Criticism: What Are Text-Types For?

It would be almost true to define it as the text of the archetype in a closed tradition, and the effective consensus of the manuscripts disregarding trivial or derivative variants in an open one. But reduction to essentials implies something further, namely the elimination from the archetype-text or the consensus-text of 53 those features which we know, from our general knowledge of the history of books and writing, to have been introduced since the time of the author.

The category includes orthographical modernizations, capital letters, word division, punctuation and other lectional signs. In Semonides 7,4 the primary manuscripts give and a Renaissance copy which is a form better attested for early Ionic. From one point of view the paradosis may be said to be But when one reflects that Semonides would have written the contraction of EE simply as E, it appears that the paradosis really amounts to an ambiguous is some later person's interpretation of that, but we are free to prefer the alternative interpretation 4.

It is an emendation in the sense that it corrects a presumed error, but not in the sense that it postulates a form of the text for which evidence is lacking.

Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique

In ancient books there was no distinction of proper names, and hardly any word division. Punctuation existed from at least the fourth century B.

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See Glotta 44,, The critic is at liberty to re-interpret e. The same applies to the division and attribution of speeches in dialogue texts. It is not certain whether even this practice goes back to the earliest times, and the divisions given by manuscripts are so often erroneous that they cannot be regarded as useful evidence of the author's intentions 6.

Certainly the attribution of a speech to such-and-such an interlocutor rests on no tradition that reaches back to the author except perhaps where the speaker makes his first appearance but only on later interpretation. The practice of regularly identifying the speaker seems to have been invented by Theodoretus in the fifth century 7.

The critic is free to distribute the dialogue as best fits the sense. In what circumstances is it legitimate to depart from the para- dosis, to entertain a conjecture? Many scholars would answer, "only when it is clear that the paradosis cannot be right". Those are scholars who will dismiss a conjecture from consideration on the ground that it is 'unnecessary'. But it does not have to be 'necessary' in order to be true; and what we should be concerned with is whether or nor it may be true.

Consider Euripides, Hippo- lytus WIlson, ClassIcal Quarterly, n. This is almost certainly the right reading: the intrusion of the name to clarify a circumlocution is a very familiar phenomenon above, p. Before the papyrus appeared, however, anyone who had suggested reading "e. He would have been justified in replying, "I am not saying that is unsatisfactory, I am only warning you not to rely on it too much, because this is just the sort of sentence in which a proper name is liable to be interpolated".

His warning would have been timely and his conjecture correct. Probably no editor would have thought it worth mentioning. Yet it would have deserved mention, because it fulfilled the three requirements stated at the beginning of this chapter, being in full accord with the sense and with Euripides' style and metre, and easily compatible with the fact that the paradosis gives This may seem to be opening the door to innumerable profitless speculations.

If we are to attend to every conjecture that is pos- sible, it may be said, there will be no end to it. But this is really not so. The number of conjectures that genuinely satisfy the require- ments will not be large; and those that do ought to be attended to. The critic should not be content to exercise his art only on passages where his predecessors have exercised it. He should scrutinize every single word of the text, asking himself whether it is in H Barrett's argument for p.


We want to know not only where the paradosis is certainly at fault, but also how far we can depend on it in other places, and what the limits of uncertainty are. The discovery of new sources especially papyri has often revealed the presence of corruption where no one had suspected it. It follows that one ought to be more suspicious. The textual critic is a pathologist. It is his business to identify disorders known to him from professional experience and from textbooks and the more he can supplement the latter from the former, the more sagacious he will be.

When he notices that all is not well with a passage, however the paradosis is interpreted, his first problem is to discover as precisely as possible where the corruption lies. It may be obvious that one particular word is wrong and everything else in good order, or it may not. In that case he must go over the passage word by word, giving careful thought to the meaning and to the author's writing habits, and making preliminary decisions of the form "whatever has gone wrong here, this word at least is just right and not to be tampered with".

Finding the exact location of the corruption will sometimes lead him at once to recognize its nature, and perhaps to see the solution. At other times he will only be able to say where the corruption is but not what kind it is; or what kind it is, but not what exactly lies behind it. For instance, if something essential to the syntax of a sentence or to the progress of an argument is miss- ing, he may be able to say "there is a lacuna at this point, but there is no knowing what it contained"; or "there is a lacuna which must have contained the words In this case the supplement proposed would fall into the category of 'diagnostic' conjecture, that is, a conjecture which, while no one can feel confident that it is right, serves the purpose of indi- cating the kind of sense that is really required or the kind of corruption that may have occurred.

If someone had conjectured 7tEAa. There is a dictum of Haupt, quoted with approval by Housman and others: "If the sense requires it, I am prepared to write Constantinopolitanus where the manuscripts have the monosyllabic interjection 0".

The point he is making is that emendation must start from the sense. But the failure to explain how Constantinopolitanus came to be corrupted into 0 may leave others with certain doubts as to whether that is really what the sense was.