I’ve been clearing my inbox a little today, since I had a bit of time, and popping out a couple of blog posts. Things are still not back to normal, but it is wonderful to be able to blog a bit. I need to get back to doing proper Latin again too, but the pressure of mundane stuff still forbids.
Sitting in a cafe this morning, I was thinking about the two different texts of John the Deacon. Chapters 12 and 13 deal with the legend of the three generals, sent by Constantine to put down a revolt among the Taifal Goths settled in Asia Minor, and then accused of treachery in a palace intrigue. St Nicholas appears to save the day. In Greek this particular story predates the full-length lives of St Nicholas, and circulated independently.
Out of the blue, I found myself wondering whether the same was true in Latin. Is there an independent chunk of text of this sort? If so, I wondered, did Falconius interpolate it into his text? It is pretty clear that Mombritius simply printed the manuscript before him. But Falconius prints two alternative lists of chapters at the end, many from the Life of St Nicholas of Sion. So it is indeed clear that Falconius was messing with his text. Unfortunately I could not work out from the BHL whether such an item did circulate independently.
I’m coming round to the view that Mombritius is the basic text of John the Deacon, and that Falconius is a rogue, the product of a pre-critical scholar accumulating materials from several sources. This is unfortunate, since my translation was made from Falconius, but it will have to be faced once I can get back to it. I’m not going to collate manuscripts. This would involve half a lifetime of study of the western tradition of St Nicholas, which I do not have to give, nor wish to.
It’s a reminder of the risks of scholarship. Give me any day an innocent humble copy, errors and all, over some too-clever “corrected” text by someone who isn’t as clever as he thinks. The first duty of scholarship is to transmit to the future what we have received.