For the last week I have been steadily collating a group of manuscripts against my text of John the Deacon’s Life of St Nicholas. I have a list of the earliest manuscripts accessible to me, in century order. I have a 9th century manuscript (M), and three 10th century manuscripts (P, Q and O), which form the core of what I am doing. These are the “four horsemen” of my edition. I also have the four early editions. Finally there are two manuscripts of the 10-11th century (V and B) and a couple of randoms that I am consulting as well.
It’s actually rather rewarding. It brings you into very close contact with the text. You start to get a feel fairly quickly for the relationships. Quite often the four horsemen disagree with the early editions, but the readings of the latter sometimes appear in V. P, Q and O are closely related; so much so that when P is unreadable – and it is getting very unreadable – you can often work out what it is saying from Q or O.
I’ve steadily made a complete collation as far as the third sentence of chapter 6. But I have now run into a problem.
P was OK when I started but is largely unreadable except on the spine-side of the page. But I have just turned over the page in Q, to folio 261v, and found, to my horror, that there is no more. The text breaks off after the third sentence of chapter 6. There’s some irrelevant material written later; but there are no more folios in the manuscript. Indeed the suddenly worn state of the page indicates that this was indeed the last leaf.
That’s a nuisance. I was quite happy to continue collating away. But I shall need to change my approach.
I already have three or four places which I have labelled “major variants” – where a sentence is missing in some witnesses, or else the variation is great enough to separate the manuscripts into families. It’s not as many as I would like, but it ought to be enough to start to classify later manuscripts. I have thirteen manuscripts of the 11th century to hand. Maybe it is time to mark these up, for these variants. Is there, perhaps, a copy of P / Q, with which I can carry on the full collation?
The other problem, that today I have started to feel, is that it is a pain to have fifteen Adobe Acrobat windows open, containing the editions and the manuscripts. I’m managing because I have three screens on my PC, and I make sure they all open in the right-hand screen. But what I want, I suspect, is tabs. I want them all to open in a single window, and allow me to arrange them.
Foxit Reader does allow me to open them in tabs; but I don’t seem to be able to open the set in one go. Pity. Much worse is that I can’t add sticky notes. Bookmarking chapters, and adding stickies is something that I am doing as I go through collating each manuscript. It really helps.
So I shall have to divert from the task for a bit in order to solve these side-problems.