How did he get *that* reading?? (Again) – Recensio 7

From one of the miracle stories of St Nicholas (BHL 6164), appended to John the Deacon.  The story so far.  St Nicholas has sneaked up on a gang of robbers who have looted a customs-house, which was left under the saint’s protection.

Tunc dixit ad eos Sanctus Nicolaus, “O infelices et miseri, quid agitis? Numquid ignoratis, quoniam ego ipse ibidem eram, quando hoc malum perpetrastis? Nam oculi mei conspexerunt, quando has et illas res abstulistis.” Quantitatem et numerum etiam cunctarum rerum, quae de theloneo abstulerunt, singillatim eis exponens, addidit dicens, …

Then Saint Nicholas said to them, “O unfortunate and wretched ones, what are you doing? Do you not know that I myself was there when you committed this evil? For my eyes saw when you took away these things and those things.” Then he gave the quantity, and also the number of all the things which they had taken from the toll-house, listing one by one to them, saying, , …

He tells them, “All is known!” and they panic and take the stuff back. The Latin text here is what I now think the author wrote.

But I was working from the Falconius edition (1751) here, and when I got to this bit, I was a bit puzzled.  Here it is:

Latin text of the passage in the edition of Falconius.

Which is a bit weird.  How is “quanti autem” the accusative for “exponens”?

Well I happened to have a manuscript open (BNF lat. 989, 10th c.), and I saw this:

Latin text of the passage in manuscript BNF lat. 989.

That made more sense.  “Quantitatem” rather than “Quanti”.  The etiam has moved up, so we end up with “etiam &”, a phrase not  uncommon in John the Deacon.  But the “etiam”‘s do move around in the manuscripts.  It’s probably just a copyist error in this particular manuscript.

Next I looked at the Mombritius, the first edition, published before 1480, and I got this:

Latin text of the passage in the edition of Mombritius.

This confirmed the “quantitatem”, but left the “etiam” alone.  Only “numerum” has now become “munerum”, “the quantity and value also of all the stuff…”.  Nobody else has “munerum”, so this suggests to me that the Mombritius edition was based on a manuscript in Gothic hand, where such slips can be rather easy…

Cartoon showing Gothic book hand and its unreadability

I do love that cartoon!

Next I opened another manuscript, Wien ONB 416 (12th c.), which belongs to a separate family from the other manuscripts:

Latin text of the passage in the manuscript Wien ONB 416.

Here again we have “Quantitatem & numerum etiam”, rather abbreviated.

Then I looked at the Lippoman edition (1515), and all became clear.

Latin text of the passage in the edition of Lippomanus.

Here is our “Quanti”, as Falconius gives it!  And here also is his “autem”, or rather “tatem”!!  The silly fool was copying Lippomanus, clearly in a great hurry, and didn’t notice the hyphen.  So he gave two words, “Quanti autem”, where the nice clear printed copy before him read “Quantitatem”.

It’s hard to believe that Falconius did this, so I would tend to think that his compositor/typesetter did it.  Which means that when Falconius sent his edition to the press, he sent a marked-up copy of Lippomanus to the press, rather than writing out his own copy first.

We get an awful lot of information here about these early editions.

  • The editio princeps, Mombritius, ca. 1480, was printed from a manuscript in Gothic hand, and misread.
  • The second edition, of Lippomanus, ca. 1515, may have used Mombritius but certainly did not copy it.  Instead it gives the manuscript reading.
  • The third edition, of Falconius, 1751, was done carelessly and quite possibly by writing changes into a copy of the Lippomanus edition.  There was no change at this point, but the typesetter misread the exemplar before him and got it wrong.

That’s rather nice, really.  I’ve learned a lot from a little.  Once again, I’ve learned not to rely on Falconius.


How to lose the first letter of a word in transmission

In my last post I looked at how to decide what the genuine reading was of a single word in John the Deacon’s Latin text.  Among the variants was “Nacta” and “Acta”.

Purely by chance this evening I have come across a perfect illustration of how Nacta became Acta.  It is to be found in Ms. Vatican Barb. lat. 586, on fol. 3v, where the text appears like this:

Nacta written but the initial never inserted, leaving "acta".
Nacta written but the initial never inserted, leaving “acta”.

There it is.  The word is “Nacta”.  The scribe has left a space for the “N” to be illuminated, for a decorated initial to be inserted.  To help the artist, he’s put a written “N” in the space, and the text reads “acta”.

In this case the N is big, and bold, and clear.  But what if it wasn’t?  What if it was small, tiny, faint?

Clearly this has happened, sometime in the past, in some other manuscript.  The copyist did not notice the “N” and wrote “Acta”.  How do we know?  Because “Acta” is one of the variants that I found in some of the manuscripts, listed in my last post.

This, folks, is how you lose letters from the front of a word in transmission.

Update: Stephen Carlson points out that it actually looks as if it was originally an A, which was erased and the N written in.  The first “a” of “acta” is different to the other, and the surface looks erased!  And the other initials have been marked up in red.  So maybe… it means the opposite?!  Acta, corrected to Nacta!  Here’s the other A:

Folio 6v – A


Inventa ergo… Or maybe not – Recensio, part 2.

Time to plunge into the text and see if I can find any errors in the manuscripts that might help me divide them up into families.

When I was collating the text of John the Deacon’s Life of St Nicholas, I came across a passage, which is interesting for the sheer number of textual variants, for the first word of the sentence.  St Nicholas has learned that a starving man, unable to afford a dowry for his three daughters, has decided to prostitute them.  He decides to do something about this.

Inventa ergo** cuiusdam noctis hora, sumens non modicum aurum, ligansque in panno, perrexit ad domum viri, quam undique circumspiciens, per fenestram quae competens videbatur, clam intro projecit, clamque discessit.

Therefore, when the hour of a certain night arrived,** he took not a little gold, and tying it in a cloth, he went to the man’s house, which he surveyed from all sides, and then, through a window which seemed appropriate to him, he secretly threw it inside and secretly departed.

I noticed this place when I was machine-comparing the editions.

  • Mombritius, Lippomano: inventa ergo … hora – the hour having been found/reached, therefore.
  • Falconius: nactus ergo … hora – (he) having reached, therefore … the hour.
  • Corsi: acta ergo … hora – the hour having come, therefore.
  • Mai: infamiis notata igitur – their disgrace having been noticed, therefore.

That’s a lot of differences, and that’s what, from a text criticism point of view, we need to find!  So… good news!  Now here are some thoughts, based on what I generally know about these editions.

  • Mombritius printed some unknown (probably late) manuscript.  Lippomano may have just reprinted Mombritius at this point.
  • Corsi used Falconius, but also a Berlin manuscript.  At this point in the manuscripts, there is an initial.  Is acta really Nacta, copied from a manuscript where the initial “N” had never been painted in?  So we could ignore it?
  • Mai’s edition is a printed version of an abbreviated form of the text, which turns into a paraphrase.  Maybe the scribe of the abbreviation found something odd here – maybe just something he read as atta? and improvised?

Maybe we have manuscripts missing the initial letter.  Let’s go and look, and see what we have.  Maybe we have a point at which the manuscript tradition diverges?  (This will also help me get more of the manuscript material in order on my disk.)

The first PDF, alphabetically, in my folder of manuscripts is Balliol 216.  This I made from a zip file of images, downloaded from the website, and pulled into a PDF using Finereader 15.  I’m opening it for the first time (in a very old copy of Acrobat 9 Pro).  I wince a bit as I see images on their sides and upside down.  I read the folio numbers as I page down, and get Nicholas at folio 33r as expected.  I bookmark it, and save the PDF properties so that the bookmarks will open whenever I open the PDF.

The text isn’t that great to read – a Gothic hand, drat it – but I know what I’m looking for.  It’s an initial.

Ooo.  On folio 34 there’s an erasure.  I note that in the bookmarks.

I page down.  Some of the photos are lying on their sides.  I rotate them.  I look out for familiar initials and bookmark them.  Acrobat is amazing.  Pity you can’t actually buy a copy any more.

I page down, looking for the end of the text.  I must have passed it, because I have a red initial “Igitur postquem beatissimi nicholaus ex hoc mundo migravit” – “After blessed Nicholas snuffed it”; but I know this isn’t part of my text, but some of the tedious miracle stories often added on the bottom.  So fol. 42r is past the end.  Bookmark that.

Back up.  Aha!  Bottom of f41v is what I’m looking for – “remearunt ad propria” – “they went home”, plus some standard stuff “magnificentes doninum jesum christum”.  That’s the end.  Bookmark it.

So I’m not going to find a handy initial.  Rats.  Hmm… I can make out “Tunc om” and then an abbreviation.  I got to my working file: it’s tunc omnes, and I’m in the middle of chapter 7.  Too far.  Mark it up anyway.  His ita transactis, the start of chapter 7, can’t be far – oh yes, there it is.  Sticky note, and bookmark.  Back up I go… ah, there’s Laban!  Good old Laban, I’m not far now.  And … there it is!

Balliol MS 216 - position of our passage
Inventa ergo? Not in Balliol 216! It’s Notata igitur.

Immediately we find… “Notata igitur!”  (Words before it are patrem tuum qui in caelis est, your father who is in heaven.  Unlike me.)  Different again from any of the manuscripts, although clearly the Mai abbreviated text is working from something of this type.

I won’t drag you through this process for each manuscript.  But I’m doing the same thing in each case.  What do I get?

  • Balliol 216 (13th) = Notata igitur
  • Berlin theol. lat. qu 140 (11th) = Acta igitur, which is Corsi’s reading from just this manuscript
  • BNF lat 196 (12th) = Acta igitur, with the capital.
  • BNF lat. 989 (10th c) = v faded.  I think it’s a Notata igitur, with the capital, after some image manipulation.  The N and the ata are clear.
  • BNF lat 1765 (13th) = Nacta igitur.  But something is odd about this ms – the text is a lot shorter and ends with “accepit insulam”, part way through chapter 7, then another text, which seems to be called the “Relatio Simplicii” in another ms (below) and then an odd ending from BHL 6108a.  Then the Passio of St Lucy.
  • BNF lat. 1864 (14th) = Notata ergo.  This text ends with the usual remearunt, but then follows with material printed by Falconius as chapters 14 and 15 – the first manuscript copy I have seen of this.
  • BNF lat. 2627 (11th) = Notata ergo.  This too ends with chapters 14 and 15.
  • BNF lat. 3791 (12th) = Nacta ergo.  The front of the ms is missing.  This copy ends with remearunt and then follows the Life of St Lucy.
  • BNF lat. 3809A (15th) = ???  There’s definitely an ergo but what’s the first word, with the initial, following the “a – li – ud. -“?  It looks like “Clam“? “without knowledge of the hour”?  The thing ends with the ch.14, and a bunch of miracles, then the life of St Ambrose.

  • BNF lat. 5308 (12th) – Transacta ergo.
  • BNF lat. 5573 (12th c.) – Nacta ergo, but marginal correction to facta.
  • Fribourg L 5 (13th) – Nacta igitur.  This does not seem to have the usual remearunt, but does have chapters 14, 15 and then ending from BHL 6108a, and then the “Relatio Simplicii” about the transitus of St Nicholas.
  • Milan P113 supp – Nacta ergo.  This ends with “chapters 14 and 15” and then the Life of St Waleric (who?)
  • Munich BSB Clm 12642 (14th) – Nactus ergo, but the Nactus appears to be in a different hand, so an erasure and correction.
  • Vatican Barb. lat. 583, f.44v – blessed if I know!  It’s something in Beneventan, which I can’t read.  I’ve posted to Twitter.

  • Vatican – Nacta ergo.  But with an unilluminated N.  Easy copyist error to write “Acta”.
  • UPDATE: Vat. lat.1271 (12th c.) – Inventa ergo.  Finally!

I’m beginning to wear out here, so I will stop for now. I’ve learned quite a bit. Clearly I need to catalogue exactly how each copy ends.

But notice what is not found in any of these?  The “inventa” that we started with!

Later: By chance I’ve found a perfect example of why the text cannot be “Acta”.  It’s in my next blog post, here.

Later still: Or maybe it was originally Acta, “corrected” to Nacta?

The Munich copy of vol. 2 of Mombritius, “Sanctuarium”, p.163, showing “inventa”


How to Compare Manuscripts – Recensio part 1

The Latin text that I am working on has never had a critical edition.  I am actually not sure what the author wrote at points, because the editions differ so much.  What to do?

These days we have lots of manuscripts online.  But … how do we go about comparing them?  Where do we start?

Googling has not produced anything very useful.  So I thought that I would record my own thoughts, as far as I have got.

The only practical guide that I have seen is in Martin West’s Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique (1973).  On page 66 he tells us:

The manuscript is compared with a printed edition word by word, and the differences written down. Some people write them in the margins of the edition, but even if the copy is interleaved this does not give one room for more than a few manuscripts’ variants, and I usually use a separate notebook. It is essential in this case to record in writing which edition has been used for the collation, for if that is not known a collation loses much of its value. (One must bear in mind the possibility that one’s collations will one day be used by someone else, and one must therefore make sure that it is clear in this and in all other respects how they are to be interpreted.)

It is best to choose an edition which is light to travel with, will always be easily available, and keeps close to the paradosis (to minimize the amount of writing necessary); and to use the same one for each collation.

Every effort should be made to prevent confusion between the collations of different manuscripts. If they are done into the printed copy, the best thing is to use different coloured inks[2]); in a notebook, the manuscript should be identified at the top of every page.

Care must also be taken to avoid ambiguity about the location of the variant. In prose texts the lines should be numbered down each printed page and the numbers used for reference. If the variant is for a word that comes twice in the same line, or might be read as being for either of two similar words, it must be made clear which one is in question.

[2] Collations should always be in ink. If washable ink is used, beware of rain.

He goes on to add that, if you have decided to ignore some trivial points, like iota subscript (in Greek), make a note that you have done so.  Always record corrections and marginal notes.  It’s a good idea to note where the page turns; an omission in another manuscript at precisely that point is evidence of copying.

These are all good, practical points.

Now I’d like to add a couple of my own, as far as I have taken things, which is not very far.  What I write relates to Latin, but no doubt applies more or less equally to Greek.

  1.  In order to compare manuscripts effectively you do need to be familiar with the Latin text.  Otherwise you simply won’t be able to find your place.  I started downloading manuscripts at an early stage, but could do nothing with them.

2.  The best way to get familiar with a Latin text, and its peculiarities, is to prepare a translation of it.  This forces you to grapple with every word, and to work out what the author is saying and how he says it.  I know a Swedish philologist who intended to edit one of the works of Tertullian.  In preparation for the task, he prepared a translation of it, into English (!)  It may seem burdensome, but it is really a huge aid.

In my own case I have a Word file with the text broken down into a sentence or two, with my draft English translation interleaved.  This also gives me a place to write notes and… to start noting manuscript variations.  Here’s a bit from my current opus:

Example of interleaved Latin and English
Excerpt from the working file on the text and translation

Of course a single file can be overwhelming.  I work a chapter at a time, and only combine them once I’ve done three passes on each.

Windows Explorer, showing directories
Windows Explorer, showing directories
Directory showing files in progress
Work in progress!

3.  You need an edition to use as a base text.  It doesn’t matter what it is, or whether it is any good or not.  In fact a late pre-critical text, “vulgate” text, with interpolations, but punctuated, can be ideal for this purpose.  It’s likely to be based on some, dead common manuscript.  In that case, it will save you a lot of typing.  It’s just the rail on which you will hang your notes, and it is far easier to mark it with “this bit not in XYZ”.

4.  Get it into an electronic form, so you can use it as I did above.  I use Abby Finereader Pro 15, which isn’t that expensive and does Latin very nicely.  Once you have it in electronic form, you can do searches on it, when you’re staring at some manuscript and can’t remember “where does it say ‘Armata'”?  You can do comparisons automatically with other editions too, as I remarked in my last post.  You can copy and paste bits of the manuscript images into a Word document if need be.

5.  Get some manuscripts downloaded in PDF form.  The Gallica website Bibliotheque Nationale Français is great for this.  Finding manuscripts can be a pain, but this will certainly get easier as time goes by.  You should have a PDF editor on your machine, which will allow you to extract just the pages that you need.  Then you can mark it up.  I’ve used bookmarks to indicate key points in the text, and sticky notes to indicate, within a page, just where something is.  For instance in the image below, “laetamur” is the start of “chapter 15” of the printed text.

Manuscript with markup

I have a folder full of manuscripts, indicating whether they are microfilm or real, and with the date in the file name (which I recommend):

So far I have been looking at these, and marking up divisions in the text, and indicating where the chapters of the edition are.  This makes it faster to access the pages that you want, and helps you to start getting to grips with the text.

That’s as far as I have got for now.  My working file already indicates places where the editions disagree, so I will start noting the readings of the manuscripts for the same.  I’ll write another post when I’ve done more!


What is a critical edition, and how do I find one?

I have just been asked this basic question, on this post on the manuscripts of Pliny the Elder, and to my surprise a quick google does not give a satisfactory answer.  So … here goes!

Ancient literary texts were dictated or written by their authors more than 15 centuries ago.  They were then hand-copied for many centuries, initially in papyrus rolls, and then into the modern book format, the parchment codex.  During this time most ancient texts were lost, forever.  Only 1% of ancient literature is estimated to survive.

Those that do survive do so in medieval hand-written copies.  These are known as the “manuscripts” of ancient authors.  (For modern authors, we use the word “manuscript” differently, to mean the handwritten copy sent to the publisher by the author, but these almost never survive from antiquity).[1]  These copies are few.  Most ancient texts survive in copies no older than about A. D. 800, many of which descend from a single manuscript that had survived from Antiquity.  The only exceptions are texts that were used a lot during antiquity and after, such as the bible, and the works of the major church fathers.

Other losses of text happened.  Some texts survive in an incomplete form.  Sentences are missing.  Chapters are missing.  Whole books are missing.

For instance, the start of Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesars is not known to us, although it still existed in the 6th century AD, as a stray quote tells us.  Many ancient histories were written in tens of “books”, each originally a single scroll.  Livy’s Roman History is an example, written in at least 140 books.  The groups of 10 books travelled down the centuries separately.  Of Livy, all that survives is books 1-10 – one unit; books 21-30; books 31-40; and a single damaged manuscript which originally contained books 41-50 but the back is lost, and today it includes only books 41-45 and the first page of book 46.

Also, in the process of copying, scribes made mistakes.  Sometimes they went back and fixed them.  Sometimes a later copyist fixed it.  Sometimes a later copyist guessed wrong! Sometimes there were odd abbreviations.  Also there were changes to the type of handwriting used for books – “book hand” is the jargon phrase – which means that later scribes could get confused.

Printing arrives in 1450.  The first printed editions of ancient texts arrive then.

But these were not “critical editions”.  Instead the publisher found a manuscript – often a late manuscript -, and simply printed whatever text was in it.  He might include some corrections, or not.  If it was a Greek text, he would often supply a translation into Latin.

These “pre-critical editions” were printed, and reprinted, for centuries.  Sometimes a work would be printed; and then a later publisher would find another manuscript, which contained parts of the work that the first edition did not contain.  But often it was just a case of different punctuation, typeface, and notes.  (The text that “everybody” knew is sometimes called the “textus receptus”).

Imagine that you are an editor.  You have more than one manuscript.  They differ, in small ways.  What text do you print?  Well, the early editors bodged along, guessing at the correct text.

But in the early 19th century, scholars in Germany began to evolve some rules to decide how to handle this problem.  The rules are not scientific; they merely make common sense explicit.  The creation of these rules marked the creation of “textual criticism” as a discipline, dedicated to making it possible to restore a text to something like what the author wrote, and remove scribal errors.

The editions that arise from this process are known as “critical editions”.  A critical edition is one where the text is as far as possible what the author wrote, but with the process of creating that text documented, and a “critical apparatus” of footnotes that shows where there might be uncertainty.

The scholars creating a critical edition try to assemble all the surviving manuscripts, where possible.  They try to compare them all.  They apply the rules of textual criticism to decide which versions of the text are original, and which are derived from the process of copying the work down the centuries.

Now it has been found by experience that various traps lie in wait for scholars doing this. Sometimes the “obvious” text is not right.  Greek texts in the 4th century BC were written in Attic Greek.  Later Hellenistic texts from the 3rd century BC to the 1st century AD were in a later form of Greek.  But from the 2nd century AD onwards, there was a revival of the custom of writing in Attic Greek, which persisted as late as 1453.  Consequently Hellenistic Greek texts could be “corrected” by an Atticising copyist.  The same process happens in Latin, where a difficult or unorthodox author can be “corrected”.  Some early editors certainly did the same, falsely correcting the author, rather than the manuscript.

Modern academic editions of ancient texts, in the original language, are always critical editions.  So to find a critical edition of any ancient author, you can use a library catalogue like the Library of Congress, or COPAC, and sort by date, most recent first.  Any academic edition of an ancient text published after about 1850 will probably be a critical edition.

Sometimes one  critical edition may become the “standard” edition of that text.  That is usually the one you want.  The only way to find out which edition this might be is to read around the subject, read reviews of the editions, and see which edition is referenced.  Other critical editions of the same author will normally indicate if one edition is widely used.

Some critical editions are still not very good.  Furthermore, most ancient literary texts do not even have a critical edition at all; the only editions are pre-critical.  The vast majority of ancient texts are of the church fathers, and modern scholars have preferred to edit classical texts instead.

You use what you have.

  1. [1]My thanks to MDR for pointing out that such an original has survived, of the epigrams of the 6th century author Dioscorus of Aphrodito has survived, plus some other corrections – thank you.

The things not stated, and opaque to later readers

In the Journals of John Wesley, we find a couple of descriptive passages which must leave a careful non-English reader scratching his head in confusion.

The first of these, from 2nd July, 1745, reads as follows:

I was reading my text when a man came, raging as if just broke out of the tombs; and riding into the thickest of the people seized three or four one after another, none lifting up a hand against him A second (gentleman so called) soon came after, if possible more furious than he, and ordered his men to seize on some others, Mr Shepherd in particular. Most of the people however stood still as they were before and began singing an hymn. Upon this Mr B. lost all patience and cried out with all his might, “Seize him, seize him. I say, Seize the Preacher for his Majesty’s service.” But no one stirring he rode up and struck several of his attendants, cursing them bitterly for not doing as they were bid. Perceiving still that they would not move, he leaped off his horse, swore he would do it himself, and caught hold of my cassock, crying “I take you to serve his Majesty.” A servant taking his horse, he took me by the arm and we walked arm in arm for about three quarters of a mile. He entertained me all the time with the wickedness of the fellows belonging to the Society. When he was taking breath I said, “Sir, be they what they will, I apprehend it will not justify you in seizing me in this manner, and violently carrying me away, as you said, to serve his Majesty.” He replied, “I seize you! And violently carry you away” No, Sir, no. Nothing like it. I asked you to go with me to my house and you said you was willing; and if so you are welcome, and if not, you are welcome to go where you please.” I answered, “Sir, I know not if it would be safe for me to go back through this rabble.” “Sir, (said he) “I will go with you myself.” He then called for his horse, and another for me, and rode back with me to the place from whence he took me.

There is no indication in the text as to why Mr Borlase suddenly changed his tune.  He grabbed Wesley by the arm and frog-marched him away from the scene, ranting all the while; and then, when Wesley finally managed to say something, suddenly Borlase denied doing any such thing.

Another similar passage here:

As soon as I came within sight of Tolcarn, (in Wendron parish,) where I was to preach in the evening, I was met by many, running as it were for their lives, and begging me to go no further. I asked “Why not?” They said, “The churchwardens and constables, and all the heads of the parish, are waiting for you at the top of the hill, and are resolved to have you: they have a special warrant from the justices met at Helstone, who will stay there till you are brought. I rode directly up the hill, and observing four or five horsemen, well dressed, went straight to them and said, “Gentlemen has any of you any thing to say to me? — I am John Wesley.” One of them appeared extremely angry at this, that I should presume to say I was Mr John Wesley. And I know not how I might have fared for advancing so bold an assertion, but that Mr Collins the minister of Redruth, (accidentally as he said,) came by. Upon his accosting me and saying he knew me at Oxford, my first antagonist was silent, and a dispute of another kind began: whether this preaching had done any good.  I appealed to matter of fact. He allowed, (after many words), “People are the better for the present,” but added, “To be sure, by and by, they will be as bad if not worse than ever.”

Again we see the sudden change in attitude.  A group of the local gentry have assembled, determined to arrest John Wesley and convey him to the magistrates, who are waiting for his arrival — doubtless to treat him as innocent until proven guilty.  And what happens?  Wesley speaks a few words, and suddenly the mood has changed.

To anyone unfamiliar with English society, this material must seem very abrupt.  It is easy — perhaps too easy — to imagine some dull source-critical academic, of the kind that is laughed at today, pronouncing these passages fictional; or interpolated; and using the awkwardness of the narrative as a reason.

But anyone who has been in England for five minutes knows the explanation.  In England, social status is reflected in the accent of the speaker.  The nobility and the labourer may speak the same language, but each will recognise the other simply by the way they speak.

We cannot hear the voice of John Wesley.  But we need not doubt that he spoke as a gentleman, in an Oxford accent, indeed. 

As soon as Mr Borlase heard him do so, and heard the educated words, he instantly realised that he was not dealing with a labourer, but with a man of property and standing who could, if he chose, prosecute him for assault and would be listened to by a judge.

Likewise the Cornish gentlemen had only to hear a few words, and observe his manner, to deduce instantly that their proposed actions were not possible or desirable to attempt on one of their own class, even before the identification by Mr Collins, the minister of Redruth.  It looks very much as if the luckless Collins had been brought along to identify their intended victim.  They had, perhaps, supposed that Wesley had been a poor bible scholar of Lincoln, rather than a gentleman.  A few words showed them otherwise.

It’s important to realise that all works are written in a kind of shorthand.  No literary text can explain every nuance to its readers, present and future.  There is an assumed commonality of understanding, impossible to avoid, between author and contemporary reader, which will not be the case a few centuries later.

Let us try to remember this, the next time some learned fool tries to argue from a presumed awkwardness in an ancient text.  The text may be interpolated.  But it may simply be that we don’t read it as a contemporary would have done.


Greek text critical marks as described by Diogenes Laertius

I’m reading through the first volume of Diogenes Laertius Lives of the Philosophers.  In book 3, devoted to Plato, we find the following interesting excursus, which I copy from a version present on Wikisource here.

65. The right interpretation of his dialogues includes three things: first, the meaning of every statement must be explained; next, its purpose, whether it is made for a primary reason or by way of illustration, and whether to establish his own doctrines or to refute his interlocutor; in the third place it remains to examine its truth.

And since certain critical marks are affixed to his works let us now say a word about these. The cross × is taken to indicate peculiar expressions and figures of speech, and generally any idiom of Platonic usage; the diple[65] (>) calls attention to doctrines and opinions characteristic of Plato; 66. the dotted cross (⨰) denotes select passages and beauties of style; the dotted diple (⋗) editors’ corrections of the text; the dotted obelus (÷) passages suspected without reason; the dotted antisigma (Ꜿ) repetitions and proposals for transpositions; the ceraunium the philosophical school; the asterisk (∗) an agreement of doctrine; the obelus (−) a spurious passage.

So much for the critical marks and his writings in general. As Antigonus of Carystus says in his Life of Zeno, when the writings were first edited with critical marks, their possessors charged a certain fee to anyone who wished to consult them.

65. A wedge-shaped mark >, used in early papyri to denote a fresh paragraph.

It is always good to see the actual basis for some of the remarks that get made in text critical handbooks.  Here at least, we have an explicit statement of what marks indicate what.


Rescuing a bit of Eusebius from oblivion

One of the things which I hoped for, in translating Eusebius “Gospel Questions”, was to find unknown material in the fragments that aren’t in Migne.  Yesterday that hope was justified.   In an obscure publication in Moscow in the 18th century of a catena, an extract from Ad Marinum 2 produced results:

At the line marked by my footnote 2, where I saw something was rather unusual about the Greek, it turns out that the Greek word for “dawning” came twice, and the scribe of the MS used by Mai (so also Migne and Zamagni) cut two whole lines by going on from the second one after just reaching the first.  So we’ll be the first to give our thirsty readers the real thing!  

That said, it’s only the usual verbosely repetitive hammering-in of a point already obvious;  but still, it’s very nice to have a text that does make sense without straining the Greek, as I did, or ignoring the problem altogether like Mai and Zamagni.

Two more lines of ancient literature, rescued from the darkness.  It is a small but definite triumph.


Nicaea II and missing books

This post raises some interesting questions about the destruction of Iconoclast literature after the second council of Nicaea in 787 AD.  (Also commented on here at Labarum).

The thrust of the post is that the council ordered the destruction of iconoclast books, aside from those held in a private collection by the patriarch of Constantinople.  The existence of such a collection may explain some of the reading material listed by Photius in his Bibliotheca.

What I was not clear about, tho, was what the historical sources quoted were.  How do we know this?

Sadly a firewall prevents me posting a comment, but if you know, please let me know.

I find that this is supposedly from the 9th canon of the canons of the council.  In the NPNF translation these read:

Canon IX.

That none of the books containing the heresy of the traducers of the Christians are to be hid.

All the childish devices and mad ravings which have been falsely written against the venerable images, must be delivered up to the Episcopium of Constantinople, that they may be locked away with other heretical books. And if anyone is found hiding such books, if he be a bishop or presbyter or deacon, let him be deposed; but if he be a monk or layman, let him be anathema.


Ancient Epitome of Canon IX.

If any one is found to have concealed a book written against the venerable images, if he is on the clergy list let him be deposed; if a layman or monk let him be cut off.

Van Espen.

What here is styled Episcopium was the palace of the Patriarch. In this palace were the archives, and this was called the “Cartophylacium,” in which the charts and episcopal laws were laid up. To this there was a prefect, the grand Chartophylax, one of the principal officials and of most exalted dignity of the Church of Constantinople, whose office Codinus explains as follows: “The Ghartophylax has in his keeping all the charts which pertain to ecclesiastical law (that is to say the letters in which privileges and other rights of the Church are contained) and is the judge of all ecclesiastical causes, and presides over marriage controversies which are taken cognizance of, and proceedings for dissolution of the marriage bond; moreover, he is judge in other clerical strifes, as the right hand of the Patriarch.”

In this Cartophylaceum or Archives, therefore, under the faithful guardianship of the Chartophylax, the fathers willed that the writings of the Iconoclasts should be laid up, lest in their perusal simple Catholics might be led astray.

But here at IntraText I find a different version of the text.  Now IntraText is not a scanning site; they just use what others upload.  So which translation is this?  The same text is here.  I also find it here with attribution to Peter L’Huillier. 

After much searching, I find online “Canons of the seven ecumenical councils from the Rudder trans. by D. Cummings, 1957, with intro by Archbishop Peter L’Huillier.” (Chicago: Orthodox Christian Educational Society) and discussed here.


Errors in the transmission of the Koran

The following article from Almasry Alyoum sheds an interesting light on claims that manuscripts of the Koran are without error.

Koran Copies Full of Mistakes on the Markets
By  Ahmed el-Beheiri    12/8/2008 

Several flawed copies of the Koran are put on sale from time to time and several of these copies have recently appeared on the markets. Some suras (chapters) are completely missing, while some have been completed with others.

This is described as a great negligence on the part of publishing and distribution houses in dealing with the act of pressing and collecting the verses of the Holy Koran.

Al-Masry al-Youm has obtained one of these copies full of mistakes. It was published by a publishing and distribution house (“Al-Misriya lil Nashr wa al-Tawzie”) that had been authorized by the Islamic Research Academy to print and distribute 40,000 copies.

The copies contain several mistakes in the collection and arrangement of the papers.

Speaking to al-Masry al-Youm, the director of the department in charge of research and composition, Abdel Zaher Abdel Razek, said that the house staff had made mistakes in collecting and arranging the papers of the Koran. As a result, he said, some suras had disappeared while others were completed with others.

He put the blame for the mistakes on the publishing house owner, as the copies were not reviewed once again before being launched on the markets.

“We will have no leniency on the publishing house owner and the others who made the same mistake” he added. “We will send him a strong letter to warn him and call on him to commit to precision and preserve the sacredness of the Holy Koran when printing it, otherwise he will lose his license to print it”.