Medieval Rus′

Maintained by: David J. Birnbaum ( [Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 Unported License] Last modified: 2020-08-30T19:23:33+0000

Textual criticism: terms methods, and principles

Ways of talking about textual criticism

Assumptions underlying stemmatic textual criticism

  1. Not all witnesses have equal value as evidence for an earlier reading. Witnesses must be evaluated; we cannot just take a vote. (Manuscripts should be weighed, not counted. Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland, The text of the New Testament, 275–76.) The evaluation must be based on principles, rather than on intuition.
  2. Where all witnesses agree, the reading is true (subject to amendment by conjecture).
  3. Where witnesses diverge, exactly one reading is true (subject to amendment by conjecture).
  4. A true reading is transmitted directly, unless there is evidence that it represents a correction of an error.
  5. Shared errors have a common source (Maas: peculiar error = error that arises at a particular locus in the tradition). (If two people are found shot dead in the same house at the same time, it is indeed possible that they have been shot by different persons for different reasons, but it would be foolish to make that our initial assumption. James Willis, Latin textual criticism, Chicago, 1972, 14, qtd. in Ostrowski 1981, 15.)
  6. Either one true reading can be identified or the evidence presents a crux.
  7. The original may have contained errors.
  8. Not all types of texts are amenable to stemmatic analysis, and where stemmatic analysis is appropriate, the stemma for one part of a text may differ from the stemma for a different part.

Principal PVL witnesses

From the Introduction to the HURI edition of the PVL, xx

What to do (Maas)

Textology and editions

Other types or properties of editions include: facsimile (images, rather than characters; scanned, photographic, lithographic, etc.), modernized (updates archaic features, usually by standardizing spelling), modern (translation from archaic to modern language), educational (for students, rather than scholars; often the copy text from a critical edition without the apparatus, typically heavily annotated for pedagogical purposes), interpretative (rigorously commented; often used for a codex unicus), etc.




I am grateful to Helena Bermúdez Sabel for comments and suggestions.