Medieval and Early Modern
V.iii. Textual Bibliography: Kinds of Edition
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We can define four main types of edition:
Besides the actual edited text, every type of edition should have all or most of the following types of commentary:
- Facsimile edition: reproduction (now usually photographic) with commentary.
- Diplomatic edition: transcription of a single MS (no attempt to establish "best" readings), indicating as far as possible the "state" of the text in this manuscript. Masai in 1950 established a now commonly used system of conventional symbols for diplomatic transcription, distinguishing three levels: the original reading, revisions made by correctors (before the MS left the scriptorium), and later alterations. Original readings are typed out as the main text, using italics for the expansion of recognized abbreviations (for ambiguous marks, or when there is no obvious expansion, the mark itself should be reproduced as accurately as possible, with notes of explanation). Corrector's revisions are distinguished with square brackets for deletions, various combinations of oblique lines for additions, and a combination of deletion and addition symbols for replacements. Later alterations are enclosed in angle brackets.
- Eclectic edition: a composite text, produced by an editor by taking a line from this MS and another line from that, without the use of a single "copy" text.
- Critical edition: an attempt to establish a "best text" (closest to the author's "ur-text") through comparison of various versions (study of "variants"); the editor chooses a "copy text" (usually that of the most authoritative manuscript) and "corrects" it using the variants from other manuscripts. On the principles of critical editions, see Bidez and Drachmann (1932); Dondaine (1960) (who also gives a system of Latin abbreviations for use in textual apparatus). Also see the various works of Jerome McGann, who challenges many of the assumptions of the traditional critical edition.
Various systems have been developed for indicating "special" aspects of the text; the following suggestions are to show what sorts of things an editor might need to highlight in the edited text. The main consideration, however, is that the editor needs some system or other, and that the principles of that system be fully explained in the Introduction to the edition.
- Introduction: the Introduction will usually include a codicological description of the manuscript and/or earlier printed versions used in constructing the text. Any matters which are relevant to the understanding or interpretation of the work as a whole should be discussed in the Introduction. And the Introduction should include an account of the editorial principles used to create the text.
- Textual (or "critical") apparatus (apparatus criticus): a complete record of substantive variant readings found in different versions of the text; wherever the editor has been forced to make choices or to supply emendations, the range of available choices should be presented to the users of the edition so that they can determine whether those choices were correct or reasonable.
- Commentary: sometimes this will be no more than an apparatus fontium (a list of the sources used by the author of the original, such as identifying the chapter and verse of quotations from the Bible), but usually the Commentary will be more extensive than this, including explication of difficult passages or discussion of points to be considered when attempting to interpret particular passages (as opposed to points to be considered for the interpretation of the whole work, which should be included in the Introduction, not in the Commentary), the discussion of any cruces in the text remaining after the editing has been completed, translations of passages in the text which are not in the main language of the text (Latin quotations in an English text, for instance, should be translated in the notes), identifying parallels of phrasing in other texts (including the identification of allusions).
- Glossary: any text not in the language of the intended reader (a Latin text for an English audience, or an Old English text for a Modern English audience) should be equipped with a glossary, at least of the "difficult" words; as computers make the production and printing of texts and glossaries cheaper, it is now not uncommon to provide complete "glossarial concordances" with a text (indicating every word in the text, with definitions, and a list of all locations).
- simple insertions (by the hand of the main scribe or of another scribe) might be surrounded by single quotation marks (inverted commas): this is a scribal insertion.
- words marked for deletion by the scribe could be placed within square brackets: [this is a scribal deletion].
- insertions and emendations by the editor might be surrounded by angle brackets: <text inserted by the editor>.
- where there is missing or damaged text, the lacuna can be indicated with a string of asterisks; if the passage is short, it can be useful to use as many asterisks as one estimates there are letters missing.
- where there appears to be no missing or damaged text, and yet the sense of the passage suggests that something is missing, the conjectural lacuna can be indicated by placing the row of asterisks to indicate the lacuna between the angle brackets used to mark editorial intervention: <* * *>.
- a "locus desperandus," a corrupt passage which defeats the editor's attempts at conjectural emendation, could be marked with a obelus before and after the passage: gobble gobble gobble, cluck cluck cluck: this is an incomprehensible passage with which the editor did not know how to deal.
Forward to next page: Examples of over emendation on
[ Course Notes: Introduction ] |
[ I. Towards a definition of "manuscript studies" ] |
[ I.ii. The four branches of bibliographical study ] |
[ I.iii. Topics in the social history of texts ] |
I.iii.a The "Rescue" of Medieval Manuscripts from Grocers and Fishmongers |
[ II. Diplomatics ] |
[ III. Codicology ] |
[ III.ii. Decoration and Illumination ] |
[ IV. Paleography ] |
[ IV.ii. Historical Notes ] |
[ IV.iii. Writing Implements ] |
[ IV.iv. Letter Formation ] |
[ IV.v. Special Characters in English Manuscripts ] |
[ IV.vi. Scribal Abbreviations ] |
[ IV.vii. Punctuation ] |
[ IV.viii. Paleographical sample: William Herebert, OFM (early fourteenth-century England) ] |
[ Herebert sample, with transcription ] |
[ Herebert sample: enlargement of full page reproduced at high resolution ] |
[ V. Textual analysis (James E. Thorpe) ] |
[ V.ii. Scribal error ] |
[ V.iii. Kinds of edition ] |
[ V.iv. Examples of over emendation on insufficient grounds ] |
[ VI. Linguistic competence (an example): An Outline History of the English Language ] |
[ VII. Libraries and archives: ] |
[ VII.ii. British Library Manuscript Collections ] |
[ VII.iii. Bodleian Library Manuscript Collections ]
© 1998, 2015 Stephen R. Reimer
English; University of Alberta; Edmonton, Canada
All rights reserved.
Created: 2 Dec. 1998; Last revised: 30 May 2015