Textual Criticism

When I started into this section of the project, I briefly mentioned some concepts related to textual criticism: Transmission, Witnesses, and Collation.  In a casual fashion, we have been exploring the transmission of Aladore, how the text is embodied in specific witnesses.  Soon we will more carefully collate our digital witnesses in pursuit of a good Reading text.  But, now is a good time to step back and reflect about transmission.

“Close-up of male hand with manuscript in Bridwell Library," Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library. http://www.flickr.com/photos/smu_cul_digitalcollections/8679147466

“Close-up of male hand with manuscript in Bridwell Library,”
Southern Methodist University [Flickr Commons],

Using textual criticism to create new critical editions is an ancient and important form of scholarship and communication–I am not going to outline 1000’s of years of rich history here, but…  It is important to think about Transmission.  Textual criticism is sort of like trying to sort out a game of “Telephone.”  The author had some intention for the text, then captured a version of the text on paper, which got published, which got published again, etc.  Due to the limitations of physical and intellectual reality, none of these text is the same.  When you see bunches of hand written copies of a work (such as ancient scrolls and manuscripts), the physical process of transmitting the text from author to reader is obvious.  You can see that a bunch of different scribes spent hours and hours copying from one witness to create a new one.  Its obvious that mistakes will happen–but also that different interpretations will happen.  Even though this human element is less visible today, the life of a text is still incredibly complex, passing through the hands and minds of countless people (and machines).

Does every letter and every word match in our different versions of Aladore?  Editors and typesetters might fix or add errors.  A printing press may introduce some anomaly.  Our copy might have a stain across a page.  Our digital version may be missing something…

Texts are always alive and are never static.



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