Monday, August 30, 2010

Editing manuscripts with text and image services

An earlier post briefly illustrated one way that the Homer Multitext project is using a dynamic image service to help editors inventorying the scholia in the Venetus A manuscript of the Iliad. A post last week illustrated one way that the project's Canonical Text Service is helping automate comparison of different texts of the Iliad. Taken together, image services and automated collation of editions are a potent combination for editors.

The initial note on comparing two manuscripts used the chart linked from this thumbnail: I updated the note to use the chart linked from this thumb: Why the dramatic difference in the report on Iliad 17?

The project's initial edition of the Venetus A was created by a dedicated team of undergraduate Fellows, who worked from the apparatus of T.W. Allen's critical edition to "reverse engineer" a text of the Venetus A, before the project was able to digitize the manuscript in 2007. In 2010, as the scholia are being inventoried, this edition is gradually being checked against the direct evidence of the digital images, but book 17 is still based on Allen's printed information. In his apparatus to 17.729 (vol. 3, p. 166), Allen notes tersely "729-761 om. A". The HMT Fellows correctly interpreted this to mean that Venetus A does not include the last 32 lines of book 17, and consequently struck them from our edition. This is the basis for the first chart above.

Now, with the digital images in hand, we see somthing more interesting. Folio 237 verso is written in the familiar tenth-century hand of most of the manuscript, and includes scholia. (See the zoomable image, including scholia, linked from this thumbnail: . Folios 238 recto and verso, however, are a replacement for a lost original, perhaps in the hand of Cardinal Bessarion himself. Compare the zoomable image linked here

Evidently, in this instance at least, Allen decided that "A" was to mean "the tenth-century A only". The HMT edition prefers instead to take "A" as the entire, continuous Iliadic text, since our electronic edition and indices can distinguish the folios added later from the tenth-century originals, and leave open for any particular application the question of whether to work with tenth-century text only, later text only, or the entire text.

Allen's apparatus has no way to communicate this. The ambiguously compressed note "omisit" would most naturally suggest that the last 32 lines of book 17 were never part of A (as the HMT Fellows took it to mean). There is no hint that the manuscript, as we have it, completes A through 17.761.

The most important point is not whether or not we take issue with Allen's phrasing, however. What is significant is rather that tools like automatic collation can call our attention to passages that stand out or appear unusual; automated associations with our image service then allow us to unravel a trail of evidence that has vanished from the app.crit. of Allen's "definitive" edition. Editors are now manually collating the text of the last 32 lines of Venetus A's book 17. Among the interesting questions we will be able to consider: what source did Bessarion use for filling out the missing folio? An automated comparison with the Venetus B might be revealing — perhaps a subject for a future blog post.

A final methodological observation — all the images in this post are created dynamically. References either to Google's Chart service, or the Homer Multitext project's image service return image data that can be used as you like, including embedding in a web page.

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