Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Scribe as Editor, or What the Images Can Tell Us

An on-going research question addressed by the Homer Multitext in the past two years has been the precise relationship between the manuscript known as the Venetus B and Escorialensis Υ.I.1, or E3 (= West E). As we have noted, the layout of the two manuscripts is virtually identical, the primary difference being that in the Venetus B a second set of scholia was written in the available space approximately two centuries later.

This week I have been editing the text of book 3 of the Iliad in still another manuscript, E4 (Escorialensis Ω.I.12, = West F). In the course of that research I have found several places, all in a relatively brief span of lines, where the Venetus B and E3 differ. This alone would be an interesting finding, but having access to high resolution images of the two manuscripts has allowed me to put together a more precise understanding of these differences than a traditional apparatus alone would have. (Though as we will see, West's apparatus has been very helpful to me in my research.) In fact, the images show that in each case, the Venetus B has been corrected by the scribe, who seems to have been comparing his own text to that of another manuscript. In these places the scribe has chosen to erase the text he originally copied, and insert the new reading. The implications of this practice for our understanding of the relationship between B and E3 will be considered at the end of this post.We will also see in this example that having access to the images can correct and clarify the scholarly apparatus in modern editions in important ways.

Here are some examples that I came across this week:

At 3.102, the Venetus B (folio 43v) reads διακρινθῆτε, but B looks like it has been corrected here. (Zoom up on the image as far as possible to see the evidence of correction.) If we compare it to the corresponding spot on E4 (folio 28r) we see that E4 also reads διακρινθῆτε, but records the alternate reading διακρινθεῖτε above the line.

Detail from folio 28r in E4, showing verse 3.102

The alternate reading in E4, διακρινθεῖτε, is the reading of the text in the Venetus A, T, and significantly, E3. Let us note for now simply that 1) B and E3 have different readings; 2) E4 presents both readings; and finally, most manuscripts in fact have διακρινθῆτε (the seemingly corrected reading of B).

At 3.221,  the Venetus B (folio 46r) once again appears to have been corrected. (This is the view of West, as recorded in his apparatus, presumably based on personal inspection of the manuscript.)  The corrected text reads εἵη, but the original breathing seems to have been a smooth, so that the text would have read εἴη before correction. εἵη (with a rough breathing) is the reading of several papyri and the Venetus A. E3, however, (along with Laurentianus 32.15 and the Genenavensis) reads εἴη (with a smooth breathing).

E4, along with the ninth-century manuscript Z and also Laurentianus 32.3, record still another reading: ἵει. But if we look at the image of E4 (folio 29v), we can see that it too has been corrected:
Detail from folio 29v of E4, showing verse 3.221
West's view (again recorded in his apparatus, and presumably the result of personal inspection) is that the reading of E4 before correction was εἵη (the corrected reading of B). So here is another place where 1) there is division among the manuscripts; 2) the scribe of B has changed his original reading; and 3) E3 matches the reading that B had BEFORE correction.

At 3.301, we have perhaps the most interesting case yet. Several papyri, scholia (from West’s manuscripts M, N, P), the Venetus A, E3, and T read δαμεῖεν here. E4 on the other hand reads μιγεῖεν, which is also found in the lemma of the D scholia (such as in the 9th century manuscript Ve1 [= West Z]) and is written as variant in superscript in T. μιγεῖεν is the text of most mss (except those cited above).

The Venetus B (folio 47v) AFTER correction reads μιγεῖεν, but I think you can see if you zoom up that BEFORE correction it read δαμεῖεν:

Detail of Folio 47v of the Venetus B, showing verse 3.301

(Go to the full image to see this most clearly. It can be difficult to distinguish between bleed through on the other side and the erased text, but I believe that I see the brownish ink of the delta.) Unfortunately, the apparatus of Allen in his editio maior is incorrect here: he cites B as reading δαμεῖεν.

So here is our third case of E3 reading what B had BEFORE correction. The corrections in B are in a darker ink, but they do not appear to be in another or later hand. What seems most likely is that the scribe, after copying the main text of poem from one source, collated it against another source, sometimes correcting the text he had previously written to agree with the second source over the first. I think we can also see that this is what the scribe of E4 has done as well. In addition to the examples discussed here, I have found at least six other places within this same brief span of lines where the text is divided among manuscripts and E4 has clear evidence of having been corrected.

This examination, therefore, suggests two import conclusions. First, it does not seem that E3 is a direct copy of the Venetus B, at least not in its final, edited form. It must be either a copy of B before it was collated against another source, or, what is more likely, B and E3 (which are roughly contemporaneous) were copied from the same exemplar. B's text was collated against a second manuscript, but E3's was not. Secondly, and conceptually more important is our understanding that the scribes of these manuscripts were not simply unthinking copyists, but in fact were making sophisticated editorial choices on the basis of comparison of manuscripts. It is intriguing to see that E4 often corrects to a reading that is found in most manuscripts. Might he have had several sources to look at at once? If so, our Medieval scribes in Constantinople may well have been more like the Alexandrian editors working a millennium before them than they are traditionally given credit for.

A traditional apparatus, such as those of West and Allen, can be extremely useful for comparing the readings of many different manuscripts. But those apparatus can be difficult to understand, and often contain mistakes or omissions. (See that of Allen discussed above. West does not record that at verse 3.231, where there is division among the manuscripts, E4 has been corrected, even though the original text is still quite clear to the eye.) Having access to these images has been invaluable to me as I try to work with the text and understand the relationship between E4 and that of other manuscripts. And in this case, it has given us important evidence about the connection between our "twin" manuscripts, B and E3. It is our hope that the Homer Multitext will likewise greatly aid the process of discovery for other scholars as they undertake their own investigations of the transmission of the text.

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