Friday, July 12, 2013

Layout and Preparation of Venetus B Folios

A guest post by Kristina Birthisel, Brandeis University 2013.

This post is the first in a series that will feature research originally presented in Birthisel's senior thesis titled "Scholar or Scribe? A Case Study in the Formation of the Venetus B Manuscript of the Iliad."

Layout and preparation of Venetus B folios

The Homeric manuscripts with which we work in the Homer Multitext project were, of course, created before the advent of the printing press. They required an immense amount of time and effort on the part of the scribe. This resulted in an approach to the texts, however, in which the scribes could put their own personality into each manuscript. Each manuscript was different; even if copied by the same scribe, it was done at a different time, and thus each folio shows us how the scribe understood the passage at the moment of its copying. Only by understanding how the scribe constructed his manuscript and interacted with the text he was copying can we attempt to understand that text fully.

So what sort of people were these scribes? How much did they edit the source material in their own manuscript? How scholarly were they? Did they simply copy these manuscripts from a previous exemplar, or were they compiling a manuscript and its scholia from multiple sources?

The scribe put a great deal of care into how he laid out each page of the manuscript, to make it not only beautiful but quite functional. He displays a level of interaction with the text indicating a clear understanding of Greek and the story of the Iliad in particular. Venetus B was written not just to be looked at but to be read, and the scribe carefully planned each page to maximize its reader-friendliness.

Before he began writing, the scribe first marked out how he would use the space on each folio. On the outside edge of each folio, a series of pricks runs down the side of the page (see image on the left [urn:cite:hmt:vbimg.VB024VN-0124@0.0783,0.1289,0.0783,0.7647]):

These pricks guided a ruler to mark lines on the page, which would in turn guide the writing of the text and scholia. Pricks made at the bottom of each folio mark where the margin lines should be drawn. Lines for placement of scholia numbers, scholia and text margins, and text outdents (more about that in a minute). Folio 24 has two lines of pricks, showing the spacing for while folios 25 and 26 only have pricks for the main text spacing. Whether the other folios always had only one line, or whether the second was trimmed in the binding process is unknown. The inside pricks are spaced for the gridlines of the main text (~8.5mm), while the outside ones guided the scholia lines (~6.5mm).

Whoever prepared the manuscript also made pricks at the bottom, this time to guide margin lines. On each recto (24r, 25r, 26r), two on the far left (~8.5mm apart) mark the margin of both scholia and text; the right prick of the pair marks the margin for the text of Iliad and scholia, while the left marks the proper placement of scholia numbers, as well as outdent spacing (see example below, from 24r).

Three pricks, with lines drawn from them, appear in the center at the bottom of the page. The left two (6.5mm apart) mark the hoped-for right margin of the main text for the scribe (see example below, 25r). The middle prick also serves as a guide for the scholia numbers down the side of the main text. The rightmost prick in the group (11.5mm away from the middle prick) marks the left margin of scholia written down the side of the main text.

Two on the far right mark the right margin of scholia all down the page, though the later hand sometimes adds its own scholia in the empty space to the right (example below, 25r).

The scribe planned the layout of the page such that the guide-lines on the verso of each folio are drawn from the same pricks as those for the recto. Thus the two pricks that mark the right margin of scholia on 24r become guides for the lines marking the left margin of scholia on 24v, and so on.

Once the guiding lines were drawn and he began to write, the scribe attempted to maximize the ease with which a person could read the text. For example, while writing the main text, the scribe sometimes outdents a line a little. Within the studied lines alone, the scribe has outdented 4 lines: 2.235, 2.243, 2.265, and 2.272. Line 2.235, in the beginning of Thersites’ speech, marks a shift from speaking to Agamemnon to addressing the rest of the Achaeans. 2.243 shifts out of Thersites’ speech. 2.265 marks the end of Odysseus’ rebuttal, and in 2.272 Agamemnon begins to speak. Though not all shifts in action or speaker are outdented (the beginning of Thersites’ speech, for example, is in line), their occurrence always marks one of these shifts in the text, were we might put a paragraph break today. Thus, the outdents appear to be quite intentional.

The scribe also intentionally planned the layout of the scholia. Rather than having a hard-and-fast rule about when to start a new scholion on the next line or continue on the same line as the previous scholion, the scribe seems to make a decision based on how crowded the rest of the page is, or will be when finished. He typically conserves space at the top, letting the scholia flow into one another, and adjusts his spacing as he works down the page and sees how much space he has left. On 24v, for example, Δ starts with ~65mm of writing space left on the line:

Further down the page, however, ΙΓ starts on a new line, even though with the same spacing as above the scribe had ~86mm of writing space before the end of the line.

The spacing between the scholia down the side of the page also varies based on how many/how long the other scholia above and below are. Compare 24r, with no spaces between scholia, to 24v, with spacing between the side scholia ranging from one gridline,

to five.
This suggests that the scribe knew fairly well how copious the scholia for each page would be before he began working on it. Whether this is because he was copying from one exemplar and could see how much writing was on each folio, or because he planned which sources to use carefully before he began the writing process is unclear, though the fact that the Venetus B scholia so closely match the scholia in the Y.1.1 manuscript makes the former more likely (unless one of these two manuscripts is a copy of the other – more about this in another blog post!). [For more on the relationship between these two manuscripts, read "Are Venetus B and E3 'twins'?" by HMT researcher Matthew Davis.]

(Note: On the placement of scholia in another manuscript being studied as part of the Homer Multitext, the so-called Venetus A, see the publication of Nikolas Churik and Neel Smith announced here: projects/d-neel-smith-and-nikolas-churik-design-and-layout-of-the-richest-manuscript-of-the-iliad/ as well the article by Myriam Hequet in Recapturing a Homeric Legacy, which is available for download here:

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