Exercise in Textual Criticism

Simulated Manuscripts

These four simulated manuscripts represent the type of editing required when dealing with ancient manuscripts. The "scribal errors" have been exagerrated in order to make them more obvious. Two of these manuscripts are copies of the original. One manuscript is a copy from these two. The fourth manuscript is a copy of one of the original two. It, therefore, will share similarities with the manuscript that is also related to one of the two exemplars. You are provided with something that you don't find in real life, the original text.

Directions: Try to divide the scriptio continua text into words and sentences adding punctuation. Pay attention to the errors that you encounter. Determine which variant may explain the other according to the rules of textual criticism. In real texts you may have been helped by the type of handwriting if it had been datable. You might try to create your own critical apparatus to your reconstructed text. Create a stemma showing the relationship of the texts. When you are finished analyzing the work of these hard of hearing, half-blind, sleepy, nitwit scribes who made Codex Michigan, Codex Indiana, Codex Illinois, and Codex Rhode Island, compare them to the original text. Here's an example (PDF) of how you might go about understanding the relationship of the texts and recreate the text with a critical apparatus.

Codex Michigan

Codex Indiana

Codex Illinois

Codex Rhode Island

The Original Text

Praise Worthy

Virtuoso violinist Pinchas Zukerman was giving a master class to a group of young artists who had come to the Aspen Music Festival from the four corners of the world. The auditorium was filled with their peers and distinguished teachers and performers; the atmosphere was electric. To each of the talented performers in turn Zukerman offered friendly advice and encouragement, discussing their playing in detail, and invariably picking up his own violin to demonstrate finer points of technique and interpretation.

Finally came the turn of a young musician who performed brilliantly. When the applause subsided, Zukerman complimented the artist, then walked over to his own violin, caressed it, tucked it under his chin, paused a long moment, and then, without playing a note or uttering a word, gently placed it back in its case. Once more the applause broke out, and this time it was deafening, in recognition of the master, who could pay so gracious a compliment.

Victor Rangel-Ribeiro, Reader's Digest, August 1989, p. 76.


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