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A bibliography composed with the needs of graduate students in mind.

Textual criticism and the transmission of latin texts

James Zetzel, Columbia University (zetzel@columbia.edu)

This guide concerns both a very precise subject (textual criticism) and a very broad one (transmission of texts). The broader question can lead into the history of scripts and of manuscript collections and into European intellectual history from antiquity to the present, depending on how you define the subject. What follows falls into three sections, moving from the particular to the general, and becoming less thorough and less expert at every step. The basic rule, however, is simple: if you want to know about ancient (particularly) Latin texts and how to treat them, find some scholars whose approach you admire and read their work. The lists below include some of the scholars I admire and have learned from, but it is both opinionated and by no means exhaustive; you are likely to think of others. Suggestions for additions to this list are always welcome.

Before you delve into the detailed bibliographies below, there is one book you should read first:

L. D. Reynolds and N. G. Wilson, Scribes and Scholars (ed. 3, 1991).

It is a lucid, readable, and accurate account of how ancient texts, both Greek and Roman, got from antiquity to Now, followed by a clear and brief explanation of textual criticism. For many purposes, you need go no further. But if you want or need more, read on.

I. i am using a critical edition and need to learn what the hen-tracks at the foot of the page mean—and why it matters.

1. textual criticism: theory and practice

A critical apparatus is meant to explain to the reader what words in the text are preserved in what manuscripts (generally identified with capital Roman letters in modern editions) or groups of manuscripts (generally identified with lower-case Greek letters or occasionally lower-case Roman letters), and what words in the text are modern (broadly defined) corrections. The key to the codes used in the apparatus was set out by an international convention printed as:

Emploi des signes critiques, dispostion de l'apparat dans les éditions savantes de textes grecs et latins, conseils et recommandations . Union Académique Internationale. Paris, 1932

Like many international treaties, however, it is frequently ignored and the conventions for editing texts preserved in different media (manuscript, papyrus, inscription) remain quite different from one another. Not to mention the fact that these conventions are fairly recent, and any edition earlier than the 20 th century is likely to convey information using a different code.

Fuller than the chapter of Scribes and Scholars , the most straightforward explanation of how to write and read an apparatus, and a good account of how textual criticism works, is:

M. L. West, Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique (1973)

West’s is a relatively user-friendly version of the classic exposition of the editorial theory generally known as the Method of Lachmann (on which see further below). The theory itself is set out in terse, elegant, and abstract form in a very brief masterpiece:

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Source:  OpenStax, Tools of the trade: bibliographies for roman studies. OpenStax CNX. Mar 23, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11220/1.6
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