Students of the text of Plato have been waiting for a new Opera Omnia for at least two generations. It was not long ago that E.R. Dodds could lament that “to this day, no one can say with certainty how many primary witnesses to the text there are, or how they are related to each other and to the secondary MSS.” ( Plato. Gorgias [Oxford 1959] 34). Much work has since been done by Dodds and others to isolate the primary witnesses, and the results have now served the team of scholars (one of whom, Winifred F. Hicken, lamentably did not live to see the publication of this first volume) who have begun the new OCT of the ancient author most written-about in our time.
Burnet’s knowledge of Plato was deep, and lovers of his excellent text may wonder, why replace it? Despite Burnet’s acumen, however, the inaccuracies of his apparatus are well known. Burnet was the first editor to make substantial use of what came to be considered the three most important primary MSS: Clarkianus 39 (=B, A.D. 895); Ven. Marc. gr. append. cl. IV.1, coll. 542 (=T, s. x); Vind. suppl. gr. 7 (=W, s. xi). Although he made some consultations of B in Oxford and of photographs of T, he obtained most of his MS. reports from others. Burnet had but limited acquaintance with six other MSS. that subsequently have been shown to be primary witnesses. Numerous papyri and indirect testimonia, as well as Aristippus’ Latin translation of the Phaedo, have been published since his day. Finally, Burnet selected many readings that rest on weak or no MS. authority. While the Budé series represented certain advances, those volumes are of uneven quality. Therefore, although the text of Plato has not been in bad shape, we have needed an Opera that rests on a truly scientific basis.
In the preface, the new editors lay out their program for meeting this need (p. v-xxi). Except for the Theaetetus, for which Miss Hicken was responsible, Elizabeth A. Duke investigated the indirect tradition, and William S. M. Nicoll tracked down and collated the MSS. In this latter task, Duke and David Robinson assisted by examining various MSS. by autopsy. Nicoll edited the Euthyphro, Apology and Crito; Christopher Strachan edited the Phaedo; Nicoll and Duke edited the Cratylus; Robinson edited the Sophist (assisted by Nicoll) and the Politicus. The collaborators discussed and considered each others’ opinions, however, so that the result is a shared work.
The primary MSS. divide into the three well-known families clustered around B, T and W. Each of these MSS. offers all the dialogues of tetr. i-ii. Closely related to B but independent of it are Ven. Marc. gr. 185, coll. 576 (=D, s. xi-xii), and Tueb. gr. Mb14 (=C, s. xi), which latter MS. for Vol. I transmits only Euthphr., Crito and Phdo. The editors believe that these three MSS. descend in a tripartite stemma from some hyparchetype “Beta”, but acknowledging the effects of contamination and chance, they deny that one can safely take the agreement of two of these MSS. to represent Beta. 1 T is the sole independent member of the second family. Alongside W, the third family numbers Vat. Pal. gr. 173 (=P, s. x, containing Apol., Phdo. and excerpts), Vat. gr. 225 (=V, s. xiv? 2 independent only in tetr. i), Par. gr. 1813 (=Q, s. xiii, containing Phdo. and Crat. of this volume), and Par. suppl. gr. 668 (=S, s. xi, containing Crito and parts of Phdo. and Crat.). To these must be joined the putative exemplar (=L) of Aristippus’ Latin translation of the Phaedo (A.D. 1156) and that of the Armenian translation of Euthphr. and Apol., as well as the fragment of Apol. contained in Ven. Marc. gr. 511 and the corrections assignable to B2 (presumably Arethas, the codex’s owner). The hyparchetype of this third family is designated “Delta”. The editors also believe that the corrector T 2 is an independent “Delta” witness, but they rightly avoid making absolute claims about particular T corrections. The editors follow Carlini’s division of the third family in Phdo. between VWL and PS, adding Q to the latter, and they see similar bifurcation elsewhere.
Evidence for the independence of these MSS. can be found in works cited in the preface. The hardest MSS. to classify are C and D, for they share very few correct readings with T or “Delta” against B. I have expressed elsewhere my reasons for believing in the independence of D. 3 Additional separative B errors include Euthphr. 8e4
The editors omit to cite readings of papyri or ancient authors when they deem the MS. text indubitable (p. xvii), and the index testimoniorum (pp. 561-72) catalogs only those cited in the apparatus, excepting scholia and Platonic commentaries that follow the sequence of the text. A modern bibliography is a desideratum for new OCT’s; there is a bibliography of editions that have provided the indirect testimony (xxvi-xxxi).
The OCT team claims to have investigated the other MS. candidates to independent status and to have determined that none is such. They have deemed it unnecessary to make complete collations of all the MSS. (xvii-xviii). Strictly speaking, one must collate every MS. in its entirety to be sure of its place in the tradition. Copyists may use different exemplars; a late MS. may contain readings, even corrections, of ancient authority. I have examined a large number of Platonic manuscripts without finding any primary witnesses that are unknown to the OCT team, however, and I believe it unlikely that we shall identify any other known MS. as independent in the earlier tetralogies. Although Platonic manuscript work is not finished, the results of the editors’ recension are likely to stand for a long time.
Now to the apparatus. It is remarkably accurate, and it corrects errors of Burnet that escaped the Bude editors. I have consulted my collations in Phdo. and Cra. and have verified anew from photographs only these errors: Phdo. 59 d6
The editors elect to pass over in silence many obvious or insignificant MS. errors (xix; cf. Nicoll [supra, n. 1] 31). Space limitations of course obtain; yet, students of papyri and MSS. will still need to consult collations in earlier editions. A good policy would have been to list all errors shared by more than one primary witness. For example, at Phdo. 105c3-5, BD omit by homoioteleuton the words
A special problem is posed by Lambda, for the citations would be more useful if doubtful cases were represented by the quoted Latin and not as e.g. Phdo. 59a8 “
The reader is warned that not all the primary witnesses of the first or third family necessarily contain the readings ascribed to the hyparchetypes (p. xix). The editors frequently enumerate the witnesses singly when the MSS. differ within a family, but a better policy would be to cite the putative hyparchetype only when all its witnesses agree. This is especially important in the case of B2, which does not offer all the distinct Delta readings. When the apparatus shows Delta as differing from Beta, should we suppose that Arethas made the Delta correction or not? This is worth knowing, since he is the earliest Delta witness.
The new editors have found MS. authority for many correct readings which in Burnet rested on the authority of later MSS. or on that of printed editions or scholarly conjecture. These readings fall into several categories. A) Readings printed by Burnet without the authority of a primary MS., in support of which the new OCT cites at least one primary MS.: e.g. Crat. 426e1
To the text itself. The editors acknowledge that Delta is closer to Beta than to T in Apol., that TW agree in Plt. after 288, etc., but they rely on editorial acumen rather than stemmatic considerations when deciding what to print: the tradition is heavily contaminated, MSS. switch sources, and the connections between the MS. families are quite entangled (p. xiv-xvii; Nicoll [supra, n. 1] 34-36). 6 In broad outline, an eclectic approach is the only possible one for the “open” Platonic tradition. A correct reading is often found in only one witness, and there is no best branch of the tradition. Nevertheless, in cases of relative indifferentia like minor word order differences, particles, etc., stemmatic criteria can create a presumption of probability along the lines suggested by Boter (1987) 151, and if the editors would admit this weak claim, they should say so. For example, at Tht. 162d2
As to the passages that differ from those printed by Burnet, 7 the largest number are those for which Burnet did not cite third family readings. Cf. Apol. 24e10, where the third family along with T1(?)pc agree with BCD’s
The new OCT Plato accordingly is far better supported than any predecessor. The editors’ choices from among this plethora of readings have created a text that reads smoothly and lays out logical steps lucidly. Robin Waterfield has already used it for his translation of the Statesman. As noted above, the editors make excellent use of W and its relations, and that MS. should now come under closer scrutiny as representing what is often the most philosophically sophisticated branch of the tradition. 8 On the other hand, the last century’s deference to the Clarkianus has finally been abandoned. The text in tetr. i (less so Apol.) remains fairly close to Burnet’s, and I agree with the tendency to retain words that had been excluded without sufficient reason as interpolations. In tetr. ii, however, the new OCT differs much more, chiefly through emendations that often are unnecessary or unconvincing. On the other hand, the editors solve some difficult problems, and in their turn they are right to restore certain MS. readings that Burnet had abandoned unnecessarily: e.g. Crat. 386b5
Euthphr. 14c3-4. Burnet printed
Apol. 27e6. The new editors wrongly agree with various precedessors in excluding OU) along with Ven. Marc. 184. Burnet’s reasoning in following the primary MSS. is sound: Socrates is arguing that the same man must believe in both divine and “daimonic” activities, and the same man again (
Apol. 29c4 and 30c1. Nicoll prints A)/N with future in agreement with the MSS., but cf. E. de Strycker-S.R. Slings ( Plato’s Apology of Socrates [Leiden 1994] ad locc.).
Phdo. 69a1. With Verdenius (Mnemosyne 11  204-205), I concur that the strong adversative
Phdo. 83b7-9. The new OCT is right to print
Against deletion of FASIN at Phdo. 83e6, originally suggested by Jachmann, cf. L. Taran ( Gnomon 48 (1976) 764-65) and C. Rowe ( Plato. Phaedo [Cambridge 1993] ad loc.). On “normalization” in papyri of s. i-ii, cf. P.J. Sijpensteijn ( Mnemosyne 19  231) with reply of Verdenius (ibid. 269).
Phdo. 92d4. Relying on Pack 2 1389, M. Haslam has suggested the punctuation