BMCR 1999.05.27

Editing Texts, Texte Edieren. APOREMATA, Kritische Studien zur Philologiegeschichte, Band 2

, Editing texts = Texte edieren. Aporemata ; Bd. 2. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1998. xvi, 268 pages ; 25 cm.. ISBN 9783525259016 DM 98.

This collection of papers is based on a colloquium held at Heidelberg in June of 1996, and we must thank the editor for publishing it so promptly. But the speed has impaired the unity of presentation. Ann Hanson gives long passages from Galen in translation only, David Blank passages from Philodemus, and also one from Galen, in the Greek, without a translation. Franco Montanari has a bibliography at the end, Pierre Petitmengin a list of “Suggestions de lecture”, all others have references in footnotes only. Not all papers read at the colloquium are included, and some are included that were not read.

In the Preface, Glenn Most starts by signalling the lack of theoretical reflection, in our time, on the methods of editing classical texts and goes on to announce, somewhat surprisingly, that the aim of the colloquium was “to explore historical and theoretical aspects of a scholarly practice”. Indeed, this collection contains very little theory, and though the historical and practical contributions add to our knowledge, and some add a great deal, it signally fails to address the theoretical and methodological problems that face the present-day editor. Most goes on to suggest a number of rather futile problems, again nearly all of a practical nature, which contrary to his suggestion the contributors have wisely ignored.

Franco Montanari has an excellent paper on the nature of Alexandrian ἐκδόσεις of Homer. He follows van Thiel (with a few modifications) in assuming that an ἔκδοσις was a copy of a text, enlarged with marginal and interlinear annotations. This is applied to the problem of Aristarchus’ alleged ἐπεκδοθεῖσα διόρθωσις, and the solution is very elegant indeed: Aristarchus first published an ὑπόμνημα and an annotated ἔκδοσις but later on confined himself to recording his changes of mind in new annotations of the ἔκδοσις.

Ann Hanson gives an overview of what we know from the corpus of Galen, of Galen as an author and commentator, and of the vicissitudes of his works. Though there is little that is new here, it is a well presented and useful paper, but I don’t quite see what it has to do with editing texts. She does not mention the sole activity of Galen as an editor that we know of: his epitomes of Plato, of which the one of the Timaeus has been preserved in Arabic, and it has been suspected (and can, I think, be proved) that the one of the Politeia was the basis of Averroes’ commentary and is therefore partly preserved in Hebrew.

If I have understood him aright, Anthony Grafton wants to make a case for recognising the correctors of renaissance publishing houses as a separate group of scholars. The evidence presented by him disproves this: the duties of correctors were manifold, ranging from correcting the Latin of renaissance authors to correcting errors in the texts of ancient authors, through conjecture. If even Erasmus corrected proofs sometimes, what is the point of lumping all references to ‘correctores’ together? Whatever the point he is trying to make, Grafton signally neglects to take the pragmatic properties of his texts into account. ‘Corrector’ seems to be, like ‘sophist’, a blaming device: by calling people correctors you have automatically condemned them; and besides, they are nicely anonymous, so everybody’s face is saved by invoking them.

In a highly instructive and salutary paper, Michael Reeve draws our attention to the 17th-century mathematician John Wallis, editor of Archimedes and Ptolemy. His Ptolemy, an editio princeps, is one of the first editions with a critical apparatus in which MSS are reported consistently, and by means of sigla, and it shows a rudimentary consciousness of the wrongly named ‘Lachmann method’ in that Wallis systematically aims at eliminating MSS. Reeve makes the important point that our histories of classical scholarship wrongly confine themselves to scholars who were first and foremost classicists. I may add that in the 17th century it was quite usual, on the European continent at least, for one man to start his career as (e.g.) a mathematician, or perhaps I should say a professor of mathematics, to go on as a professor of Greek, and to end up as a professor of theology (or the other way round, or whatever permutation you may like best). I’m not just thinking of geniuses like Grotius but of run-of-the-mill scholars/scientists.

Martin West contributes a good overview of the specific problems that an editor of Homer has to deal with; most of his remarks recur in more detail in the preface to vol. I of his new Teubner Iliad. I disagree with him on a number of minor points. First, it is not true that “[w]e can be sure on the basis of epigraphic evidence that [contracted eo ] was not written as eu before about the fourth century BC” (p. 104). West has told us so for more than thirty years, but a falsehood does not become a truth by constant repetition. The Berezan letter (SEG 26, 845) first published in 1971 and dated to ca. 500, has αδεφευς = αδελφεους (accusative plural): this proves that the spelling ευ for εο is far earlier than West wishes us to believe. Besides, inverted spellings like λεοκος and βασιλεος (nominative!), which were known far longer than this document, show that εο and ευ were homophonous as early as the 6th century. Second, it is far from certain that the subjunctive ΠΙΕΣΙ on Nestor’s cup shows that the subjunctive ending -hisi is post-Homeric (ibid.): many scholars regard the latter ending as the model for the first and second person endings – ωμι and – ῃσθα. And finally, the form καιροσεων is no evidence for or against metagrammatismos (p. 97 n. 4), since the change from ε to ει and from ο to ου is a separate process altogether, not to be confused with the change from ε to η and from ο to ω, as can easily be seen in Attic inscriptions from the first half of the 4th century.

R.D. Dawe gives a number of conjectures in Sophocles dressed up with some theory. The latter clearly not being this scholar’s forte, he should, I feel, have stuck to his last and given us more of what he is really good at. There is, however, one remark that invites reflection: “The aim I set myself was to print only what I was at least 80% sure was right. Where I had doubts, I would use the obelus. In practice this aim has proved unrealistic, and I have come round to the view that it is not even desirable” (p. 120). I wonder how many editors outside the field of Greek drama will share these feelings. This raises the important point whether it is desirable that the relation between text and apparatus should invariably be the same, no matter the reliability of the transmission. Unfortunately, neither Dawe nor anyone else goes into the matter. (The type of users of an edition is another variable: in OCTs one expects fewer obeli than in Teubners. But that is an entirely separate issue.) As always with Dawe’s proposals, they are ingenious and well-argued. I especially like μὴ οὐπροσλεύσσειν for πουπροσλεύσσων at Soph. Aj. 546, and ἰτύων for αὐτῶν at El. 717, even though the latter presupposes an unparalleled pars pro toto use of ἴτυς (‘wheels’).

David Blank argues convincingly against the theory that we possess an earlier and a later version of several books of Philodemus’ Rhetoric, and for the interpretation of ὑπομνηματικόν as a indication of genre, which any scribe could add at will, not as an indication of a provisional version. Thus, for books 2 and 3 of the Rhetoric, we have two different independent MSS, which represent the same text. A salutary treatment of a difficult problem, with an instructive outcome — especially instructive given the recent tendency to assume double versions and author’s variants on the basis of little more than ordinary deviations such as one may encounter everywhere in the transmission of Greek prose writers.

Luc Deitz complains (quite injustifiably, I think) of lack of interest in Neo-Latin literature, and goes on to kill any residual interest by a long-winded expose of unimportant matters which the editor of a Neo-Latin text (indeed of any text) has to decide upon: spelling, punctuation, paragraphing. Helga Köhler wastes space on more platitudes about the same issues. Patricia Parker discusses a textual problem in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; the solution is attractive, if somewhat predictable, but classicists will be grateful that in their field such problems are discussed more succinctly. Pierre Petitmengin bombards his readers relentlessly with trivia about ‘multiple editions’ (editions containing two or more versions of the same passage of text), without arriving at anything so pedestrian as a conclusion.

Most readers will be tempted to skip Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht’s contribution, but wrongly so. For those who have worked their way through the horrible jargon and the lengthy quotations from Foucault and Paul de Man, Gumbrecht has a couple of things to say that are really worth the time spent on the decipherment — indeed, it may be maintained that this is the most fundamental paper in the book. Translated into common English Gumbrecht says that an editor can never be an impersonal, objective instrument, but that he necessarily is an agent, a mediator between author and reader. An editor should be aware of this role, and should play it with tact, that is to say “refrain from producing texts that become unilateral and consistent manifestations of his or her own aesthetic preferences” (241). If he does the latter, he is unaware of his role and identifies himself with the author.

This is an inspiring way of formulating a maxim that may seem (and should be) a truism but that has been signally violated more often than not in the major editions of classical Greek authors (to limit myself to those) that have appeared during this decade. Far too often an editor interposes his formidable qualities between the author and the reader, thereby preventing the latter from seeing the former. They do not do so because they are egomaniacs, but because they honestly believe that they are instruments, and have lost sight of the fact that they inevitably stand between author and reader, and that as such they should be as invisible as possible. This has very little to do with conservatism versus radicalism in textual criticism: Irigoin’s conservative Budé Bacchylides is just as much an example of the tendency as the Lloyd-Jones/Wilson OCT Sophocles, which I would personally rate as a wild text. An editor should keep a low profile: he does his job best when it is least noticed that he does it at all.

There is, however, another danger, which comes from the opposite direction. An editor must be aware that he is playing a part of his own in the chain between author and reader, but he must not be afraid to play it. An editor’s job is to edit, not to pass on unfiltered information to the readers, who are then forced to make their own decisions. This becomes the more urgent as ever fewer readers of classical texts are themselves competent judges in textual matters. An edition in which too many obeli are used whenever the editor cannot reach a decision, or where a stemma is followed (if there is a stemma) whenever a problem lurks above the horizon, is a lost opportunity, because it makes texts unusable for the readers: if the editor cannot make up his mind, how can they? Perhaps there is something to be said after all for Dawe’s 80% rule, to be modified according to the type of text and quality of the transmission.

List of contributors and titles:

Glenn W. Most, Preface, v-xiii

Franco Montanari, Zenodotus, Aristarchus and the Ekdosis of Homer, 1-21

Ann Ellis Hanson, Galen: Author and Critic, 22-53

Anthony Grafton, Correctores corruptores? Notes on the Social History of Editing, 54-76

Michael D. Reeve, John Wallis, editor of Greek mathematical texts, 77-93

Martin L. West, The Textual Criticism and Editing of Homer, 94-110

R.D. Dawe, ei kai trit’ esti … Editing Sophocles for the third time, 111-122

David Blank, Versionen oder Zwillinge? Zu den Handschriften der ersten Bücher von Philodems Rhetorik, 123-140

Luc Deitz, Editing Sixteenth-Century Latin Prose Texts: a Case Study and a Few General Observations, 141-164

Helga Köhler, Auf dem Weg zum modernen Lesetext?, 165-189

Patricia Parker, Murals and Morals: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 190-218

Pierre Petitmengin, Le texte dans tous ses états, Simples remarques sur les éditions multiples, 219-236

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Play Your Roles Tactfully! About the Pragmatics of Text-Editing, the Desire for Identification, and the Resistance to Theory, 237-250