12
CORRECTORS AND CRITICS I

1: INTRODUCTION

The “editing” of classical texts has long been identified as one of the principal ways the pagan aristocracy of Rome tried to maintain and promote the old order.1 Actually “editing” is altogether too grand a word for the very modest activity involved. At the end of certain works (or individual sections or books within those works) some manuscripts preserve subscriptions, notes stating that some person with impressive sounding titles has “emended,” “reviewed,” or “checked” the text at such and such a time and place. Some of these subscribers are familiar names, and it is clear that many were members of the elite of their day. For Christian texts we have a handful of originals, some signed, most unsigned. For classical texts we have only two indisputably original sets (in the Puteanus of Livy’s third decade and the Fronto palimpsest, both fifth-century); and one late antique copy (the Medicean Vergil). Most, inevitably, are medieval or even renaissance copies.

There is as yet no comprehensive inventory of these subscriptions, and this very lack has played no small part in modern misinterpretations.2 For example, the fact that Otto Jahn (quite understandably) restricted his famous collection of 1851 to classical texts has given rise to a widespread assumption that subscriptions are only (or mainly) found in classical texts, and manifest a new concern to preserve such texts. There are in fact a great many exactly parallel subscriptions in Christian texts, far more indeed than those collected by Reifferscheid as a supplement to Jahn in 1873. More late antique subscriptions survive in the various works of Augustine (some original) than any classical text.

There are also a great many anonymous subscriptions, deliberately omitted by both Jahn and Zetzel (1981). who limited themselves to those that included proper names. Both omitted (e.g.) the only original secular subscriptions that can be directly tied to interventions in the text by the subscriber’s handwriting (those in the fifthcentury Puteanus of Livy).3 There are also a number of similar subscriptions in Greek

1. I make no attempt to list even a selection of the modern works in which thisis stated as established fact.

2. Jahn 1851; Reifferscheid 1873; Büchner in Hunger 1961; Zetzel 1981, 211–31; 1980, 38–59; Petitmengin 1983, 365–74; Pecere 1986; 1990 (both illustrated): unpublished typescript by R. W. Hunt. The material in Hedrick 2000, chapter 6 draws on an earlier version of my research but with his own interpretation. I have done my best to integrate Greek with Latin, Christian with pagan, manuscript evidence with literary texts, and (above all) to trace a social and historical development.

3. There are several different hands in the Fronto palimpsest, and the subscription in the Medicean Vergil is a copy.

-421-

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