Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

Producing the Best Text Edition; Herculean and Sisyphean

Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

Producing the Best Text Edition; Herculean and Sisyphean

Article excerpt

Editions usually consist of three parts, the text of the manuscript, notes and/or variant apparatus, and an introduction. Each of the last two sections often stands in a zero-sum relationship to the edited text of the manuscript. In the introduction, the editor typically describes the manuscript, comments on the scribal hand(s), dates the manuscript, attempts to localize its place of origin, etc. Often, however, general deviations in the text can be commented upon and described in the introduction, and thus a simpler or normalized form can be substituted in the edited text. For example, the svarabbakti vowel in the -ur ending can be normalized in the edition as -r, as long as this principle is stated in the introduction. Exceptions to the stated rule can either occur as a list in the introduction or be remarked upon at the appropriate places in the notes.(1) Sometimes the introduction just informs the reader of changes made in the text, such as coalescing r, the small capital r, and the r-rotunda, f and insular f, or round and long s, without preserving a record of each of the original occurrences.(2)

In a diplomatic edition, the notes would ideally be reserved for the explanation of difficulties in a single text, for example illegible letters or emendation made in scribendo or by later scribes.(3) In practice, however, notes often serve as a diplomatic repository for those anomalous forms which deviate from some normative convention or other, be it ever so slight. When the notes are used as a variant apparatus, even for the strict diplomatic edition of the primary text, one could limit the types of variants deemed deviant enough to be recorded.(4) Abbreviations, expanded and italicized in the edition, are quite frequently expanded without being especially marked when cited from variant texts "below the line." Once again, practical considerations usually play a role, for otherwise the apparatus could become too lengthy or confusing.

In an effort to make basically diplomatic texts more readable, emendations are sometimes made in the text itself. These can be marked by special symbols in the text, such as () to enclose expanded suspensions, [] for the editor's guess at illegible letters, and <> to enclose obviously necessary forms not present in the manuscript.(5) Another possibility places the emendation in the text (sometimes marked there by an asterisk) and the generally very problematic manuscript form in the notes, although this is more common in normalized texts.(6) Quite often expanded abbreviations (not to mention ligatures) are not especially marked in the main text at all.(7) Other reader-friendly concessions in basically diplomatic texts include capitalizing all proper nouns, marking direct speech with quotation marks, adding periods after complete sentences, printing separated compounds as single words, and supplying chapter numbers.(8)

This interplay of parts, that is, text, introduction, and notes, is just one of the practical considerations that make codifying the form of the optimal edition so difficult. Another is the phenomenon of infinitely variable (or "continuum") letters, that is, those symbols which can grade into others without there being an unequivocal point of transition. The difference between certain upper- and lower-case letters is frequently difficult to determine; among the most problematic are often the letters a, d, f, b, j, o, s, v, w, and p. Differences between lower-case letters can occasion similar problems, for example between i and j, u and v, s and z, y and ij combinations. It is sometimes impossible to say when a dot has become a line, thus obscuring the differences between a double-acute accent and a dieresis. The dot may also grade into either indistinctness or into stray marks on or imperfections in the writing surface and render impossible a judgment on gemination.(9) Space between letters can often rival that between words, making it difficult to decide if one word is not part of a larger compound. …

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