Archive for March 2012

Editing the Instituta Cnuti 4: Original witness or derivative copy? The case of Textus Roffensis and the Rawlinson manuscript.

24 March 2012

The first use of transcriptions is to identify derivative copies of the text.  Such copies are no longer witnesses to the archetype, whether directly or through one or more hyparchetypes, and so are of no value in the reconstruction of either archetype or hyparchetypes except in the rare instances where an original witness has been damaged and a copy of it can be used to recreate what has been lost or what is no longer clearly legible. Usually derivation of one copy from another is clear.

For the Instituta Cnuti, the derivative manuscripts are easily identifiable.  In one case, however, this has not been recognized and this error has spawned a hypothetical manuscript and suggested some of its contents.  The case involves the copies of the Instituta Cnuti in Textus Roffensis and in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson C.641.  Both have been said to be independent witnesses to a no longer extant copy—a lost legal encyclopedia used as the exemplar for Textus Roffensis.  That there probably was just such an exemplar seems clear.  However, the Rawlinson manuscript (MS Rl) provides no evidence of it as it is a faithful copy of text of In Cn in the Textus (MS H).

The case for derivation of Rl from H is straightforward, and was offered in a footnote in my 2003 Anglo-Norman Studies piece on the Instituta—a location (in the footnote) that virtually ensured no one would see it!  The following expands on that note.

The key are the interlinear glosses shared for the most part by H and the Rl.  Patrick Wormald, in his ‘Laga Eadwardi: the Textus Roffensis in context’, Anglo-Norman Studies 17 (1994/95), pp.  260-2, n. 29, cited the placement of fieri (In Cn II 69) in different places in H and Rl as evidence of Rl’s independence.  He had trusted, it seems, Liebermann’s critical apparatus, but that apparatus was in error.  A closer examination of the manuscripts shows that fieri is placed in both H and Rl in essentially the same place: in H above the line with an insertion mark after uolo, and in Rl in the text after uolo.  Other copies vary, some agreeing, some disagreeing with what is in H and Rl.  For instance, MS T (BL, Cotton Titus A . xxvii) places it in the text after uolo while MS Cb (Paris, BnF, lat. 4771) inverts fieri omni populo to omini populo fieri, which therefore sheds no light.  More broadly, a comparison of readings throughout the entire text of the Instituta reveals no errors that would prove either that Rl is independent of H or that Rl is a copy of H, except perhaps at II 49, where H’s triple insertion of patientis (reduced to two by erasures) is copied by Rl, where it is also  nonsensical.  What makes it likely that Rl is a copy of H is the lack of evidence of independence (principally, there is nothing in Rl that supplies a passage shared with other witnesses, but omitted from H) and the evidence for derivation found in the structure of the texts, where H and Rl share an almost identical pattern of capitals, initials, and rubrics.  Of the 123 capitals that begin chapters in H, Rl lacks only one, at I 6.3; of those initials which extend beyond a single line, Rl’s are almost always the same size as those in H.  Out of the hundreds of smaller capitals that mark the beginnings of clauses in the text, in only seven instances do H and Rl make different choices on what to capitalize.  Thus, to have Rl and H remain independent would require the belief that two teams of scribes and rubricators were exceedingly careful to copy their shared exemplar in exactly the same way.  In textual criticism, the simplest solution is always preferred over the complicated.  To my eyes, it is simpler to conclude that Rl is a faithful copy of H, than that both, copied half a century apart from one another, derive from a lost manuscript.

The text of the Instituta in Rl has, however, been included on the Early English Laws website because it does offer important evidence for the late-twelfth-century reception of the code.

Editing the Instituta Cnuti 3: Transcriptions

2 March 2012

Transcriptions produce the raw data from which you calculate the text of the edition.  The purpose is not really to provide alternative readings of this or that passage.  The variants you find will, at times, do this.  Most, however, are errors that have intruded at some point in the transmission of the text, and it is as errors that they are extremely valuable.  Agreements of certain kinds of errors allow the reconstruction of families of texts descended, in a closed recension, from a common hyparchetype.  The errors will also allow you to identify any witnesses that descend directly from the archetype.  These independent witnesses and hyparchetypes together chart the transmission of the text and are the fundamental evidence for the reconstruction of the archetype.

In order to serve a purpose, however, they must be recorded with accuracy.  Errors in the recording of errors will cloud relationships that exist, falsely suggest relationships that do not, and undermine the reconstruction of the text.  Of course, we all make mistakes and will probably make some in recording the readings of each witness.  However, there are at least two safeguards that should be put in place, both common sense steps to reduce our own errors to, hopefully, nil.  First, when we see an error shared between otherwise unrelated witnesses, we go back to the manuscripts to check our readings.  These mistakes are easy to spot when the manuscript families are distinct and patterns of error consequently clear.  This check will help correct any recording error on our part.  Second, once the text has been reconstructed and the apparatus put in, it is a good idea to read the edition back against each of the witnesses, moving back and forth between text and apparatus as you move through the manuscript copy (more on this later).

The greatest weakness of Liebermann’s edition of the Instituta was created when he recorded the readings of his witnesses.  His rate of error with this text was spectacular (see O’Brien, ‘The Instituta Cnuti and the Translation of English Law’, Anglo-Norman Studies 25 [2003], 179-80).  This might seem  surprising since his transcriptions of the Old English texts in his Gesetze were so accurate.  The errors, however, are there, and their presence undermines the persuasiveness of his editorial decisions.

For the edition of the Instituta, I have transcribed 14 witnesses (nos. 1-4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 21, 23, 25, as identified in the previous blog).  There are a few ways to do this.  One way is to use a copy of the standard edition as a kind of template on which to record the errors of each witness.  I could have printed out Liebermann’s edition and then noted on it the readings of each witness.  This is how I worked when I edited the Leges Edwardi.  For the Instituta, I decided not to do this partly because Liebermann’s edition nowhere occurs in one piece.  Instead, it is scattered throughout the Gesetze, wherever its Old English sources appeared, and then, at the end of volume one, the sequence of the chapters as a whole is presented, albeit in abridged form.  The other reason I decided not to do this was that there is a very early and relatively uncorrupt witness available, whose transcription could serve the purpose.  This is the copy in Textus Roffensis, written around 1123 and originally standing at the head of the entire collection.  It is the full text and not one of the witnesses that ends by some accident midway through what Liebermann called book 3.

So my first task was to make an accurate copy of the text in the Textus.  Because I was interested also in the structure of the whole, I incorporated into my transcription all large colored initials, capitals or any kind, and all punctuation.  This transcription then became my base text for recording the errors or variants in all the witnesses.  To keep the process as clean as possible, I recorded the readings of only one witness on each copy of the transcription.  With some texts, you might be perfectly fine to record (with different colored pencils) the variants of a couple of witnesses.  The danger with this is that you might find yourself pulled to resolve illegible bits or suspensions found in the second witness in the same way you did with the first witness.  In my case, the witnesses to the Instituta were sufficiently messy—especially with their spellings of vernacular terms embedded in the Latin—that combining witnesses was impracticable.

When there are too many witnesses, and the text is very long, you would want to take a series of samples as a first stage rather than record all errors in all witnesses for all of the text.  This exploration of the patterns of error might allow you to identify derivative copies which can then be ignored for the edition.  The Instituta, while popular, was not that popular, and the whole was less than 40 pages long (A4 or Letter).

I did eliminate some of my 25 witnesses and brought the total down to 14.  In some cases, early modern copies stated explicitly that they were copies of manuscripts which are still extant.  In some, comparisons of sources and their copies as identified by Diana Greenway confirmed her judgments about which copies were derivative.  All of these, along with the now lost manuscripts, reduced the pile significantly.