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

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.

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