Saturday, July 13, 2019

E. M. Thompson and the Precision of Greek Palaeography

Berlin Papyrus 9782 (LDAB 3764),

While reading through Brent Nongbri's excellent book "God's Library," I couldn't help but notice a somewhat negative tone (however unintentional) towards Victorian era palaeographers. In a discussion over the dating of the famed Hawara Homer papyrus (LDAB 1695), Nongbri noted that some of the dates assigned to the papyrus had been determined by "Victorian aesthetics (the 'handsomeness' of a hand or the presence or absence of 'character')" (Nongbri, 65, 66). Frederic Kenyon did re-date the Hawara Homer based upon the "handsomeness" of the script, yet, not all Victorian era palaeographers were so subjective and definitive in their evaluation of scripts. Edward Maunde Thompson, a contemporary of Kenyon, was fully aware of the subjectivity of palaeography and the importance of having many examples by which to date an undated manuscript. In the middle of a discussion over the date of Berlin Papyrus 9782 (LDAB 3764), Thompson wrote,  
“Indeed, the difficulty, in such an instance as the present one, of judging of the age of book-hand papyri is very great; for the number of examples is comparatively limited, and they have to be distributed over so large a space of time, that it is only when certain of them can be grouped within not too wide a period and can therefore individually give support to each other in the sequence assigned to them, that we can be said to be standing on fairly firm ground. Then the eye acquires a familiarity with the character of the writing and its subtle changes, and the palaeographer developes a kind of instinct for the exercise of his judgement and for the conclusions at which he arrives. But when the examples lie far apart in date, then we cannot speak without diffidence and reserve, recognizing that further discoveries may largely modify present opinion.” (Thompson, 133)

Brent Nongbri, God's Library: The Archaeology of the Earliest Christian Manuscripts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018).
Edward Maunde Thompson, An Introduction to Greek and Latin Palaeography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1912).

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Cicero and his "Original Copy"

In a letter to his long time friend Atticus, Cicero informs his friend that he had finished revising an essay and was sending it his way for publication;
"I am glad that you were not disappointed in that expectation: but nevertheless I am sending you the same essay somewhat more carefully revised—and it is indeed the original copy (ἀρχέτυπον) itself with interlineations and corrections in many places. Get this copied on large paper (macrocollum) and read it privately to your guests, but, as you love me, when they are cheerful and have had a good dinner, lest they vent their wrath on me, though really angry with you." (At. 16.3)
This letter was previously discussed in an earlier post (here) that interacts with Cicero's mention of "large paper" (macrocollum). What I wanted to highlight today is Cicero's mention of an "original copy" or ἀρχέτυπον. In this context, it sems to function as a synonym for "autograph." This is mainly because this "source copy" of Cicero's composition contains his own interlinear corrections and must be the corrected original-composition. I find it interesting that, even though the authorial copy is in view (the autograph), the text was under some amount of flux as Cicero continued to revise and polish the work. As long as the autograph remained under Cicero's control, the text was subject to change. As soon as Atticus receives this ἀρχέτυπον, copies it onto a macrocollum, and begins to distribute it widely, Cicero would effectively loose control over the textual form and the composition would be fixed.
Cicero understands this fact of publication well for he is afraid that his composition will circulate and be distributed out of his control. In a previous letter to Atticus he wrote concerning the same work,
"I am sending you my de Gloria. You will therefore please to keep it under lock and key as usual: but let select passages be marked for Salvius at least to read when he has got some fitting hearers at a dinner party." (At. 16.2)
Here Cicero is concerned that his piece will be released before he is finished with it so he implores Atticus to keep it under lock and key. It also reveals the potential fluidity of the text at this point as Cicero desires only select portions to be read by a close friend at a diner party. This would provide opportunity for his work to receive some initial exposure while at the same time remaining under Cicero's control.

English translation:(

Latin text: (