Oldest Extant Manuscripts of Ancient Works

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Oldest Extant Manuscripts of Ancient Works

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1cpg
Mrz. 24, 2016, 9:49am


Is there by any chance a semi-popular work giving a general overview of the oldest manuscripts currently in existence of the major works of the ancient world? I was reading in Leo Corry's A Brief History of Numbers yesterday and (not being an ancient history buff) was surprised to learn that the oldest extant manuscripts of Euclid's Elements are only about half as old as the originals (would be).

I see that that there is Texts and Transmission: A Survey of the Latin Classics, but I don't really want to pay $325, it looks a little dense for a non-expert, and it apparently only deals with Latin works.

2Crypto-Willobie
Bearbeitet: Mrz. 24, 2016, 10:21am

In part it depends on what you mean by "manuscript". Do you mean on writings on paper or vellum arranged in a codex? There are various texts in other forms -- monumental inscriptions, clay tablets, scrolls, etc that are older that the oldest paper codices.

I don't know of a specific book about this but here's some relevant information:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/archimedes/manuscripts.html

And what about this? http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/etruscan-gold-book-believed-to-be-the-oldest-com...

3cpg
Mrz. 24, 2016, 10:31am

>2 Crypto-Willobie: "In part it depends on what you mean by "manuscript". Do you mean on writings on paper or vellum arranged in a codex? There are various texts in other forms -- monumental inscriptions, clay tablets, scrolls, etc that are older that the oldest paper codices."

The physical material upon which the texts are recorded is of absolutely no concern to me. I want to know, for a given ancient text, what is the oldest extant physical object upon which that text is recorded (and how old is it)? And I want a book that has this information collected; I don't want to have to Google "What is the oldest extant copy of x?" for a thousand different values of x.

4stellarexplorer
Mrz. 24, 2016, 11:30am

I'd be interested in that book too

5MarthaJeanne
Bearbeitet: Mrz. 24, 2016, 12:37pm

Do you want the oldest complete copy? Or a fragment of just a few words that they think was probably from that work? What about a quote in another book that is in a copy older than any other text of the work? What about a partial copy that disagrees with the later more complete copies? And when translations are the earliest copies we have?

For most ancient texts it just isn't all that simple. And while reading up on a few texts that interest me might be fun, one after another on works that I have no connection to sounds deadly dull.

6cpg
Bearbeitet: Mrz. 24, 2016, 2:16pm

>5 MarthaJeanne: "Do you want the oldest complete copy? Or a fragment of just a few words that they think was probably from that work? What about a quote in another book that is in a copy older than any other text of the work? What about a partial copy that disagrees with the later more complete copies? And when translations are the earliest copies we have?"

https://youtu.be/ZjdKPDsYA7o

1) I want a book like Texts and Transmission but at maybe 1/3 the cost and without the limitation to Latin texts.

2) Do you find Texts and Transmission deadly dull? The reviewers don't seem to.

7Edward
Mrz. 24, 2016, 3:01pm

A companion to classical texts covers Greek as well as Latin texts and is available for free from the Internet Archive. The most relevant part is the long chapter on "MS. authorities for the text of the chief classical writers". However, this book was published in 1913 and is quite outdated.

8cpg
Mrz. 24, 2016, 3:19pm

>7 Edward:

Thanks! That chapter of Hall is exactly the sort of thing I'm interested in.

9anthonywillard
Aug. 15, 2016, 9:15pm

Scribes and Scholars by L. D. Reynolds and N. G. Wilson is very similar to the main text of the Hall book but more recent (4th edition 2014), and I think more informative. It goes new in paperback on Amazon for $55 but for a fair bit less (also new) with Amazon marketplace sellers. Used cheaper still, but possibly older editions (still much more current than Hall). This study is exhaustive, but Reynolds has a way with words and I didn't find it a slog to get through, except for the textual criticism parts, which Reynolds does have the good grace to warn the reader off of. (Hall amusingly refers to textual criticism as a "disease".) One of Scribes and Scholars's best features is detailed up-to-date bibliography (in the chapter notes). There is not however any equivalent to the very interesting Chapter VIII of Hall (p. 199), where Classical authors are listed individually with detailed comments on their manuscript traditions, as understood a century ago, which is probably recently enough for most of them.

10shikari
Bearbeitet: Aug. 17, 2016, 1:08am

My suggestion is not a popular work, nor is it cheaper than Reynolds' book, but Brill’s New Pauly Supplement I, Volume 2: Dictionary of Greek and Latin Authors and Texts is great for having summarized info on the most important manuscripts and printed texts (both early and contemporary) for most of the Greek and Latin works of antiquity (important commentaries and translations in scholarly languages are also listed). It costs €249, but online access seems to be availavle for €9.95 for a day or €19.95 for a week (http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/browse/brill-s-new-pauly-supplements-i-2). That does strike me as reasonable for once (if you do get access to the work, that is; if you get access to all of Brill's New Pauly it'd a bargain worth clearing a week free to take advantage of). Otherwise see if you can find a university library where you can consult it, online or in paper.

11shikari
Bearbeitet: Aug. 16, 2016, 8:43pm

At a much more popular level, something with reference lists of texts and translations in (but not manusctipts or papyri) is Fifty Key Classical Authors by Rhiannon Ash and Alison Sharrock. Filled with a page or two of description of works by a wide range of Greek and Roman authors. Useful.

Nearer to what you asked for but for the individual author, you might try the Greece & Rome New Surveys in the Classics series. Each volume is reasonably priced second hand (and not outrageous new) and generally covers a single author or topic with info on textual history and short academic bibliographies and thirty to fifty pages of descriptions and scholarship. Also useful. Chris Collard's Euripides volume was the only place I found a list of Euripides' alphabetic (as opposed to the Byzantine best-of list).

12SteveJohnson
Nov. 1, 2017, 10:44pm

If you are interested in learning how some of those manuscripts were acquired, Robert Curzon's wonderful tale of his travels among the monasteries of the Mideast in search of old manuscripts, in the 1830s, is a fun read. His task is to convince his hosts, the often ignorant monks, that their books are of no value but at the same time to finagle them to give them to him, which he often effects by combining wine and gold coins and a request for them to give him some things to commemorate his visit. Many of his finds are among the British Museum's greatest treasures, including some he found in a cellar covering the mouths of wine jars. You can read the text online here: https://archive.org/details/visitstomonaste01curzgoog

13auntmarge64
Nov. 3, 2017, 2:41pm

>9 anthonywillard: Do you have an opinion about the value of the 3rd edition to a non-scholar? I can imagine that a scholar would always want the latest edition, but you're right that the secondary and used sellers are all offering only older editions at the much lower prices, although about $40 might get a copy of the 4th. I've been reading the beginning of the 3rd edition as a sample on my Kindle (the 4th is not yet available for Kindle), and I'm enjoying it, but before I spend $40 for the newer edition I'm wondering if the changes would make that much difference to the casual reader.

14anthonywillard
Bearbeitet: Nov. 17, 2017, 6:37am

>13 auntmarge64: : I have not compared the 3rd and 4th editions, but I think the main difference would be in the bibliography and notes. Certainly casual readers would get everything they want and more from the 3rd edition. This is a pretty well-studied field and not that much changes from decade to decade. I always try for current editions only because I am a bibliography addict.

15auntmarge64
Nov. 17, 2017, 4:40pm

>14 anthonywillard: Thanks so much! I'll order the 3rd and get what I can from it - as you say, a casual reader. But I did enjoy the sample I read from Amazon.

16anthonywillard
Nov. 18, 2017, 4:28am

>15 auntmarge64: As they say, It's the kind of thing you will like if you like that kind of thing. In the case of this book I would say It's the kind of thing you will absolutely love if you like that kind of thing. I had to drop everything else and read it through. But it can also profitably be read piecemeal, skipping topics of less interest or reading topics as needed. A very good reference.