Archæology

The assorted finds of Artefact Publishing

I wish it was Greek to me

As part of a demonstration I am building as part of a proposal for an interesting text project, I am revisiting Boethius’s De institutione musica as presented in Friedlein’s critical edition. When I worked on this text, I looked closely at the Alexander Turnbull Library manuscript, and quickly decided that I wouldn’t touch the Greek inscription there. The reason: despite having the reconstructed original at hand, I could not get more than a line through the manuscript text without getting hopelessly confused. Believe me, I tried multiple times, but to no avail: the scribe seemed to have no idea about Greek, was probably copying from a manuscript whose scribe had as little knowledge, and seemed to use a variant script of his own devising. Regardless, I was baffled, unable to match up one letter with another.

Now, years later, I am reading again the apparatus criticus in Friedlein for the inscription, and he has this to say:

Verba graeca pessime scripta leguntur in f, h, k, l, o; g tantum quattuor prima vocabula graeca habet, deinde interpretationem dat latinam, quae in f, h, k, l intra lineas repperitur. Ex ineptissimis scripturae mendis, quae maxime veri similia erant, restitui.

You’ll note the pessime scripta and ineptissimis scripturae mendis, and with no knowledge of Latin you can guess what he’s saying. And indeed he uses four other manuscripts (than the f, h, k, l, o and g mentioned above; the i manuscript is conveniently missing a folio at this point) to derive the lemma. So the scribe of the Alexander Turnbull Library manuscript is not alone in his failure (and you can see why by reading the result of some of my earlier work).

Posted by jamie on June 13, 2004 17:50+12:00

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