Wednesday, October 6, 2010

transmission of the text of Petronius' Satyricon and textual criticism

The history of the transmission of the text of Petronius’ Satyricon is very complicated. All the details of this history are available in Konrad Muller’s 3rd edition “Petronius Satyrica, Schlemengeschichte”. In English a more concise history is given by M.D. Reeve in “Texts and Transmission: A Survey of the Latin Classics”. I have neither of these, but was able to put together a brief history of the transmission using “Scribes and Scholars: A Guide to the Transmission of Greek and Latin Literature”. This book also has a chapter on Textual Criticism, parts of which I summarize further down. For those interested in the historical development of textual criticism, I would recommend “Defenders of the Text: The Traditions of Scholarship in an Age of Science, 1450 – 1800”.


Much manuscript copying occurred in the Abbeys of the Loire Valley during the 9th century. We know that copies of Petronius were circulating there during the 9th century. These manuscripts were probably used by those who compiled collections of quotations called florilegia. The Florileguim Gallicum is a source for parts of Petronius. The Abby of Fleury is particularly important for the history of the transmission of Petronius. It was sacked by the Huguenots in 1562. Fluery’s manuscripts were purchased by Pierre Daniel. One of the best Petronius manuscripts comes from his collection. Other important collections that included Petronius were acquired during the same time period by Pierre Pithou, Jacques Bongars, Joseph Scaliger, and Jacques Cujas. Quoting Scribes and Scholars: “the complicated history of the text of Petronius in the latter half of the sixteenth century epitomizes a group of French Scholars of this period… Its complexity is also an indication of the difficulty of piecing together the elaborate web formed by the interrelationship of men and manuscript in this period, even in the case of central texts...”

Poggio was a Papal Secretary during the early 15th century. He is very important in the history of the transmission of manuscript copies of ancient texts. He found the “exerpta vulgaria” in England, which he described as, “particula petronii”. All of the existing 15th century manuscripts of the exerpta descend from Poggio’s copy. In 1423 at Cologne he found the “Cena Trimalchonis”. The copy that he commissioned of the Cologne manuscript is our only source for it. This manuscript was lost for a while. It resurfaced in 1650. The Cena was first printed in Padua in 1664.

Textual Criticism:

1. Recension: attempted reconstruction of earliest recoverable form of text from surviving manuscripts.

a. Establish the relationship of existing manuscripts to each other.

b. Eliminate from consideration those that are derived exclusively from other existing manuscripts.

c. Use the established relationships of those that remain to reconstruct the lost manuscript[s] from which the surviving manuscripts descend.

2. Limits of Recension.

a. Assumes all reading and errors are transmitted “vertically” from one book to copies that are made of it.

b. Assumes all surviving manuscripts can be traced to a single archetype.

c. Does not always account for the possibility that ancient authors made corrections or additions to their works (for example Cicero).

3. Corruptions.

a. Mistakes induced by ancient or medieval handwriting.

b. Corruptions from changes in spelling or pronunciation.

c. Omissions by mistake.

d. Errors of addition: letters, glosses (interlinear notes), and marginalia.

e. Errors of transposition: letters, verses, and text word order.

f. Errors induced by context.

g. Errors induced by influence of Christian thoughts.

h. Deliberate action of scribe.

4. The relationship of age and merit in individual manuscripts.

5. Indirect transmission of texts through quotation in another ancient author or through collections of quotations.

1 comment:

DCSteve1441 said...

Thanks very much for this information, Tom. It is a rare gift to be so conversant with a topic as intricate as this AND be able to summarize and communicate the essentials so clearly. Kudos!

Cheers, Steve