The objective of the textual critic’s work is a better understanding of the creation and historical transmission of texts. This understanding may lead to the production of a “critical edition” containing a scholarly curated text. Textual criticism has been practiced religious of the world 13th edition hopfe pdf free over two thousand years.
Textual scholars have debated for centuries which sources are most closely derived from the original, hence which readings in those sources are correct. Ranging from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt to the twentieth century, textual criticism covers a period of about five millennia. Maas comments further that “A dictation revised by the author must be regarded as equivalent to an autograph manuscript”. The lack of autograph manuscripts applies to many cultures other than Greek and Roman. The textual critic’s ultimate objective is the production of a “critical edition”.
Before mechanical printing, literature was copied by hand, and many variations were introduced by copyists. The age of printing made the scribal profession effectively redundant. Printed editions, while less susceptible to the proliferation of variations likely to arise during manual transmission, are nonetheless not immune to introducing variations from an author’s autograph. Instead of a scribe miscopying his source, a compositor or a printing shop may read or typeset a work in a way that differs from the autograph. Since each scribe or printer commits different errors, reconstruction of the lost original is often aided by a selection of readings taken from many sources. In contrast to this approach, some textual critics prefer to identify the single best surviving text, and not to combine readings from multiple sources.
It is not always apparent which single variant represents the author’s original work. At the same time, the critical text should document variant readings, so the relation of extant witnesses to the reconstructed original is apparent to a reader of the critical edition. The practice is based on the principle that the more independent transmission histories there are, the less likely they will be to reproduce the same errors. Eclecticism allows inferences to be drawn regarding the original text, based on the evidence of contrasts between witnesses. Eclectic readings also normally give an impression of the number of witnesses to each available reading. Although a reading supported by the majority of witnesses is frequently preferred, this does not follow automatically.
For example, a second edition of a Shakespeare play may include an addition alluding to an event known to have happened between the two editions. Although nearly all subsequent manuscripts may have included the addition, textual critics may reconstruct the original without the addition. The result of the process is a text with readings drawn from many witnesses. It is not a copy of any particular manuscript, and may deviate from the majority of existing manuscripts. In a purely eclectic approach, no single witness is theoretically favored.