Stemmatics

Refers to techniques used to reconstruct the transmission of a text on the basis of relations between the various surviving manuscripts.

A ‘family tree’ of manuscripts, called a stemma or a cladorama, is created to show the relationships between them. These are determined by studying the errors in the texts: if two different texts have similar errors in common, they could be derived from a common intermediate source, known as a hyparchetype.

The text of the archetype is then determined by selecting the best variants from the closest hyparchetypes. Any remaining errors are then corrected by the editor.

Problems with this method could occur if a particular manuscript was copied from more than one source, or if errors present in the original were corrected by the scribe when writing out a new version.

The New Stemmatics uses computers to perform this process, by comparing all variant readings, rather than concentrating on errors. This allows more complex and objective stemmas to be produced, for a more thorough analysis.

Related methods include: Collating and Stylometrics.

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