In his interesting but rather unsatisfactory book, A History of the Synoptic Problem: The Canon, the Text, the Composition, and the Interpretation of the Gospels (Doubleday, 1999), David Laird Dungan misjudges the contribution of textual criticism to the synoptic problem in a number of different ways. He also makes several extraordinarily incorrect statements about Westcott and Hort. I'd like to focus here on his assertion of 'the fact that neither Westcott nor Hort ever personally examined a single ancient manuscript. Working entirely from previous editions (e.g. Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf), where the task of comparison had been done for them, Westcott-Hort's contribution came in the application of a systematic approach to the mass of data others had collected.’ (p. 295).
Dungan here misunderstands and exaggerates the rather misleading if not equally incorrect statement in the Aland's description of Westcott and Hort's method ('neither Westcott nor Hort ever actually collated a single manuscript but worked completely from published material, i.e. critical editions (viz., Tischendorf)' (Aland & Aland, The Text of the New Testament, p. 18).
It is certainly true that Westcott & Hort depended on the work of other scholars, but this does not preclude first-hand examination of manuscripts (easily documented in e.g. Hort's comments on his own claim that F, a codex located in his own college library, was a copy of G in 'On the End of the Epistle to the Romans' in Journal of Philology III(1871), 51-80, here in a note at pp. 67-68, Codex F was (and still is) located in Trinity College Cambridge), nor was the work dependent on editions. The primary resources were published collations and complete texts and facsimiles (as is detailed in the chart on p. 15 of their Introduction; although without notes), a number of which were in Hort's personal library as can be demonstrated in the catalogue of Hort's library (Catalogue of the Valuable Library of Books Cambridge: John Swan & Son, 1893). Further confirmation, if such is needed (!) of Hort's interest in the actual manuscript resources can be found in his published letters. At an early stage of planning for the edition Hort wrote to J. Ellerton: 'Lachmann and Tischendorf will supply rich materials, but not nearly enough' (19.4.1853); he later enthusiastically discussed Tregelles work on Zacynthius: 'It is inferior to B, but scarcely, if at all, inferior to C and L' (letter to J.B. Lightfoot 18.2.1859) and indeed finished the editorial work for Tregelles edition of the Greek New Testament with its very complete apparatus (for these letters (see A.F. Hort, Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort (London: Macmillan & Co., 1896; 2 vols); I.250 and I.404 - the unpublished letters further document Hort's interest in particular manuscripts, not least in visits to foreign libraries while on vacation).
Hort's intimate knowledge of the important manuscript witnesses is demonstrated in his spectacular observation about the exemplar of Ephraimi Rescriptus in Revelation: ‘In the MS of the Apocalypse from which C was taken some leaves had been displaced, and the scribe of C did not discover the displacement. It thus becomes easy to compute that each leaf of the exemplar contained only about as much as 10 lines of the text of the present edition; so that this one book must have made up nearly 120 small leaves of parchment, and accordingly formed a volume either to itself or without considerable additions.’ Westcott & Hort, Introduction, 268.
As far as I can tell there is no evidence that Hort (or Westcott) ever travelled to Paris to see this manuscript; but a moment's thought (or a look at the fuller discussion of this displacement in H.H. Oliver, 'A Textual Transposition in Codex C (Ephraemi Syri Rescriptus)' JBL 76(1957), pp. 233-236) reveals something of the detailed work on the manuscript witnesses that underlies this brief comment.
Are writers supposed to know what they are talking about or not?
Maurice Robinson offered more published evidence for Hort's acquaintance with manuscripts in a comment, which I have (with his permission) added here:
For the record, regarding Hort and collation of MSS, cf. Scrivener, Plain Introduction, 2nd ed (1874), 432:
"So far as it appears from their Preface [circulated privately to members of the ERV Committee], the editors [W-H] have not made any great additions of their own to the mass of collated materials for the revision of the sacred text. Those which exist ready at hand have been verified as far as possible, and the whole mass of evidence, both documentary and internal, has been thoroughly and deliberately weighed by them, separately and in conference, with an amount of care and diligence that have been hitherto unexampled."
Within the same volume, Scrivener speaks regarding Hort's direct examination of MS 339 while in Turin:
"Found by Mr Hort to contain John, Luke (with Titus of Bostra's commentary), Matthew, hoc ordine" (p. 68).
"Mr Hort informs me that on examining this copy he found it written in three several and minute hands" (p. 200n1).
As to the Apocalypse in MS 339: "Much like Cod B  and other common-place copies, as Mr Hort reports, who collated five chapters in 1864, and sent his papers to Tregelles" (p. 248).
Regarding MS 133 of Acts [Gtreg.-Al. 611]: "Mr Hort noticed good readings in the Catholic Epistles" (p. 231).
Regarding a Vulgate MS (B. x. 5)at Trinity College, Cambridge, containing 1Co-1Thess, "readings [were] sent by the Rev. F. J. A. Hort to Tregelles" (p. 314)
So Hort, at least, was to some extent engaged in direct manuscript examination and collation.
[End of Maurice Robinson's comment]