Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Was the old Nestle-Aland text basically Westcott-Hort?

Whilst reading the excellent article from our respected co-blogger Mike Holmes on Zuntz's Text of the Epistles (for biblio see below), I was reminded of a historical quibble I have with some text-critics who maintain that the text of Nestle-Aland was, for most of its existence, basically that of Westcott-Hort. Surely the latter two gentlemen would have been honoured by it, but the assumption seems to be based on a misunderstanding. Nestle, according to Aland-Aland Text des Neuen Testaments, based the text of his first two editions on Westcott-Hort and Tischendorf's eighth edition (Weymouth being the decider in case of a difference), and from the third edition on Westcott-Hort, Tischendorf, and Bernhard Weiss (and this was done consistently only from the 13th edition of 1927). I have no reason to doubt the Alands' report on the history of the Nestle-Aland edition, and therefore it is just as wrong to say that the old Nestle-Aland text was that of Tischendorf, or Weiss, than to say it was that of Westcott-Hort.

What puzzles me, though, is a remark in the Text des Neuen Testaments explaining that NA25 was still printed from the plates dating from 1898. Can such print plates be adjusted or altered, or does the remark only applies to those pages in which no change was made?

Holmes, Michael W. "The Text of the Epistles Sixty Years after: An Assessment of Günther Zuntz's Contribution to Text-Critical Methodology and History." In Transmission and Reception: New Testament Text-Critical and Exegetical Studies, ed. J.W. Childers and D.C. Parker, 89-113. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2006.

1 comment

  1. The text on a printing plate is unlikely to ever be altered (this would have to be done by hand using corrector fluid like a typist), but the plates themselves can be washed clean and re-used. The wonder is that the press cylinders hadn't changed in all those years, such that the old plates would still fit.

    Plates are only good for a few hundred thousand impressions before they crack, so those early print runs must have been rather small.

    It was such an expense to make new plates that, when errors were found, an errata sheet was run off and inserted or bound inside the cover; a tradition still carried on by Amlmqvist & Wiksell in their rather pricey (and therefore probably small-run) paperback monograph The Epistle of Jude: Its Text and Transmission. :)

    Nowadays, a printing plate can be laser-imaged by computer for a dollar or two, and mistakes that somehow make it that far can be corrected in the middle of a press run ("STOP THE PRESSES!").

    With the price of aluminum what it is (vis-a vis the hourly wage for printers), most plates are recycled at the end of even a small run rather than being washed clean and re-imaged in the previous palimpsestic practice.