Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Agreement in Error and Common Origin

When two manuscripts share a rare characteristic our first reaction is to assume a common origin. This does not always work, but it is a better starting point than some others.

For instance, take co-blogger Michael Holmes's text of 1 Clemens ("To the Corinthians") in his Apostolic Fathers. On page 28 of my 1999 edition the text has a misspelling in the Greek text μελαγοπρεπες which should be μεγαλοπρεπες (the -λ- and -γ- have swapped places). Lightfoots's printed edition does not have this error, and neither has the TLG online, based on Jaubert's text.

For my Greek teaching I use the opening paragraphs of 1 Clemens. And at the time when I prepared my handout I was still working from the now defunct CD-ROM version of the TLG. When one of those clever students (yes, the same one as here) pointed out that μελαγοπρεπες in my handout looked like a misprint, I checked Holmes, found the same spelling, and initially thought that Holmes and me could not both be wrong. Till I realised that I had simply cut and pasted from the CD-ROM text, which might have been the same thing Michael had been doing. And rather than asking him (we are scholars after all, we don't talk), I checked the preface and found Holmes's acknowledgement of the technical assistance provided by the TLG, signed off in 1992, way before the online edition.

Agreement in error can point to common origin.

[This is the relevant word in Codex Alexandrinus, difficult to read, but in the correct spelling]


  1. It has been fixed for the 2007 edition.

  2. Dirk wrote,
    “I checked the preface and found Holmes's acknowledgement of the technical assistance provided by the TLG, signed off in 1992, way before the online edition.”
    --And also before the CD-ROM edition! When work was begun in 1990 on the Greek-English edition published in 1992, Baker acquired on behalf of the project the electronic version of the Apostolic Fathers from the TLG folks. It came on magnetic tape, in Beta Code format, in which each Greek character, accent, diacritical, etc., was represented by a corresponding character on an English typewriter keyboard--e.g., alpha = a, beta = b, omega = w (I think), acute accent = / (again, I think; it’s been a while since I looked at raw Beta code). I then imported the Beta code into Nota Bene, which in those days had a clever utility that converted the Beta code into Nota Bene’s Greek font. Thus I was able to edit the Greek text on-screen.
    Having access to the TLG Beta code text was a great advantage. It was remarkably accurate, while very good, was not perfect, and I recall sending the occasional note to the TLG folks in Irvine suggesting corrections. I missed, however, as Dirk notes, the μελαγοπρεπες in 1 Clem. 1.2. It has now been corrected in the TLG, my third edition (as Peter graciously noted), and, presumably, Dirk’s notes.
    So we do indeed have here a verifiable case of agreement in error pointing to a common origin (the original TLG database), accessed via different means (magnetic tape, CD-ROM), neither of which are still in circulation.