Wednesday, August 10, 2016

It’s Time to Stop Using Gothic Letters in Textual Criticism

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A week or so ago my carrel-mate here at Tyndale was stumped for who knows how long by a Gothic letter “C” that looked a whole lot like Gothic letter “T” for “targum.”

What finally gave it away was the superscript “Sa” which I thought had to be for “Sahidic.” That meant, of course, that the “T” must actually be a “C.” Sure enough it was. But comparing this “C” in the Hermeneia volume on Ezekiel to BHS’s “T,” you can see the obvious problem. All of this would be avoided if simple Roman letters had been used.

The offending Gothic “C” (left) and “T” (right)
Now, look, I enjoy the wonderful Gothic “P” for papyri as much as anybody. It looks cool and it adds gravitas to what are often scrappy manuscripts. But I say it’s time to banish all Gothic letters from our writing and apparatuses for good. They’re bad for electronic searches, they don’t exist in most fonts, and whatever value they once had is gone. They only create confusion. So let’s get rid of them. Who’s with me?

Show your support:


25 comments :

  1. As a subsequent move, would this necessitate dropping letter references to manuscripts and only using numbers (as with the ECM and other recent works), so as to avoid confusion between 'C' as Coptic and 'C' as Ephraemi Rescriptus and so forth?

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    1. Yes, but only where "C" is used for Coptic instead of "co."

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    2. Ahh yes, didn't make the switch back from your OT example above to actual NT sigla. That aside, I'm for the switches to non-Gothic and numbers only for manuscript references.

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  2. Whoa! That's a bold opinion that will rock the text critical world! :)

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    1. You heard it here first, folks.

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  3. I also agree strongly with this, gothic letters are so annoying during consulting critical apparatus in BHS :(.

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  4. I Agree with dropping gothic, and I agree with majuscule numbering to drop the letters, and just go with 01, 02, 03, and so on. This is always been confusing, particularly on the ones where the letter represented two different manuscripts.

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  5. I'd miss how cool my tc footnotes look, but I'd miss how long it took to write them not one bit.

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  6. Agreed in relation to papyri (P45 looks just as good) and ancient versions (or even Talismans and Ostraca) -- but I do find the nice Gothic "M" a convenient single-letter symbol for Mehrheitstext as opposed to longer alternatives.

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    1. I agree with you on both points. Other sigla for the majority text are cumbersome and the Gothic 'M' is easily identified with the Mehrheitstext due to it ubiquitous use in text critical material.
      Tim

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  7. Sure; Put the Gothic /version/ back in the apparatus, and take the Gothic /letters/ out.

    There is one advantage to Gothic letters, though, and that is that in the apparatus, they catch the eye. So if one were to replace them, I would hope it would be via a font/symbol that is equally eye-catching.

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  8. I think that we should use Elvish Runes! :-D

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  9. Here is a Rune generator we could use!
    http://derhobbit-film.de/rune_generator.shtml

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  10. I don't like telling everybody else what they should do. Live and let live.

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  11. I agree. Out with the Gothic letters!

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  12. Peter Gurry, please publish this somewhere, anywhere. I will footnote it repeatedly in the future. I have been stating the same in recent work I am doing. Thanks

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  13. I don't feel that that gothic P for papyri is wonderful. Rather it's a bit of a pet peeve of mine. Seeing as we don't give minuscules fancy numbers for being on paper (or some other material other than parchment), giving scrappy majuscules (and an assortment of lectionaries, assorted miscellanies, and even a manuscript of the Book of Odes, most of which shouldn't be on the Liste) top billing with a gothic P just for being written on papyrus is more than a little fetishistic. We should give proper sigla to the few that are more extensive than Q/026 (say, ℶ/P45, ℷ/P66, ℸ/P75, to fit them after ℵ/01), and renumber the rest to the end of the uncial list (perhaps in the 0700s and 0800s so that it's obvious that 0788 is the artist formerly known as P88 (or 𝔓⁸⁸ if it doesn't break the internet – down with superscripts as well...)).

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  14. The Münster VMR already is doing that: P88 = 10088
    http://ntvmr.uni-muenster.de/liste/

    And Peter Head should stop telling us what we should do or not do. Carthago delendum est...

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  15. I entirely agree with you Peter (Gurry). One thing to note is that in "black letter" typography, the lower case letters are much easier to make out than are the decorative capitals. One does not normally find (though I am sure there are counter-examples) a string of black letter capitals or capitals standing on their own—one rather typically makes out the capitals by the lower case words they are attached to (at least that has been my experience in my forays into reading such writing). So it does seem rather odd to pick out the least legible aspect of Gothic typography while the rest has been ditched centuries ago (at least for English—my impression is that the switch was more recent for German.).

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  16. Indeed, Fraktur continued to be used in Germany through at least the 1930s, and is still used here and there in a more decorative sense.

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  17. No objections from me. I do not use them in my own work.

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  18. This is great! Let's make things as simple and approachable as possible!

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  19. Are you sure the problem is the font?

    "Blackletter, also known as Gothic script, Gothic minuscule, or Textura, was a script used throughout Western Europe from approximately 1150 to well into the 17th century. It continued to be used for the German language until the 20th century. Fraktur is a notable script of this type, and sometimes the entire group of Blackletter faces is incorrectly referred to as Fraktur."

    "Mathematical black-letter characters are separately encoded in Unicode in the Mathematical alphanumeric symbols range. ... For normal text writing, the ordinary Latin code points are used. The black-letter style is then determined by a font with black-letter glyphs. The glyphs in the SMP should only be used for mathematical typesetting, not for ordinary text. They are of limited use for writing German, as they lack umlaut diacritics and the ligature eszett."

    This seems to be an attractive blackletter font, that is gratis for non-commercial use:

    PFEFFER SIMPELGOTISCH is a particularly simple variant of the textura​—​that blackletter scripture which, starting from the 11th century with the advent of the Gothic style, had evolved from the Carolingian minuscule via the Gothic minuscule.

    http://robert-pfeffer.net/schriftarten/englisch/nachgeladener_rahmen.html?pfeffer_simpelgotisch.html

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