Thursday, February 10, 2022

Should the Next NA/UBS Editions Use Numbers for Majuscules?


 Florian Voss asks on Twitter. What say you?

I say yes despite the one drawback. And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of the Gothic letters too. 


  1. It makes sense to have the numbers only, though a chart showing which retired letters went with each number would be helpful.

    But the letters suggest, as a visual, that somehow these manuscripts have some sort of special status, when they really do not. I also like a simple P for papyri, as well as a capital L for lectionaries.

  2. I think it would also be a nice addition to add a K prefix to manuscripts with commentaries. For instance, GA 138 would be K138 instead of just 138. Manuscripts with commentary are a much more significant difference than majuscule vs minuscule.

    Getting even more granular, there could be a way to distinguish between the manuscripts with the catena that does not really break up the flow of the continuous Scripture text, versus the single author commentaries that, on the same lines, alternate between Scripture and comments, like the Theophylact mss.

  3. What about a transitional period in which we use B03, C04, D05, D06, N022 O023, Σ042, etc., to get people used to linking the number to the letter before (in later editions) eliminating the letters altogether?

    1. In NT TC books and articles have a very long half life such that books and articles published a century ago are still being frequently cited. Long after the "transitional period" is over there will be people getting confused when the same manuscript is cited in 3 different ways, so for example the oldest publications refer to "B", the transitional publications refer to "B03" and the newer publications to "03". Looks like a there would be more confusion, not less

  4. Absolutely stick with the letters. Otherwise the size of the apparatus would be significantly larger, since the "lettered" majuscules would now be two characters (0x) rather than just one. I do like Darrell's idea of somehow differentiating commentary MSS.

    I would go a step further and suggest that the most consistently / traditionally cited minuscules (81, 33, 1739, etc.) be assigned letters from the Hebrew alphabet. The whole edition would be much shorter, they would still be identifiable as minuscules, and the adjustment would be minimal. Starting with bet, obviously.

    I really don't see what benefit the number system has in a hand edition beyond distinguishing mss. like D05 and D06, and aligning with the 5-digit number system. Is there any?

  5. Rip the plaster off and remove the sigla!
    Consistency between ECM and NA is another benefit.

  6. As an instructor of beginners, I must say that the students learn the identity of the MSS much more quickly and permanently when letters are used instead of numbers. Just look at how few of the minuscules are readily recognized by anyone but the expert. I also like the historical development of the discipline that you communicate when you talk about the MSS by name and explain to the students why some have letters and some have numbers.

  7. I concur with Amy. If the intended user of a Handausgabe such as NA or UBS is the student or amateur, then the letter-designations make instructional sense.

    For the specialist, however, using only the numbers as in Text und Textwert or ECM makes perfect sense.

  8. In most cases, simple is better, and this situation is not the exception. By using only GA numbers, students and authors only need to consult one system. The continued use of letters means that students must not only learn the letters for interpreting their Nestle-Aland apparatus, but they then need the numbers for the ECM, TuT, and many (most?) recent publications.

    The inconsistent use of letters appears to impart special meaning when all it indicates is the date before which they were first catalogued. If a fourth century pandect is discovered and designated "0551", it is not inherently less important than a lettered witness.

    I'm also not convinced that brevity is as important as it once was. Now that the ECM volumes are being published, the Nestle-Aland apparatus can remain what it has always been: a summary of textual data. It can't and shouldn't be exhaustive.

  9. I like the letters and the gothic P/M. Is it that difficult to remember which letter corresponds to the GA number? I mean the NA editions usually come with a separate paper sheet with a list of them all on, so it's not like it takes much to find out which manuscript is being referred to by a letter if you can't quite remember.

    Try remembering which minuscules are considered members of F1 or F13 - that's a much harder exercise!

  10. If the Liste numbering could be started over (and it won't be) maybe the best approach would introduce five series of numbers.

    1) P1, P2, P3, P4... Papyri (same as now).

    2) M1, M2, m3, m4... Continuous text manuscripts designated with capital M for majuscules, lower case m for minuscule script continuous text manuscripts.

    3) L1, L2, l3, l4... Lectionary manuscripts designated with capital L for majuscule lectionaries, lower case l for minuscule script lectionaries.

    4) C1, C2, c3, c4... Catena around continuous text manuscripts with capital C for majuscule Scripture text, and lower case c for minuscule script Scripture text.

    5) K1, K2, k3, k4... Commentary text alternating with Scripture text with capital K for majuscule script Scripture text, and lower case k indicating minuscule Scripture text.

    A simple system that communicates all of the following:

    Papyri vs Parchment/Paper
    Majuscule vs Minuscule for every manuscript
    Continuous text vs catena around continuous text, vs commentary interrupting Scripture text.

    And maybe bring back T1, T2, T3... for the amulets (talismans).

  11. By all means go for the numbers!

  12. Imagine deciding such a thing on the basis of a twitter poll. How long will our civilisation last?

    1. It's not too far off from what Peter G's been talking about doing for the ETCBGNT, posting a Twitter poll for each of UBS5's B and worse readings and then adopting the winner as the main text.

    2. I heard that instead of Ausgangstext the committee will adopt "Texty McText-face" .

    3. @Peter: It's about time the suppressed voices of Twitter be heard in the field of textual criticism. Just say no to these oppressive anti-Twitter views.

      How long will our civilization last? We should poll Twitter and find out.