18 April 2024

"Textual Criticism"

I always explain this phrase when I use it, because it is so commonly misunderstood.

So many folks think that it means the careful, critical examination of a text, so as to elucidate more and more of its meaning.

It doesn't

It means trying to work out what "the original text" actually wasIt most commonly applies to texts which have been transmitted in manuscript form by copyists. Here comes an easy example.

There is an elegantly crafted Proper Preface associated in some early sources with Septuagesima or that period of the year. The 'reformers' of the 1970s brought it into the Bugnini Missal, and, a year or two ago, the CDF thought of making it optionally available in the Authentic Form of the Mass, but, in the end, decided not to do so. 

In this Preface we thank God for succouring us with His Godhead ... according to the Ambrosian Rite of Milan, accompanied by a rather weird liturgical book called 'the Leonine Sacramentary' or the 'Verona Sacramentary' or just 'the Veronense'. 

But, alternatively, we can look at the 'Gregorian Sacramentary', at an Appendix added at the end to make it more acceptable in Gaul. And at the Leofric Missal, a book used by generations of Archbishops of Canterbury. If we look in those two sources, we shall find that we are thanking God for succouring us with His Loving-kindness

The two Latin words, respectively, are Deitate and Pietate. 

In many early scripts, a capital, upper-case D and a capital, upper-case P, can look very similar indeed.

So either a scribe misread Deitate as Pietate in the text he was copying ... or else, the other way round.

I can't tell you which, because, in this case, either 'reading' would make good sense. The 1970s chappies decided on Deitate, so if (tut tut) you possess their sweet little book, that (slightly foxed) is what you will find there. It is "Preface 31", optional on Sundays per Annum.

The Veronense is the earliest text, but that doesn't mean it has to be right. And ... mysteriouser and mysteriouser ... this Preface is part of a Mass put together, apparently, for use in times of Drought!

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