Textual Criticism

Michael Jeffreys

in The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199252466
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

Textual Criticism

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  • Classical Studies
  • Middle Eastern Languages



Textual criticism is a method with which surviving copies of a text are examined in order to recapture an earlier, usually "original", form. First applied to the ancient classics and the Bible, it aims to remove errors inevitable in copying, especially when copying by hand. Textual criticism was originally developed to address works preserved in manuscripts dated long after the time of composition, but was later extended to more modern manuscripts and printed editions. This article discusses the application of textual criticism to many manuscripts of Byzantine texts, focusing on editions by modern scholars, and also describes the complex system developed over the centuries for dealing with variations between manuscripts. Three examples of Byzantine text that have been subjected to textual criticism are presented: works of Byzantine mimesis written on the model of classical authors, texts with a surviving copy in the author's own hand, and less-learned levels of Byzantine writing such as popular hagiography and the "vernacular" texts that eventually incorporated elements of spoken Greek.

Keywords: textual criticism; manuscripts; Byzantine texts; mimesis; popular hagiography; vernacular texts

Article.  3630 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Middle Eastern Languages

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