University of Virginia Library

3. Errors of Omission

3.1 Omission of Words

In 7 instances words are omitted in S apparently through sheer carelessness.

3.1.1  was a | temple  (364v/33-34; 28/13)  was temple  (ir/1) 
3.1.2  had not a gander'  (365r/6; 28/27)  had not gandir  (ir/22) 
3.1.3  þe . . . puple . . . ded make  (365r/14-15; 29/7)  þe . . . peple . . . make  (iv/2-3) 
3.1.4  as to a god  (365r/16; 29/8)  as to god  (iv/4) 
3.1.5  euyr is þe maistiris wit a boue his disciple  (365v/34; 31/13)  euer is þe meystiris aboue his disciple  (118v/25) 
3.1.6  Thus was þe cite saued and þe kyngis ire softed  (365v/35; 31/14)  ths | was þe cyte and þe kinges ire softed  (118v/25-26) 
3.1.7  in þe eld cronicles  (366r/1; 31/21-22)  in þe cro|nicles  (119r/5-6) 

In 3.1.3, 3.1.5 and 3.1.6 the construction gives a clue to the omission but not in 3.1.7. While the omission of the indefinite article in 3.1.1 and 3.1.2 affects the grammar rather than the sense its omission in 3.1.4 alters the sense radically.

There is one instance of the second of two words ending in the same letter being omitted.

3.1.8  supposed not þat he had be of rome  (366r/43; 32/28)  supposed not he had be of rome[22]   (119v/31) 

There are 4 instances where the scribe has omitted a word through anticipation, his eye presumably moving on to the second of two words beginning with the same letter(s).


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3.1.9  ferd nevir weel ne neuyr stood (364v/38; 28/17)  ferde neuyr wele neuer stode (ir/7) 
3.1.10  þei knewe summe straunge þingis (365r/28; 30/1-2)  þay knewe straunge þinges (iv/22) 
3.1.11  þat þing whech he had not him\self/ne not myth haue (365v/10; 30/23-24)  þat þinge | whiche he had not hym selue not myght haue (118r/24-25) 
3.1.12  swieres þat wer' keperis for þe body folowed fro ferr' (366r/41; 32/26-27)  swyers þat were kepers for þe body fro ferre (119v/29) 

In a further instance of anticipation the scribe of S has omitted a word through moving on from an s at the end of a word to another s at the beginning of the next word but one.

3.1.13  as I suppose  (364v/20; 28/1)  a suppose  (224/15) 

Except for 3.1.10 all of these omissions through anticipation have a serious adverse effect on the sense.

3.2 Omission from Words

On 3 occasions letters have been omitted from the end of verb forms so as to render them morphologically inappropriate.

3.2.1  spekith  (364v/13; 27/24)  sp|eke  (224/4-5) 
3.2.2  seid p.t.   (364v/13; 27/25)  sey  (224/5) 
3.2.3  named pp.   (365v/33; 31/12)  name  (118v/23) 

On a fourth occasion the inflectional ending is omitted over a page division in S.

3.2.4  be tokneth  (365v/40; 31/18)  be tok ∥  (118v/32) 

The word these is deprived of its last two letters 3 times; on one of these occasions (3.2.7) the error was probably induced by the line division in A (see Part I above, under (2)).

3.2.5  These  (364v/17; 27/18)  The  (224/10) 
3.2.6  þese  (365v/43; 31/21)  þe  (119r/4) 
3.2.7  þe|se  (364v/35-36; 28/15)  þe  (ir/4) 

There is only one instance of omission of a letter from the beginning of a word.

3.2.8  jor|nay  (366r/28-29; 32/16)  ornay  (119v/13) 

In 7 instances letters which occur medially are omitted in S apparently through sheer carelessness.

3.2.9  sanguinis  (364v/19; 27/30)  sanguins (or (?) -gunis)  (224/13) 
3.2.10  tiberius   (365r/25; 29/15)  tyberus  (iv/17) 
3.2.11  satisfie  (365r/40; 30/12)  satyfie  (118r/7) 
3.2.12  likynesse  (365v/14; 30/27)  likenes  (118r/30) 
3.2.13-14  laterane  (366r/2, 3; 31/23, 24)  laterne[23]   (119r/7, 8) 


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On one occasion omission occurs medially through anticipation.

3.2.15  knythod  (364r/43; 27/14)  knyghode  (223/20) 

Presumably the S-scribe intended to write knyghthode but when he came to the first h he continued as if it were the second one.

Except for 3.2.12, where the effect is to substitute another word, most of the errors in this section would probably have merely checked a reader before he recognized them for what they are.[24]

From the frequency of the errors and their seriousness (at least 35 (41%) of them have an adverse effect on the sense of the text) we are clearly dealing with a good example of scribal 'negligence and rape'. If this example is anything to go by medieval authors evidently had good reason to complain about their scribes. Certainly Capgrave had ample reason to be dissatisfied with S and to reject it. Even when allowance is made for the possibility that there was a mutual understanding between author and scribe that the former would correct the latter's work—as indeed in a sense he did, by rejecting it—if the scribe of S had not been working in Capgrave's scriptorium under the eagle eye of a meticulous author[25] the copyist's work might well have gained currency. Unless an author was supremely vigilant the distortions and corruptions could set in under his own roof.

The present instance of scribal inaccuracy may provide some pointers as to the nature of primary errors and their relative frequencies. Allowance should be made, however, for the possible idiosyncracies of the particular individual scribe. Perhaps the most notable feature of the errors is the high proportion due to retentive or anticipatory assimilation, some 16 (18.8%)—1.1.20-28, 1.2.8, 2.1.6-10, 2.2.6. By contrast there are only 5 errors (5.9%) due to anticipation, where the copyist's eye has moved forward inadvertently to the second of two words beginning with the same letter(s) (or to the second of two instances of the same letter).[26] A second notable cause of errors is line divisions: some 6 errors (7%) may be due to line divisions in the exemplar (1.1.26-27, 1.2.9, 2.1.4, 2.2.2, 3.2.7), and a further 3 errors (3.5%) occur over line divisions (or a page


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division) in the copy itself (2.1.5, 2.2.3 and (over a page division) 3.2.4). Taken together these two causes account for over one third (35.3%) of all errors. Thirdly, errors often occur in proper names; there are 7 different instances, one of them occurring twice, making 8 altogether (9.4%)—1.1.3, 1.2.1-3, 1.2.8, 3.2.10, 3.2.13-14. A partial cause of at least some of these errors is presumably ignorance on the part of the copyist. Ultimately several of them, and many others as well, must be the result of the intervention of the scribe's mind, albeit working haphazardly and often stupidly. It is hard to assess what proportion of the total number of errors are attributable to this cause but the figure could be quite high, perhaps 25-30%. Although 17 errors are classified under Errors of Addition, only one of these instances seems to be the result of a conscious attempt to alter the text so as to 'improve' it (2.1.3). This feature of the copyist's work suggests that while even a copyist working in an author's scriptorium scarcely had a modern scholar's respect for the authorial text, additions due to a conscious attempt to 'improve' the text probably constitute a very small proportion of primary errors.