University of Virginia Library

6. An experiment

6.1. Dom Quentin, to test his own theory, cleverly imagined how twenty-one imaginary scribes (B-Z), after the genealogy of fig. 28, might


Page 115
copy a Latin passage by Florus of Lyons.[80] Let us suppose that manuscripts N-Z alone survive. The apparatus criticus presents 49 independent (though nos. 36 and 38 interact) variants, cited against the lost original:
Anastasia primo diram[1] et immitem custodiam a viro suo[2] Publio[3] passa est, in qua tamen a Chrysogono, confessore Christi[4], multum consolata[5] et confortata est. Deinde[6] a praefecto Illyrici[7] in gravissima[8] aeque et[9] diutina[8] [10] ustodia[8] macerata est: in qua duobus mensibus[11] refecta est caelestibus escis[12] per sanctam[13] Theodoten[14], quae prius[15] martyrium passa[16] est. Deinde navi[17] imposita cum ducentis[18] viris et septingentis[19] feminis, ut demergerentur[20] in mari[21], perlata est ad insulas Palmarias ubi martyrium consummavit[22]: et omnes qui[23] cum illa[24] venerant[25] variis interfectionibus martyrium[26] celebrarunt. Inter quos omnes[27], unus erat[28] nomine[29] Eutychianus[30], innocentissimae naturae[31], qui sublatis[32] sibi, cum dives[33] esset, omnibus facultatibus[34], tacuit[32], nihil[35] cogitans nihilque metuens[36], nisi hoc, ne facultates ac divitias fidei[37] perderet[38] [39]. Quotiescumque denique[40] fuisset[41] auditus, quotiescumque[42] interrogatus[43] nihil aliud dicebat[44] [45]: Christum[46] mihi non tollet[47] [48] etiam qui[47] caput abstulerit[47] [49].


Page 116

An investigator was now imagined who, finding almost half these passages determinate, made twenty correct and four wrong decisions. The correct decisions were in passages nos. 3 (Publio), 4, 5, 10, 11, 14, 17, 22, 23, 25, 30, 32, 35-38, 40, 42, 43, and 47, and the wrong decisions in passages nos. 9 (atque), 21, 34 and 48. The locations are randomly chosen. These decisions mean merely to reflect a particular level of performance, which one hopes will seem realistic: the critic is right in 41% of passages, hesitant in 51%, confident but wrong in 8%. How credible each decision might seem to real-life specialists on Florus' writings is beside the point.

6.2. The determinate passages yield the following error percentages:


38[+]   29  33  33  33  12  29  29 
25  17  17  12  12  17  17 
25  25  17  21  21 
25  17  21  21 
42  25  25  25  38  38 
42  42  42  17  33  33 
42[+]   42  17  33  33 
50  17  42  42 
25[+]   17  17 
58  58 
Note the distortions introduced by the four wrong decisions.

In the construction of the map the few unique variants were included despite §5.7, as T and Z would otherwise be indistinguishable from S


Page 117
and Y.[81] The measures of distance (not tabulated here) between the manuscripts (including ω) yield the map of fig. 29.

6.3. Would these results yield correct decisions in the indeterminate passages and detect the four wrong decisions? The first pair of rival readings are diram NOPQRX, duram STVYZ. While diram is attested by NO, never caught erring together, the lowest error percentage among the pairs formed from STVYZ is 33; moreover, NOPQRX surround ω while STVYZ all stand 'west' of it; hence diram is rightly chosen. The truth is identified no less readily in thirteen other indeterminate passages: nos. 7, 8, 13, 18, 20, 24, 26, 28, 29, 33, 44, 46 and 49.

In passage no. 2, N stands alone. While the lowest error percentage for any pair among OPQRSTVXYZ is 4 (OS), the figure for N exceeds 38; the odds favour the majority reading, especially since the percentage of 4 results from a single passage (no. 48). In confirmation, O-Z surround


Page 118
ω on the map. Great imbalances in error percentages, and the fact that one group surrounds ω, similarly identify the correct reading in four other indeterminate passages: nos. 12, 15, 27 and 31. In passage no. 15, the group thus preferred are in the minority. OPQX surround ω (see fig. 20), while the majority (NRSTVYZ) lie within the wedge NωR, which spans only 66° at ω; OPQX also yield a better error percentage (4PX versus 25RS). In one wrongly determinate passage (no. 48), where the investigator followed NR against the rest, the error percentage of NR (29) and the fact that they subtend only 66° at ω should make him think again.

So far the error percentages and the map have favoured the same reading. Where they are contradictory, or even where either is equivocal, the decision is doubtful. No. 6 splits between NRSTVYZ, OPQ and X. The error percentages (25RS, 17OP, 25+) and the angles subtended at ω (66°, 40°, 0) are indecisive. Fig. 28 confirms that any of the groups could agree in error—e.g. NRSTVYZ in L's, OPQ in O's, X in its own—so that one is right to hesitate. Again in no. 19, NSTVX and PQRYZ show similar error percentages (12NX, 17PR) and neither subtends an obtuse angle at ω. Here too the genealogy shows that the agreement pattern is indecisive, since NSTVX might reproduce an error of C, and PQRYZ an error of P.

Sometimes the percentages seem decisive but the map suggests caution. In passage no. 45, OX depart from the majority, whose error percentage is far lower (4NP against 12OX). Yet OX subtend 154° at ω, an angle large enough to suggest that they never err together, which is in fact true. Their error percentage of 12 reflects three wrong decisions among the determinate passages (nos. 9, 34 and 48). The map, however, which utilises all the distances, in effect rejects the high error percentage of OX as inconsistent with the overall structure. This will give pause to the investigator both here and in the three misjudged determinate passages. Again, in the split NPQRSTVYZ:O:X at passage no. 41, the error percentages strongly favour the majority (4NP:25:25+), which are in fact correct. On the map, however, the decision is less certain: the majority span at ω an angle (<NωP) barely obtuse at 96°. This should alert us to the possibility, with this pattern of agreement, that O or X might be correct and NPQRSTVYZ might reproduce an error of D (see fig. 28).

Conversely, the error percentages may modify the conclusions of the map. In the split OPQR:NSTVXYZ at passage no. 16, the angles subtended at ω (69° and 120°) favour the latter group, but the error percentages are equal (12OR, 12NX). The pattern is therefore equivocal. Indeed, over its two occurrences, NSTVXYZ err (through C) in no. 16, while


Page 119
OPQR err in no. 21. Even clearer, on the map, seems the choice between NRSTVXYZ and OPQ in passage no. 39, the angles subtended at ω being 136° (>RωX) and 40° (<OωQ). The error percentages, however, do not differ overwhelmingly, being 8RX versus 17OP, or, if no. 48 has by now been dropped from the determinate passages, 9RX (= 2/23 x 100) versus 13OP (= 3/23 x 100). This pattern too is best treated as equivocal. Over its three occurrences, NRSTVXYZ are correct in no. 39 but err (through C) in nos. 25 and 36.

Altogether, nineteen of the twenty-five indeterminate passages are now correctly decided, while six (nos. 6, 16, 19, 39, 41, 45) show an agreement pattern favouring no one reading. Of the four wrong determinate readings, one (no. 48) is discredited, but the agreement pattern will seem indecisive in the other three (nos. 9, 21, 34). Equivocal patterns are commoner in open traditions, as new cross-currents normally mean that new combinations of manuscripts share a source and are therefore liable to err together. Whereas an uncontaminated tradition could show at most one indecisive two-way split pattern, three appear here, namely OPQ:rell., OPQR:rell., and OPQRYZ:rell. The split OX:rell. will also seem ambiguous, as already stated, but in fact is not: OX deserve priority, as they have no common source except the original, while D is a source of the remainder.

6.4. For one who knows the genealogy, it is hard to imagine how much the investigator might reconstruct. He would note that O lies to the 'north-east' of ω, X to the 'south-east' and the remainder to the 'west'. Within the 'westerly' group, RYZ and especially PQ share a 'northerly' tendency with O, and NSTV a 'southerly' tendency with X.[82] Provided that he is no longer certain that OX err together, he may draw fig. 30a. While the apparatus criticus sometimes confirms the division PQRYZ: NSTV of the 'westerly' manuscripts (nos. 4, 10, etc.), R or YZ or all three often join some or all of NSTV in what the critic now sees as error (nos. 1, 3, 15, 38, etc.); hence some adjustments (fig. 30b). The inferred manuscripts aβγε prove to be the lost E, D, C and L respectively.[83] While a



Page 120
complete reconstruction could not be expected, this outline does explain the main patterns of agreement in error.

6.5. Dom Quentin's manufactured tradition does not provide an ideal test. A controlled experiment with many subjects copying according to a contaminated genealogy withheld from the investigator would have been more realistic. But extensive trials with hypothetical examples are essential to the development of text-critical methods. Failure in such a trial indicates at the very least a limitation, if not a fatal flaw. It should be obvious that any method must start from a statement of the assumptions limiting it, and be derived logically from these. Too many investigators, however, compose or borrow procedures whose intricacies so absorb them that they lose sight of the underlying logic. The justification for every result—the priority accorded to this combination of manuscripts, the common ancestor posited for that group, and so on—must be clear. An elaborate technique is no substitute for a sound rationale.