Monday, April 16, 2012


Antonia Giannouli, Elisabeth Schiffer (ed.), From manuscripts to books / Vom Codex zur Edition. Proceedings of the International Workshop on Textual Criticism and Editorial Practice for Byzantine Texts (Vienna, 10-11 December 2009). Denkschriften der philosophisch-historischen Klasse, Bd. 431. Veröffentlichungen zur Byzanzforschung, Bd. 29. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2011. Pp. 216. ISBN 9783700171324. €73,40.

Reviewed by Inmaculada Pérez Martín, CSIC-Madrid (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

This is the first book published on the crucial question of the transformation undergone by Byzantine texts in their route from handwritten manuscripts to contemporary critical editions. Any student of the Greek language who opens a Byzantine codex for the first time will feel the puzzlement which is the grounds for this volume: the amazement produced by the remarkable differences between the manuscripts we have and the editions from which we study Classical and Byzantine literature. After a few minutes, the inexperienced reader of a Greek manuscript will realise how strong a convention printed Greek is and how different was the Greek that a Byzantine reader could expect to read in a contemporary copy. This is especially evident when we read Homer or Pindar, where the absence of some marks or a different orthography can mislead the reader. But Byzantine texts "in learned language" (p. 18, vernacular Greek texts are not covered here) are also written with an orthography that editors do not respect and a punctuation (or stixis, to use the Greek word) which is less syntactical than adapted to the performance of the text (Reinsch in pp. 175-184).

Several scholars have reflected in the past on these differences between the punctuation and orthography of Byzantine manuscripts and modern editorial praxis. Two of them, Diether Reinsch and Jacques Noret, have contributed also to the volume under review, but other previous proposals and analyses (for example, by Enrico Maltese and Carlomaria Mazzucchi) are dutifully presented here by Antonia Giannouli in a balanced and clear way (pp. 17-24). But if problems were detected long ago, editorial praxis has changed only in a scattered way. Even so, what this volume announces is that important editions of Byzantine texts, such as the one being prepared by Reinsch of Michael Psellos' Chronographia (pp. 180-181), will follow innovative criteria and will follow the punctuation of the only complete manuscript of the text (Par. gr. 1712).

More than one and a half millennia (and much scholarship) elapsed between Homer or Pindar's epoch and their earliest preserved codices, but the editor of a Byzantine text can also face an acute dilemma in the form of an autograph, that is a text written by its author (this definition is rendered necessary by the misuse of the term in some pages of the volume (p. 96), where an autograph is mistaken for the copy made by a scribe whose name we know). Evidently, in autographs, mistakes can only be the consequence of distractions and the modern editor must decide between being loyal to the original authorial spelling and punctuation or submitting to modern conventions.

Unpredictably, not every contributor has chosen to analyze an autograph copy. In fact, sometimes manuscripts seem to have been picked out at random (Vindob. Med. gr. 4, Corpus Hippocraticum, s. X, pp. 136, 163). This is not the case in Dendrinos' study (pp. 25-54) of a partial autograph by Manuel Bryennios (Sofia, Center Ivan Dujčev, Ms. D.268), produced with the help of Makarios Makres. After a careful codicological analysis, the author compares the praxis of both scholars in syllabic division and transliteration of Latin words.

The papers presented by the editors of the volume deal with manuscript copies that are very close to the composition of the text. Giannouli examines (pp. 79-84) the Didaskaliai (mainly on the Psalter) composed by Leo Balianites, a patriarchal teacher from the 12th century, preserved by Escorial Y.II.10. These texts were composed to be performed in front of an audience of students, as indicated by the punctuation in the manuscript, which is more rhythmic than syntactic.

Schiffer, who is preparing an edition of the Homilies of Germanos II, compares (pp. 185-192) the copies preserved in the mss. Oxford, Bodleian Library, Barocci 131 (dated after 1261) and Par. Coislin 278 (dated apparently in the 14th c., but there is no paleographical evidence for this) and points out several decisions made by the previous editor that do not respect the original orthography. Schiffer goes on to analyze the textual layout, proper nouns, and several marks. She concludes that these manuscripts display no peculiarities.

Another manuscript chosen for discussion is Vindob. Hist. gr. 8 in Panteghini's study (pp. 127-174), wrongly considered here the codex unicus of Nikephoros Xanthopoulos' Historia ecclesiastica, since we have another contemporary copy (Oxford, Bodleian Library, Barocci 142) and four more later copies. Following an outline shared by Schiffer, Panteghini compares the punctuation of the two editions and the codex and offers a sample of how a future edition could display the text respecting the original stixis.

The contribution of Jacques Noret (pp. 93-126), who is an authority on the subject, is rather surprising. He chooses a copy of Maximos Confessor made by Gregorios Kyprios around 1275 (Monac. gr. 225), displayed almost completely (ff. 1-20v, 30 Plates, some pages lacking). But no one has realized that the homogeneity of the evidence has been disrupted by the presence of a second hand in lines 1-11 of f. 9v (Pl. 13), which invalidates some examples. The point of reference in the analysis of the copy is not the edition of the text (in fact, Noret does not care which text was copied and does not even mention it) but an undefined "common usage" or "ancient praxis" (p. 94, § 5), which detracts from the credibility of the comparison. In p. 94 § 6, the statement that Gregorios writes the coronis differently from the apostrophe is perplexing, since its shape is the same as the smooth breathing.

Two contributions deal with the punctuation of documents: Gastgeber (pp. 55-78) presents the unique evidence of the Patriarchal Register (Vindob. Hist. gr. 47 and 48), where the confessiones fidei provide a good sample for different readings of clauses which can be attributed to the different levels in the scribes' literacy. In his paper, Tocci (pp. 193-206) gathers a well defined corpus of manuscripts and documents written in the fourteenth century by nine scribes. Among them, we find the famous notarioi Michael Klostomalles and Georgios Galesiotes as well as calligraphers such as Chariton and Ioasaph of Hodegon. All of them copied codices donated by John Kantakouzenos to Mt. Athos. This homogeneous corpus also proves to be consistent in its use of punctuation marks.

Finally, Metzler's contribution (pp. 85-92) is the only one that does not deal with the main subject of the volume (even if it fits the title). It includes reflexions on the different levels on which Byzantine texts can reflect Biblical language and how modern editions can display this strong influence. Exemples are taken from Cyril of Scythopolis, Procopios of Gaza, and Eustathios of Thessalonike.

After reading this volume, future editors of Byzantine texts will have to choose between adapting the text transmitted by manuscripts to modern editorial conventions or courageously and faithfully respecting the original punctuation of the manuscripts, when this is possible. As the editor of the History of Michael Attaleiates (preserved in two manuscripts, chronologically close to the composition of the text), I also found myself obliged to decide between following the original punctuation or modifying it according to the syntax. My transcription of the first manuscript was faithful to the original; the reading of the second one showed differences with it, however, as well as internal inconsistencies. Finally, I decided to facilitate my readers' task: I respected the orthography of some clauses but freely transformed the stixis in order to make the text understandable.

Accordingly, in my opinion our choice as readers of Byzantine manuscripts and editors of texts is not between being conservative or innovative: what is at stake here is the legibility of future editions. If the reproduction of a rhythmic punctuation prevails, reading a Byzantine text will be more difficult than now. This reminds me what happened when the heirs of the Byzantine scholars in Italy became Greek printers and made the wrong decision: after various tests, they reproduced in their printed books the ligatures and abbreviations of the Byzantine handwriting. They had found a good way of deterring students of Greek from pursuing their learning…

Table of Contents

Antonia Giannouli,
 Introduction, 17-24.
Charalambos Dendrinos, Palaiologan scholars at work: Makarios Makres and Joseph Bryennios'
Christian Gastgeber, Das Patriarchatsregister von Konstantinopel Aspekte der Interpunktion und Satzstrukturgliederung, 55-78.
Antonia Giannouli, Leon Balianites, Exegetische Didaskalien Zur Interpunktion im Codex Escorialensis Y-II-10, 79-84.
Karin Metzler, Bibelzitate im apparatus fontium zwischen „Bibelsprache" und spezifischer exegetischer Ausdeutung, 85-92.
Jacques Noret, Une orthographe relativement bien datée, celle de Georges de Chypre, patriarche de Constantinople, 93-126.
Sebastiano Panteghini, La prassi interpuntiva nel Cod. Vind. Hist. gr. 8
(Nicephorus Callisti Xanthopulus, Historia ecclesiastica): un tentativo di descrizione, 127-174.
Diether Roderich Reinsch, Palinodien eines Editors (Matthaios von Ephesos, Kritobulos von Imbros, Anna Komnene), 175-184.
Elisabeth Schiffer, Codex Baroccianus 131 und Codex Coislinianus 278 als Überlieferungsträger von Texten des Patriarchen Germanos II., 185-192.
Raimondo Tocci, Zur Interpunktion in Codices der Palaiologenzeit, 193-206.
Diether Roderich Reinsch, Nachwort, 207-208.

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