The Manuscript Editing
When only one MS of a text survives, "editing" the text
for publication is fairly straightforward. But where multiple
MSS survive the various versions of the text must be compared
and related to each other. The goal is to get as close as possible
to the original author's text. A number of early editions of
many texts were made from only one MS, or from a defective version.
A modern editor must also take earlier editions into account,
especially if the MS basis for the earlier edition has since been
The example used here to illustrate the process is the 1973 edition
by Gertrud Böhlig of John Kaminiates' De Expugnatione
Thessalonicae. [John Kaminiates' De Expugnatione Thessalonicae, ed. Gertrud Böhlig, Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae IV,
(Berlin: Walter De Gruyter, 1973)]
I The Manuscripts
The first task of an editor is to locate and read (often on microfilm)
the surviving MSS. In this case there is some question about
the authenticity of the text, but the author proposes himself
as writing in the tenth century. All the MSS are fifteenth century
or later. For the editor the goal is not, however, to discuss
the text, but to present what is available.
In this case, there are four surviving MSS:-
- V = Vaticanus gr. 172, fol. 1-90v, written circa 1439
- B = Barberinianus gr. 241, fol. 31r-106v, written sometime
in the 16th century
- L = Athous ex Laura L 55, fol. 147r-205v, written in 1511
- P = Parisinus gr. 1031, fol 15r-62v, written sometime in the
MSS V, B, and L contain the whole text, MS P, only the first part
II The Editions
The text was edited three times before:-
- by Leo Allatius in 1653, based on Vat gr. 172, with a Latin
- by Francis Combefis in 1685 in the Paris Corpus of
Greek historiographical texts. Combefis knew of Allatius edition,
but also used the MS Barberini gr 241. This text was reissued
in Venice in 1729. A Latin translation was attached, which was
also used in the Bonn Corpus edition, and the version given in
Migne, PG 109.
- by Immanual Bekker in 1838 the Bonn Corpus of Greek
Böhlig's task was to used all the surviving MSS to establish
a new critical edition.
III The Stemma
The first task was to establish a stemma, or family tree of the
MSS. By comparison of texts, Böhlig's proposal (p. xxviii)
B,V,L, and P refer to the existing MS. The Greek signs refer to
presumed earlier versions. As can be seen, Böhlig thinks
her MSS are all three removes from the original.
The earlier MSS are lost, and what remains are the MSS marked
as B, V, L and P.
IV The Text
Based on surviving MSS, Böhlig, keeping all common elements,
and noting variants in notes, then establishes a final text. The result is
a page which presents as clearly as possible both the text and information
about the content of the text as well as about the text's transmission. This
means, in effect:-
- The text itself, with all ligatures, abbreviations, etc. written
out and accents added where needed (this is less an issue with
minuscule MSS than uncial ones in which accentation was sometimes
omitted). Corrections of scribal errors are also made. The editor
may also divide texts into "chapters" and add line numbers.
Since Böhlig was not the first editor, she includes a reference
to equivalent pagination in the previous standard edition, that
of the Bonn Corpus.
- Informational footnotes -- explaining words, dates, locations,
- Quotation and citation footnotes -- Greek writers did not
always identify the sources they were quoting and this is a task
taken on by modern editors.
- Editing footnotes --giving variant readings in MSS and, in
this case, previous editions.
Here, to show what Böhlig was working with, are facsimiles
of two of the manuscripts - the Vaticanus and the Lavriote versions.
Cod. Vatic. Gr. 172, fol. 1 
Cod. Athous Laurae L 55, fol. 147 
Click on the images to load full size versions
With such manuscripts as a basis, Böhlig produces the next
image as her first page. A text that is much more useful for scholars
studying the text to work with.
The author and maintainer of this site is Paul
Halsall [a picture!] . He can be contacted by email at
Please do not hesitate to mail comments or suggestions.