Its Potential

A. Regarding Its Potential

At least three different interpretive issues need to be kept in mind when preparing an edition of this work:

  • The relationship of the various manuscripts within a particular language family;
  • The relationship of the various versions over against one another;
  • The manner in which this tale came into the Middle Ages and influenced the various vernacular forms.

For the first it is imperative to have all of the textual data at hand in order to compare each and every textual witness. For the second it is crucial to have established a critical text that will allow one to set the earliest form of each language-version over against the others with a view toward reconstructing the most primitive form of the work. For the third it is important to have all of the Latin material available in order to determine which Latin exemplar was used as the base text for the creation of a new vernacular version. We might also add that the other textual data may be useful for positing possible Latin originals that no longer exist. In the case of the Saltair Na Rann one must consider the very real possibility of a Greek form of the text, unlike any we now possess, underlying the text in question.

Both the enormous volume of material and the numerous ways in which this material needs to be deployed for various research purposes argues strongly for an electronic publication of the material. For any printed publication of material will not only have to restrict the amount of data that will be presented but it will also have to structure the presentation of that data to enhance one particular research strategy or the other. The electronic publication that is envisioned here will be flexible enough to allow scholars to employ the textual data accordingly to whatever research purposes they may have.

The electronic publication will allow for the following:

  • Access to each and every form of the text in both its manuscript form and a transcription into a machine-readable form. In addition a reconstruction of the most primitive form of the text and a translation of that form into English will also be offered. At present we have not prepared any facsimiles of the actual manuscripts but shortly a full presentation of the Armenian material will be available. Because the manuscript evidence for the other material is so vast a complete presentation of all data will only be possible with the assistance of collaborators. This work will take years to complete, but again an electronic form of publication will facilitate such collaboration and allow for regular updating of the addition as more information becomes available.
  • In addition to the question of access to a wide range of material we also encounter the problem of the presentation of the material. In order to study the text both in a single language tradition or across the varies language families it is imperative to be able to present the material in a synoptic fashion that will allow for easy comparison of the variants. Indeed as the study of the New Testament Gospels has shown, a display of variant but related textual traditions in a synoptic fashion allows for far greater comprehension of each the Gospel texts on its own.

But there are other problems involved in the production of an edition of the Vita. Two prominent ones immediately come to mind:

  • First which texts do we wish to compare? In the printed synoptic text published by Stone and Anderson in 1994 we printed the best critical texts that were available for the 5 language families. Yet it is clear from the very outset that we have assembled a synopsis that privileges an interest in reconstructing the most primitive form of the text. The interests of a scholar of Medieval literature would require a completely different layout. For example a person working on Lutwin's Eva und Adam would be most interested in comparing this vernacular version against the possible Latin exemplars in Germany that the author might have used. The scholar working on the Middle English Cursor Mundi or Canticum de Creatione would be interested in the Latin exemplars available in England. For someone working on the Old Irish Saltair Na Rann a close inspection of the Greek, Armenian and Georgian versions would be necessary.
  • Secondly how do we wish to view the texts: in English translation or in the original? Conventional scholarly editions always privilege the language of original composition for obvious reasons. But in the study of this text this would not be the best tact to take as no single scholar could possible work in the original across the complete range of versions. In a print version one can establish only one manner of usage. The Synopsis produced by Stone and Anderson published the Greek and Latin in the original but employed the language used by the editor of the editio princeps for the other versions (the logic being that very few scholars would be capable of using the Armenian, Georgian and Slavonic in the original). In an electronic publication the user could choose for each version whether the original and/or English translation was to be displayed.

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