: Relating the Manuscripts in T w o Texts from The Canterbury Tales Time was, no study of a premodern text was complete without a stemma of its manuscripts. The distribution of variant readings was used to reason out the logically necessary relations between the manuscripts, and these could be expressed as a family tree in which the manuscripts were nodes and the copyings were branches, or as a bracketing which distinguished closer from more distant relations. The stemma once established could then be used (in a rather circular fashion) to guide the editor in the choice of readings; the stemma was logically entailed by the distribution of variants, thefinaltext by the stemma. The reason this method worked well for m a n y classical texts (and it did work well) was that there were typically few manuscripts, or at least few lines of authority, to choose from. W h e n this was not the case, as so often with medieval texts it is not, the simplicities broke down. The approach taken by George Kane in his edition of the A text of Piers Plowman^ is typical of that of modern editors: after a lengthy review of
Parergon – Australian & New Zealand Association of Medieval & Early Modern Studies, Inc. (ANAZAMEMS, Inc.)
Published: Apr 3, 2001
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