Dingbats and Doohickeys in the Venetus A

This post was written by Brian Clark (Holy Cross ‘15) and Alex Simrell (Holy Cross ‘16). In it they observe the practices of the Venetus A scribe when he has too much material for his usual layout of certain types of scholia on the same page, and they draw some preliminary conclusions from those observations. Their work was accomplished during the Holy Cross Summer Research program in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and was supported by the Center for Hellenic Studies. — Mary Ebbott

During our work on Iliad 18 this summer, our team found evidence that supports the theory that the scribe of the Venetus A intentionally wrote certain types of comments into specific predetermined regions on the folio. Certain folios still bear the marks that divide up the page into these different areas. Generally, a folio has the text of the poem, surrounded by five categories of scholia: main, intermarginal, interior, interlinear, and exterior. We do not yet fully understand the function of each different group, but we now know that the placement of these groups matter. Perhaps the position on the folio indicates something about the source material for the comment.

Sometimes, when dealing with a very dense page, the scribe was forced to break his rules about the placement of scholia. For example, folio 248v, which covers Iliad 18.480–18.504, is highly packed with comments about the astrological bodies found on the shield of Achilles.

Folio 248v of the Venetus A manuscript: view it in detail in the Homer Mulitext manuscript browser In the exterior margin, there are three scholia which are not written in the usual hand of the exterior scholia (you can see a typical exterior scholion above these three). Additionally, these scholia have distinctive connecting signs that connect the scholia to the interior margin.

Exterior margin detail of 248v: see zoomable version here The presence of these connecting signs—dingbats or doohickeys, if you will—are common in other manuscripts, such as the Venetus B, and are similar to the numbered footnotes in the Upsilon 1.1 [see this earlier post for more on how the Venertus B and Upsilon 1.1. link their scholia to the poetry]. 248v is not the first instance of these connecting signs in the Venetus A, but it is just now that we are able to draw conclusions based on our observations over the years.

Detail of interior margin of 248v: see zoomable version here The use of these signs supports the claim that the scribe intentionally laid out this manuscript with a desire to place certain scholia in specific regions of the folio. By adding these signs, the scribe is guiding the reader not to take these three scholia as exteriors, but rather to read them as part of the interior scholia. On this crowded folio, there is not enough room in the interior margin for the scribe to write all of the interior scholia where they belong. As a result, he was forced to write these three scholia outside of their intended location.

Detail of 248v showing both exterior and interior margins of 248v: see zoomable version here The first two connecting signs are clearly in the interior margin, and you can see how filling that space with those two comments would have made the margin far too crowded. The last one, however, is written in the interlinear position, above the word ἀρωγοί. Still, we feel that this last scholion is meant to be an interior scholion. The space where the scribe would have placed this connecting sign is taken up by another scholion, thereby forcing him to move the sign to the interlinear position. One could theorize that he trusts his reader to recognize this scholion as an interior, rather than as an interlinear, due to the length and content of the comment.

Another argument for these seemingly exterior scholia to be taken as interior scholia is the nature of their comments. In addition to the different scribal hand used for the exterior scholia, these comments generally lack any introductory or explanatory material. Typical exteriors are comprised of just a few words, while these three scholia offer a more complete explanation of the comment.

Further, the signs do not link the scholia to a specific word in the Iliad line. For example the second scholion, which comments on Iliad 18.499 (ἀνδρὸς ἀποφθιμένου· ὃ μὲν εὔχετο πάντ᾽ ἀποδοῦναι), reads παρα Ζηνοδότῳ “αποκταμενου” καὶ ἐν ταῖς πλείσταις καὶ ἔστιν οὐκ απιθανος ἡ γραφή ⁑

Zenodotus writes the word “αποκταμενου” [instead of the word “ἀποφθιμένου”] and this is the reading in most editions. This is not an untrustworthy reading As you can see, this comment is not about the word directly next to the connecting sign (that is, ἀποδοῦναι), but instead it provides a multiform for the second word of the line, ἀποφθιμένου.

Not only does a folio like this help us better understand the practices of a medieval scribe, but it also is another example of the benefits of a diplomatic digital edition that is linked to citable evidence. A printed edition can say that these scholia are “out of place,” but cannot accurately show the function of these connecting signs. Our editions preserve the original placement of these scholia while assigning them intelligent labels based on the evidence of the scribe’s normal practices

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