Digital Editions of Primary Documents: A Collaborative Modern Approach to Ancient Texts

Claude Hanley, Stephanie Neville, Charlie Shufeider, and Alex Simrell (College of the Holy Cross)

The Holy Cross Manuscripts, Inscriptions, and Documents (MID) Club encourages undergraduates to pursue original research, in collaboration with faculty members, in codicology, epigraphy, paleography, and various languages. Our research, focused on faithfully recording every scribal mark on various antique primary sources, is made possible by the availability of openly-licensed photographs. We make our digital diplomatic editions public on the internet so that any interested party can view and analyze our work. Students of different years, majors, and experience levels create these editions. This work encourages a familiarity with the technologies appropriate for editing texts digitally and those necessary for carrying out systematic analyses of observed patterns across large portions of text.

Within the multi-institutional Homer Multitext project, we are creating diplomatic editions of various Greek manuscripts of the Iliad. Recently, our analysis of the Iliad’s oldest complete manuscript, the tenth-century Venetus A, resulted in our finding a correlation in the scholia, or footnotes, between text reuse and references to Alexandrian Homeric scholars.

The Homer Multitext project has inspired similar research within the club. One such endeavor focuses on three Latin manuscripts of St. Jerome’s Chronicle. Through our analyses, we have seen intentional variations between the documents that demonstrate the role of the scribe as a chronologist, rather than a simple copyist.

By producing our editions, we seek to increase the accessibility of these texts while also analyzing them to better understand the tradition of each unique work.