Wednesday, September 24, 2008

3. How to Track Down a Conjecture - A Note on Method

This is the third instalment of a series on conjectures in the Nestle editions. See the sidebar for other posts.

In a comment on my posting on 1 Thes 2:16, Peter Head asks whether there are any short-cuts in tracking down the source of a given conjecture in the NA apparatus, compared to the following steps:

1. get a basic idea of the era of the person;
2. check the older detailed commentaries that are likely to discuss this sort of thing;
3. locate the original source in a good library.

The discussion is important enough to be given a separate posting. The general problem is the following. The Nestle editions indicate numerous conjectures in their critical apparatus, but the information consists of only two elements: a reading and a name. How does one proceed to find out which author is meant, and what the original source for the conjecture is (assuming that the author proposed it in a written source)?

Well, I agree with Peter’s method, but I do have some preferences and some short-cuts. Most of the following, by the way, applies just as well to conjectures that did not make it into the Nestle apparatus, but which are mentioned without proper references in commentaries and articles.

To begin with, I already have a detailed list of any conjecture’s first appearance in any Nestle edition, which gives me a first terminus ante quem. Besides, in many cases it is not very hard to guess the author (‘Erasmus’; but try e.g. John 20:17 ‘Lepsius’/‘Lipsius’ or 2 Tim 3:10 ‘v. Wyss'), and for many authors, the source is not hard to guess. In the case of Erasmus, for instance, his Annotationes are the obvious place to go, and there indeed his opinion on Col 1:15 (see NA25) and Jas 4:2 is found.

The key term for the most important short-cut is ‘collections’. It may be true that especially older German commentaries (KEK (Meyer), KNT (Zahn), HNT (Holtzmann)) discuss many conjectures, but one fares much better with special sources of collected conjectures.

The first collection to mention is Wettstein. If the conjecture occurs in Wettstein’s 1750-1751 edition (or in the list found in the 1730 Prolegomena), the possible period becomes much shorter, of course, and in most cases, the author can be identified with confidence. The second collection is from the same century, namely Bowyer’s Critical Conjectures (various editions up to 1812), as important as Wettstein, with even the advantage that Bowyer regularly gives a - rudimentary - reference (he actually gives one if he happens to have one).

The other collections are found in the second half of the nineteenth century. Monographs, dissertations, and articles by scholars in the ‘Dutch School’ are very useful. First came the general books by van Manen and van de Sande Bakhuyzen. Later, dissertations by Franssen, van de Beke Callenfels, de Koe and Baljon gave more detailed discussions of conjectures on individual books of the NT. Together with a series of articles by Baljon, these detailed discussions eventually formed a collection covering the entire NT (except Acts and Revelation).

Needless to say, one would have to have some command of the beautiful Dutch language in order to use these sources (just as Latin for Wettstein and English (and German!) for Bowyer). And we all know that references in those times were not always very clear, but in many cases they are just sufficient to track down the source.

For 1 Thes 2:16, for instance, I now notice that I could have used one of the articles by Baljon (or van Manen’s book) as well, but I had already noted Lünemann’s reference in my files.

A good library is indeed essential, or actually several good ones. Luckily, the Netherlands is a small country. The Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung turned out to be available in microform at the Nijmegen Radboud University. Sometimes nowadays one can be even more lucky and find books and articles on Google Books or, to name just the two most important sites. The future may be bright for this type of research.

Now that the short-cuts are discussed, the necessary roundabout routes should be mentioned as well. The most important problem is that the information on conjectures and their authors in the Nestle editions is not always reliable. Conjectures can have earlier authors (but how could one possibly know that?), they can have been withdrawn, or proposed quite differently by the authors that are mentioned, etc. Besides that, the Nestle editions often mention only one conjecture for a given textual problem, whereas the nature of conjectural emendation (and the scholars’ indépendance d'esprit) more often than not leads to several efforts worthy of attention. Historical research of NT conjectural emendation is intricate, to say the least.

In the end, one of the remarkable results in tracking down conjectures is that most riddles remain for the period after, say, 1890. More recent books and articles are of course easier to find, but the manner in which the conjectures found their way into the Nestle apparatus can at times be very obscure. I sometimes speculate about someone simply writing a letter to Eberhard Nestle, or to Paul Wilhelm Schmiedel who then informed Nestle. In any case, there is still a lot of work to be done here.


Peter M. Head said...

Thanks Jan,

Helpful as always.


Wieland Willker said...

Another short-cut would be to write an email to the Muenster team.
But if they still know all these references?

Jan Krans-Plaisier said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Wieland, but I thought of that already. When I asked - informally - whether much information on the conjectures was still available in Münster, the answer was mixed: a lot is lost, but some papers should still be there. But in any case, the institute has no organized records of the conjectures and their sources. I was also told that a large part of the Nestle correspondence and other papers is in Stuttgart. I will hopefulye be able, in coming months, to make a trip there and see for myself.
Thus,at least in some cases, one would rather expect Münster to send me an email than vice-versa ...

Wieland Willker said...

Perhaps this is your market niche, Jan!
Make yourself THE expert of NT conjectures!
Collect them, group them, stemmatize them ...


Seriously, I think conjectures have their value in TC studies and we need at least one expert in the world on this.