From Manuscript to Print: the Evolution of the Medieval Book

How the Classics Survived
horizontal rule
The main problem of literary production in a manuscript culture was distortion of the text by weary or careless scribes who introduced errors at successive stages of copying. Modern scholars strive to recover the most complete or earliest version of a text by comparing all the manuscripts of a given work and analyzing differences between them.

Another complexity of textual transmission via manuscript was the tendency for works to be misattributed. The work on display here, known as the Rhetorica ad Herennium or De ratione dicendi (its actual title has been lost), was written in the first century B.C. At some juncture before the fourth century A.D. it was misattributed to the great orator Cicero, and this false attribution held for a thousand years. In the 15th century Renaissance humanists proved, on the basis of linguistic principles, that Cicero could not have been its author. Yet even after the connection to Cicero had been disproved, the manual’s long tradition compelled printers to publish it among Cicero’s works.

These books represent various stages in the preservation and reiteration of a classical text: medieval manuscript, early printed editions, and modern critical editions with apparatus and translation.

continue to
Manuscripts in the Age of Print

Introduction
the Sacred Word
Churchbooks
Private Prayer
Letterforms
Leather and Chains
Medieval Music
Schoolbooks
How the Classics Survived
Manuscripts in the Age of Print
Evolution of the Book
Appetite for Destruction
Manuscript Facsimiles
Cornell's Medieval Books
credits
home
Cornell University Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections Cornell University Library

Copyright 2002 Division of Rare & Manuscript Collections
2B Carl A. Kroch Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 14853
Phone Number: (607) 255-3530. Fax Number: (607) 255-9524

For reference questions, send mail to: rareref@cornell.edu
If you have questions or comments about the site, send mail to: webmaster.