From Manuscript to Print: the Evolution of the Medieval Book

How the Classics Survived
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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.

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Manuscripts in the Age of Print

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

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