Saturday, January 28, 2006

Manuscript Copying

I have been participating in Rick Brannan's manuscript transmission experiment here. It turns out that copying neatly really is an acquired skill, not something you just do without practice or natural talent. Apparently I don't have much of either.

Here are some of my initial findings.

1. I copied word for word except for some small phrases, where I read the article or prepostion together with the following word. Sometimes I understood the Greek and sometimes I didn't. I started off trying to make sure that I understood it all the time but that meant I had to stop and think. Better not do that.

2. Longer words were more difficult but diphthongs and vowels that all sound the same are the worst. This word in line 6, συνειδησει, was particularly difficult to spell.

3. When the inflections match it is easy to copy two words together. του θεου or των χειρων make a unit.

4. For some reason eta was the hardest letter for me. I simply don't like it.

5. My most frequent error was skipping a letter. Occasionally I skipped a syllable in the middle of the word. Once I even missed a line but then I threw that page out. I think I made on average 4 mistakes per page, but possibly there are none on the first page. That means that I copied better when I was fresh and got worse as I became tired. (or lazy) The errors appear as small smudges where I wrote over top of a letter.

6. I copied 2-3 pages at a time. Maybe if I had slowed down the accuracy would have increased.

7. I was not satisfied with my ability to pronounce the words properly so I took a modern Greek NT to work with me and read parts of 2 Timothy with a Greek colleague at lunch. I was irritated at knowing that I didn't have a proper stress and intonation pattern. However, my colleague feels that my pronunciation is within striking distance of not sounding absolutely horrible.

8. I don't see very well with bifocals. Maybe I should consider getting reading glasses. Ultimately I copied most of this without looking at my writing. I read the original fine - it is point 20! But switching back and forth and trying to focus with bifocals was too laborious. This might indicate that some manuscript copiers would have to retire early. I don't have much trouble reading a laptop because I can adjust the angle of the screen. Should I have had a desk easel to copy on?

9. Like Rick, I feel that my own writing looks absolutely horrible, up and down, uneven and blotchy. However, I like the look of Rick's because of the colour and beautiful initial letter at the beginning. Overall his page is nicely formatted. He has organized his space well. I didn't really think of that.

Thanks to Mark D. Roberts for blogging here on the God of Imperfect Textual Transmission.


Kevin Knox said...

What a blast! I love your observations here. Opens up a whole new world of sympathy for the copyists. Very cool.

In every hands-on profession I have ever known, there are tricks that double and triple speed while increasing accuracy. Any thoughts about what those might be yet? They are usually non-intuitive, so I doubt it, but it's worth asking.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I have no idea. I have simply decided that this is something I am going to remain unskilled in. However, I can tell you that copying is subject to physical limitations. Like a hockey player, you had better have another career planned for the second half of you life!