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Institute for the Study of the Ancient World



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DAY ONE: The Scribal Mind: Textual Criticism in Antiquity

Conference organized by Emily Cole (ISAW Visiting Assistant Professor)

The intellectual exercise of textual criticism is far from a modern invention. Without the regularity provided by printing, there were constantly different texts in circulation, and it was up to learned individuals to figure out how to make sense of them. While no manual on the assembly and editing of ancient manuscripts existed in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, or China, scribes diligently worked through copies of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, Sumerian Incantations, or Buddhist manuscripts, and noted variants as they went along. It is the intention of this conference to draw out the details concerning how those scribes produced a text tradition, added commentary to new editions or marginalia to old ones, and what these practices might say about the culture in which the scribes were working. In three related panels, conference participants in various fields of study will consider the conception, process, and culture of textual criticism in the ancient world with the intention of better understanding the place of scribal communities in antiquity.

Panel 1: The Practice of Ancient Textual Criticism
September 21, 2017

"Imprimatur before the Printing Press"
Theo van den Hout (University of Chicago)

"‘Old-style writing’ vs. ‘The Script of Antiquity’: The Ordinary and Extraordinary Interpretations of the Han-period guwen 古文 Discoveries"
Adam Smith (University of Pennsylvania)

"Galen: Text Production and Authority"
Claire Bubb (ISAW, NYU)

"The Magic of Monastic Manuscripts: The Transmission of the Psalms as a Venue for Coptic and Arabic Textual Conventions of Ritual Power"
Stephen Davis (Yale University)

Respondent: Martin Kern (Princeton University)

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Registration is required at

Please note that separate registration is required for Day 1 (September 21st), Keynote Lecture (September 21st), and Day 2 (September 22nd).

The conference is co-sponsored by ISAW, the NYU Center for the Humanities, the NYU Center for Ancient Studies, the NYU Classics Department, and the NYU East Asian Studies Department.

Event Details

  • 09/21/2017
  • 11:45 AM
  • ISAW Lecture Hall
RSVP Required

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