DAY ONE: The Scribal Mind: Textual Criticism in Antiquity

Conference organized by Emily Cole (ISAW Visiting Assistant Professor)

ISAW is committed not to schedule public events on holidays that would prevent anyone from attending on account of religious observance. We deeply regret that nevertheless by our oversight the conference "The Scribal Mind: Textual Criticism in Antiquity" was scheduled to take place on Rosh Hashanah, and we apologize to all who were therefore unable to engage in the conference.

-Alexander Jones, Leon Levy Director

*** Video Recordings from this conference are now available to view ***

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. It is the intention of this conference to draw out the details of 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

Moderator: Roderick Campbell (ISAW, NYU)

11:45am - Opening Remarks
Emily Cole (ISAW Visiting Assistant Professor) 

12:00pm - "Imprimatur before the Printing Press"
Theo van den Hout (University of Chicago)

12:30pm - "‘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)

1:00pm - Lunch Break

2:00pm - "Transcribing Authority: Leveraging Texts and Text Production in Galen"
Claire Bubb (ISAW, NYU)

2:30pm - "Monastic Oracles: The Ritualized Function of the Psalms in a Coptic Liturgical Manuscript from the White Monastery"
Stephen Davis (Yale University)

3:00pm - Tea Break

3:30pm - Respondent: Martin Kern (Princeton University)

4:00pm - Discussion

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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.