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Re: orion-list writing systems

Good Morning, Al,

Yes, I do presuppose that scribes do not edit, and for a very
clear reason - the same reason scribe's could find their fingers
or their heads cut off. Whether employed in a communal capacity or
working for one person only, a scribe was in a position of fidelity,
trust. A scribe who violated his or her trust was a traitor in the
fullest meaning of the word. He or she could start a war, create a
depression, cause a famine, put someone into bankruptcy, or send
people into captivity.

The ancients were perfectly aware of human cupidity and greed.
The idea that writing is to communicate comes from the Romantic
movement. Most un-Romantically, writing came about through trade:
the primary purpose of writing was -- and still is -- NOT to
communicate, but to control the word. The oldest extant examples
of writing are to control and prevent *fraud*.

Scribes controlled the word. Scribes as a class had to be trustworthy;
but humans are humans and various techniques were employed to keep an
eye on their work. On the whole, however, we are better off accepting
the fact that an "editing" scribe would be emending the auctorial voice.
He or she would be working in direct violation of the trust placed in
him or her... the punishments meted out for such acts reflect the
seriousness of the crime.

In terms of "editing," perhaps it should be pointed out that a text
is not necessarily the work of a professional scribe... while scribes
were not authors, authors could certainly be scribes, that is, they
knew how to read and to write. Authors sometimes did their own physical
act of writing. I might also add that unless an author was from a
completely different area, he would have learned the same scripts and
fonts as the professional scribes. When we see what looks like editing
we may actually have an autograph...
(I am thinking right now of AElfric's marginal note to his first series
of Catholic Homilies... same script written somewhat smaller, but quite
clearly the voice of auctorial authority speaking.)

I whole-heartedly agree with you that people too often do not
differentiate and use the term "scribe" as if all scribes performed
the same work... which they most clearly did not.

As I said at the beginning of this whole thread, however, people tend
to use the term "scribe" as if they were referring to calligraphers -
who do emend texts and who do employ variant and/or archaic forms for
artistic ends. So, while there certainly were deviant scribes around,
Bob, I'm not giving a subjective "ideal pattern." I'm giving an objective
report on the training and purposes of a group of highly trained
specialists who were also in a position of trust. Scribes were not
editors, nor did a scribe use xenographic exchange or variant forms
at random: There was always a reason.

Cheerfully yours,


PS: Bob, I've found the 'Exodus' notes - in the 4th (and bottom,
of course) legal file folder. It will have to wait for tomorrow,
though, I don't want to send too many messages in one day.

Dr. Rochelle I. Altman, co-coordinator IOUDAIOS-L  risa@hol.gr

For private reply, e-mail to "Rochelle I. Altman" <risa@mail.hol.gr>
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