Today we read ancient Greek and Latin texts in versions that were assembled at least a millennium after they were written. To what extent do the current versions faithfully reflect the originals, and what changes have the latter undergone? This is a historical question, which however implies to a more strictly operational one: when attempting to publish a new edition of one of those works, what procedures allow us to achieve our goal? This is the stuff of classical philology, a discipline already cultivated in ancient times (at least since the Great Library of Alexandria) and which later matured into the scientific study of the transmission of texts. Using specific and intriguing historical examples, the author puts his philological skills at the service of readers to guide them among this science’s key concepts (such as variant, archetype and stemma), its masters, and its practical methods.
Luciano Canfora is emeritus professor at the University of Bari and editor-in-chief of the academic journal “Quaderni di Storia”; he also writes for the Italian daily newspaper “Corriere della Sera”.