What it takes to be able to edit a text?

I have found a very interesting thought on what it takes to edit a text, to do a good job at editing an ancient or medieval text. Maybe some Romanian “young scholars” will stop for a minute and think about their editing and translating work so far.

“But it may be worth pointing out a common fallacy concerning the qualifications required [to edit an ancient or medieval text]. For editing a text is not a sufficient qualification to have a long-standing interest in it, to have written articles or books about it, in short, to be firmly associated with it in the public’s mind. Nor even to have investigated all the manuscripts and sketched the history of the tradition: codicology and textual criticism are very different things, and an expert on manuscripts may produce a dismal edition. Publishers are sometimes at fault here. Wishing to publish an edition of such-and-such an author to fill a place in some series, they turn to whoever is known to have busied himself with that author – no matter how – and invite him to undertake the task. Flattered by this compliment, and sharing the publisher’s assumption that his acquaintance with the text qualifies him to edit it, he readily accedes, not stopping to reflect that this will expose his philological weaknesses to his contemporaries and to posterity more ruthlessly than anything else. A better policy for publishers, when they want a good edition of something, would be to look for someone who has done a good edition of something else, even if he has not hitherto concerned himself with what they want. (West’s note: “Reviewers of critical editions should be chosen on the same principle.”)

M.L. West, Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique; B.G. Teubner, Stuttgard, 1973, p. 62.

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