I am a poure dyuel, and my name ys Tytyvyllus … I muste eche day … brynge my master a thousande pokes full of faylynges, and of neglygences in syllables and wordes.
This poor devil is Titivillus, the patron demon of scribes. He works on behalf of Satan, introducing errors into scribes’ manuscripts.
This must have kept him busy, for scribal errors took many forms:
- Errors of omission:
- Homeoteleuton: the scribe paused, then resumed writing but skipped ahead because of the similarity of the endings of two lines, thereby leaving out a passage
- Homeoarchy: skipping ahead because of the similarity of the beginnings of two lines
- Haplography: copying once what appeared in the exemplar twice (e.g. “pewterer” reduced to “pewter,” or “that that” reduced to “that”)
- Errors of addition:
- Dittography: mechanical repetition, by trick of memory (“that that” when original had only “that”)
- Contamination: extraneous element from elsewhere appears on the page
- Errors of transposition:
- Metathesis: reversing letters, words, or phrases
- Errors of alteration:
- Unwitting: accidental mistranscription; e.g. the First Folio Anthony and Cleopatra V.ii.87 gives “an Antonie twas” where Shakespeare had written “an autumn twas”
- Deliberate: the scribe acts as editor to correct and improve the original (naughty scribe)
Manuscripts copied by scribes were the main form of transmission of ancient works of literature and science. Errors were therefore a serious matter – a tonsured teenager might mangle the words of Sophocles or Eusebius.
No doubt I have made all of these errors (and invented some new ones) since starting this blog in 2011. But at this time of year I like to offer you, dear reader, a short list of the most popular posts published in the past 12 months.
2. 10 surprising discoveries during my first marathon (148 views)
4. Leaving West Ealing (119 views)
5. What is the highest circulation magazine in the world? (114 views)
So, posts written on the basis of hard-won experience and research triumphed… I suppose I should ditch my clickbait-listicle content strategy for 2015.
This is post #27 for the year, so I averaged one post every two weeks. In 2014 this blog had 6,789 views, which is +10% up on 2013. Thank you for reading! Do sign up for posts by email, or follow me on Twitter for new & old posts, plus a bunch of other nonsense.
And adieu to you, Titivillus – we shall meet again in 2015!