Polygenetic Manuscripts in the Transmission of Aristotle’s Physics, Biology,
Theory of Science and Ethics
A web of layers characterises many important manuscripts transmitting philosophical and scientific treatises of Aristotle. The producers and immediate users as well as the users who worked with the manuscripts in later decades and centuries took part in a steady process of changing, supplementing and enriching the core material. Sometimes the first producers of a manuscript already combined the core text with commentaries and annotations in the margins and between the lines. Frequently, scholars added explanatory material, often including diagrams, throughout the manuscripts’ life. Older codicological units were at times re-combined or have had newly created units added to them to supplement or extend the contents, creating polygenetic manuscripts of a more complex nature. This project will investigate manuscripts of this kind that have a decisive role in the history of knowledge exemplified in the Aristotelean philosophical-scientific tradition of 10th to 15th century Byzantium, and analyse the different layers and their interrelations in detail.
The manuscript tradition in question is a prime example of multi-layered written artefacts. The project will identify the elements characteristic of this particular sub-set of manuscripts as they pertain to the general transmission and arrangement of knowledge and the specific requirements and contingencies of their users and producers. Furthermore, it aims to evaluate the constituent principles and compare their implementation in this context to those found in different manuscript cultures investigated in the Cluster.
Each of these written artefacts that constitute a re-assembled whole composed of earlier units (either physical or textual) from sometimes multiple independent contexts will be investigated as a material object in itself. We explore its history and the practices employed by the scribes, scholars and users that interacted with the various stages of constituents and composites. Examining the various layers will reveal not only their origins and individual fates, but also the relationships between core texts, commentaries and other annotation on the one hand and that between the re-constituted new units on the other.