[Humanist] 22.558 an illustrious predecessor

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Feb 22 11:55:29 CET 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 558.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sun, 22 Feb 2009 10:51:10 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: an illustrious predecessor

The following is from Bruce Metzger, "Three Learned Printers and Their 
Unsung Contributions to Biblical Scholarship", The Journal of Religion 
32.4 (October 1952): 254-62. Some here will find an inspirational 
parallel to their own professional lives, I trust.

> According to Allibone's famous and useful Dictionary, William Bowyer
> the younger will "long be remembered as the most learned English
> printer of whom we have any account." The third generation in a line
> of printers, Bowyer attended Cambridge but does not appear to have
> taken a degree. In 1722 he entered the printing business with his
> father. From this time until his death he was engaged in
> superintending his press and contributing to various scholarly works
> in the way of corrections, prefaces, annotations, and the like.
> Indeed, the learned men of the day found it a great advantage to have
> in the person of their printer a scholar whose erudition and
> classical taste could rectify their errors and improve their
> publications. Among his own scholarly productions in the field of the
> classics it will be sufficient to mention two. In 1774 he published a
> new edition of Cornelius Schrevelius' Greek Lexicon, to which he
> added words (distinguished by an asterisk) which he had himself
> collected in the course of his own studies. At the close of his life
> he produced a new edition of Bentley's famous Dissertation on the
> Epistles of Phalaris, inserting various learned remarks and critical
> comments. It is perhaps indicative of the general reputation for
> trustworthiness and accuracy in printing which the Bowyer press
> enjoyed that for nearly fifty years this house printed the votes of
> the House of Commons and in 1776 was appointed to print the Journal
> of the House of Lords and the rolls of Parliament.
> After publishing several editions of the Textus Receptus of the Greek
> New Testament (in 1715, 1728, 1743, and 1760), Bowyer decided to
> produce a critical edition worthy of the reputation of his printing
> house. The time-honored ecclesiastical text of the New Testament,
> which goes back to the edition that Erasmus prepared "at breakneck
> speed" (as he himself confessed) from a small handful of late Greek
> manuscripts, had secured an almost unbroken monopoly. Only a few
> hardy souls had been brave enough to question the validity of such a
> universally accepted text. It is to the credit of Bowyer that he not
> only questioned the validity of the Textus Receptus but published a
> critical edition which in many passages anticipated general critical
> opinion which was to prevail after the time of Westcott and Hort. By
> a system of square brackets Bowyer marked in his text not a few
> familiar passages which lacked good manuscript support....
> In addition to marking some readings with square brackets, Bowyer
> departed in many other passages from the Textus Receptus by
> introducing into his printed text the reading which the better
> manuscripts support. Here also he was a precursor of much of
> present-day scholarship....
> In many of these alterations of the Textus Receptus, Bowyer depended
> upon the critical judgment of Johann Jakob Wettstein, who had
> published his magnificent edition of the Greek New Testament at
> Amsterdam in 1751 and 1752. Whereas, however, Wettstein continued to
> print the Textus Receptus at the top of the page and relegated his
> judgments about the better readings to his footnotes, Bowyer must be
> credited with the courage of introducing many of the earlier and
> better attested readings into the text itself.
> The second volume of his critical edition contains a collection of
> conjectural readings which he and various other scholars had
> suggested for the text and punctuation of the New Testament. Although
> some, as would be expected, boggled at what they considered the
> unwarranted license of several of these conjectures, the work
> received the highest commendation from many scholars. In 1767, in a
> letter of thanks from the president and fellows of Harvard College to
> Bowyer for several benefactions of his to that college, they express
> themselves as follows: “....his work, though small in bulk, we esteem
> as a rich treasure of sacred learning, and of more intrinsic value
> than many large volumes of the commentators.”


Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.

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