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The word is derived from the Greek adjective αὐτόγραφος ‘written with one’s own hand’. In manuscript studies, an autograph is a witness written by the author himself. For texts from antiquity and the middle ages it is very rare that such autographs are today still extant (examples in Chiesa 1994). For scholars of stemmatology, matters become more complicated if the author revised the autograph, sometimes repeatedly. Copyists may copy revised and unrevised text or choose between the two, which may lead to a situation of having an archetype containing variants in some places. An example of an extant mediaeval autograph is the work Periphyseon by 9th century author John Scotus Eriugena (cf. Jeauneau & Dutton 1996) in Reims, Bibliothèque Municipale, 875. This manuscript is written in several hands, at least one of which seems to be the author’s. In case the author wrote only one autograph and it is extant, it is equivalent to the text’s archetype.

References

– Jeauneau, Edouard, and Paul Edward Dutton. 1996. The autograph of Eriugena. Turnhout: Brepols. 
– Chiesa, Paolo, and Lucia Pinelli, eds. 1994. Gli autografi medievali: Problemi paleografici e filologici. Spoleto: Centro italiano di studi sull'alto Medioevo (CISAM)

In other languages

GE: Autograph
FR: autographe
IT: autografo

PR

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