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Constitutio textus, or the determination of the critical text, is used in two related but distinct contexts. The term can refer broadly to the process of producing a critical text within the genealogical or Lachmannian method. In Paul Maas’s handbook, the term is not specifically defined but can be associated with the overall editorial process: “The task of textual criticism is to produce a text as close as possible to the autograph (original) (constitutio textus)” (Aufgabe der Textkritik ist Herstellung eines dem Autograph (Original) möglichst nahekommenden Textes (constitutio textus); 1960, 5). Consequently, it is possible to use the term broadly to cover the process of textual criticism: recensio, the examinatio and the establishment of a stemma codicum; emendatio, that is selectio, divinatio and combinatio; and dispositio, the final stage of producing the critical edition in which the text is laid out, apparatuses drafted and other complementary materials such as an introduction, descriptions of manuscripts and notes are incorporated. In this sense, the term appears to be employed in the sense of 'the reconstruction of the text'.

However, most contemporary scholars employ a rather more restricted definition whereby the term refers to the stage of producing a critical edition in which readings are compared and reduced to that which will appear in the edition. In this respect, the constitutio textus stage follows recensio (or overlaps with the final stage of recensio), that is the analysis of readings in witnesses that produces a stemma codicum, and precedes the final stage of preparing the edition, dispositio. For example, in Olivieri’s work on Philo’s De Providentia the constitutio textus is clearly seen as following the construction of the stemma and the elimination of codices descripti. One specific quotation demonstrates this usage of constitutio textus: “L offers a rather good text, but it is never the only source of the best variant reading: it can therefore be excluded for the constitutio textus" (Olivieri 2010, 110).

In this more restricted concept of the term, constitutio textus clearly applies to the efforts to produce a text as close as possible to the original or, depending on the principles of the editor, the archetype, but not to the entire, overarching process of reconstructing a text.



– Maas, Paul. 1960. Textkritik. 4th ed. Leipzig: Teubner. – First ed. 1927.
– Olivieri, Mauri. 2010. “Philo’s De Providentia: A Work between Two Traditions.” In Studies on the Ancient Armenian Version of Philo’s Works, edited by Sara Mancini and Paola Pontani, 87-124. Leiden: Brill.

In other languages

Latin term used throughout.


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  1. Unknown User (15conti)

    Hi all, I set constitutio textus up with two usages a broad and a more specific. Generally speaking, the results I found from web searches used constitutio textus as a stage post-recensio. But in some cases we differ, and I think that may derive from the formulation in Maas.

    Under emendatio, we have: Emendatio (“correction”) is the second major stage of the so-called Lachmannian method of textual restoration (constitutio textus), placed between recensio and dispositio. Which would suggest that the term is used with the broader sense of the first paragraph of the entry.

    And similarly, under recensio: It is thus a part of the constitutio textus in Lachmann's method.


    (Will delete comment at launch!)