A manuscript on which an edition is based (Greg 1959: 19), usually the supposedly best manuscript. In English also called the base text (but there may be a subtle difference, cf. collation), sometimes the German expression Leithandschrift is also used in English. The details of the usage vary to some point (cf. Sahle 2013: 171). Altick and Wright define the copy text as (1971: 134): "The text of a work, in print or in manuscript, from which a new edition is set. More narrowly, the edition or manuscript which is closest to the author’s intention and which is used as the basis for a critical edition". Greg saw that a copy text should only be used for accidental readings (cf. variant reading) whereas the Lachmannian method should be used for substantial ones.

See also editions, types of.


– Greg, Walter Wilson. 1950. “The Rationale of Copy-Text.” Studies in Bibliography 3: 19–36.
– Altick, Richard D., and Andrew Wright. 1971. Selective Bibliography for the Study of English and American Literature. London: Macmillan.
– Sahle, Patrick. 2013. Digitale Editionsformen: Zum Umgang mit der Überlieferung unter den Bedingungen des Medienwandels. Norderstedt: Books on Demand. 

In other languages

DE: Leithandschrift, Basistext
FR: texte de base, manuscrit de base
IT: manoscritto guida / copy-text (English term used)


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