An eclectic edition is an edition which is based on more than one manuscript. The eclectic edition will not reflect a single manuscript throughout, such as a documentary edition does, but tries to approximate an earlier stage of the textual transmission by selecting readings from several manuscripts. The eclectic edition will select the supposedly best readings wherever there are conflicting readings in the manuscripts.

In many branches of textual editing and especially in branches where a truly critical edition is attainable, an eclectic edition is usually seen as a less stringent and sometimes naïve type of edition. For this reason, the term ‘eclectic’ often has a pejorative ring to it, as in ‘lack of any stringent method or perspective’.

In the editing of Biblical texts, where the manuscript material is so overwhelming that a truly critical edition is impossible, eclectic editing is an accepted strategy, but a distinction is sometimes drawn between “thoroughgoing eclecticism” and “reasoned eclecticism” (cf. Amphoux 2014, 239–241).

The term ‘eclectic’ is also used as a neutral term within the editing of modern texts by leading American critics, following the copy-text theory of Walter Wilson Greg. The edition of the works by the Swedish author August Strindberg (1849–1912) is one example of such an eclectic edition, in the sense that the edited text is based on the original manuscript, but that later changes presumably by the author will be introduced in the edited text if deemed substantial (cf. Kondrup 2011, 126–127). Rather than searching for the original text, as the editors tend to do in classical and mediaeval philology, the editor of an eclectic edition of modern works tends to search for the intention of the author.

For a contextual discussion of the term, see editions, types of.


– Amphoux, Christian-Bernard, ed. 2014. Manuel de critique textuelle du Nouveau Testament. Bruxelles: Safran.
– Greg, Walter Wilson. 1950. “The Rationale of Copy-Text.” Studies in Bibliography 3: 19–36.

– Kondrup, Johnny. 2011. Editionsfilologi. København: Museum Tusculanum.

In other languages

DE: eklektische Edition
FR: édition éclectique
IT: edizione eclettica (only in the sense of "hybrid")


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