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A synoptic edition is an edition which renders the text of two or more manuscripts in parallel columns across one or two pages, or above each other, in horizontal rows. The term is closely linked to the practice of making printed editions and thus limited to the typographical space created by one or two pages in a book.
A synoptic edition can also render other sources than single manuscripts, for example bringing together already existing editions. The main advantage of a synoptic edition is that it makes textual comparison easy for the reader. If the textual variation within a manuscript tradition is high, it can overload the critical apparatus, making a synoptic edition (or several documentary editions) a viable alternative for the editor.
There are a number of problems to consider for the editor of a synoptic edition, such as how to deal with transpositions or larger additions or omissions in the text. For this reason, more than one synoptic edition can easily be made on the basis of the same source material. Today digital editions allow more freedom of space and can be an alternative to a synoptic edition.
For a fuller discussion of the term, see editions, types of.
In other languages
DE: synoptische Edition
FR: édition synoptique
IT: edizione sinottica