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Paul Maas (Frankfurt am Main, 1880 – Oxford, 1964) was a philologist and a founding father of stemmatology. Maas studied at the universities of Berlin and Munich. After gaining his PhD (1902) in classical philology he taught in Berlin and Königsberg. As a Jew, he was persecuted by the Nazis and emigrated to the United Kingdom (1939), where he continued his career in Oxford.

One can say that the roots of all stemmatology are in the 19th and early 20th century, when German scholars Karl Lachmann and Paul Maas created strict principles for textual criticism, which are still commonly used by scholars, by philologists in particular. These principles are usually referred to as the method of Lachmann, even though Lachmann himself never wrote a guidebook about the methods he used; this was done later by Paul Maas, who is generally considered as the founder of the actual method.

According to Maas’s famous book Textkritik ‘The task of textual criticism is to produce a text as close as possible to the original (constitutio textus).’ Using Maas’s deductive methods, a scholar could reveal the relations between different manuscripts and decide which manuscript is the exemplar or copy of another, finally creating the full stemma and to reconstruct the original text as accurately as possible. Maas called this process constitutio textus. According to Maas, one can deduce the relationships between the different manuscripts in the stemma by examining the errors the manuscripts have. Maas calls these errors Leitfehler or errores significativi. (‘significant errors’). The search of these errors still forms the basis of all traditional textual criticism.

Maas tried to answer Joseph Bédier's criticism of the Lachmannian method, arguing (Textkritik, p. 29f.) that it is inherently more likely that manuscripts of not very sought-after classical works are copied only once (in which case the intermediate step becomes invisible if the manuscript is lost), or twice (leading to bipartite stemmata). Bédier instead suspected psychological motives among the modern editors making them prefer binary branchings.


– Maas, Paul. 1960. Textkritik. 4th ed. Leipzig: Teubner. – First ed. 1927.
 Mensching, Eckart. 1987. Über einen verfolgten deutschen Altphilologen: Paul Maas (1880–1964). Berlin: Technische Universität Berlin.

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