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In order to better understand the process of textual transmission it would be good to have an approximate idea of the loss rate of witnesses (manuscripts or early prints). This rate obviously varies widely according to the text concerned and the external history (e.g. war-loss is especially frequent). Trovato (2014, p. 104-108) tries to estimate numbers for some texts, mostly of prints of the early modern period. Nearly all examples he studied show loss rates of 80% upward within half a millennium, in several cases printed editions of more than 1000 initial copies have not survived at all. This makes it probable that equally low numbers of preservation must be reckoned with in antiquity and the middle ages, too.

Reference

– Trovato, Paolo. 2014. Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Lachmann’s Method: A Non-Standard Handbook of Genealogical Textual Criticism in the Age of Post-Structuralism, Cladistics, and Copy-Text. Foreword by Michael D. Reeve. Firenze: Libreriauniversitaria.it edizioni.

In other languages

DE: Verlustrate
FR: taux de perte
IT: tasso di perdita 


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