Jerome cola et commata - "quod in Demosthene et Tullio solet"

Steven Avery

Einführung in Die Lateinische Bibel: Ein Handbuch Für Vorlesungen und Selbstunterricht (1928)
Friedrich Stummer
Isaiah preface - Latin
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Steven Avery


1. We begin with the shorter divisions, known as στίχοι, κῶλα, or κόμματα.

(a) Στίχος, Lat. versus, is properly a series of objects placed in a row. The word is used in the LXX. of the stones in the High Priest's breastplate (στίχος λίθων, Exod. xxviii. 17 ff.), the pomegranates wrought upon the capitals of the pillars in the Temple (στίχοι ῥοῶν, 3 Regn. vii. 6), and the rows of cedar wood shafts (τριῶν στίχων στύλων κεδρίνων, ib. 9). When applied to the art of writing, the word signifies a continuous line of letters or syllables. The extent of an author's literary work was measured by the stichi he had written; cf. e.g. Diogenes Laertius iv. 24, Κράντωρ κατέλιπεν ὑπομνήματα εἰς μυριάδας στίχων τρεῖς: Dionysius Halicarn. vi. 1126 πέντε ἢ ἓξ μυριάδας στίχων τοῦ ἀνδρὸς (sc. Δημοσθένους) καταλελοιπότος. The 'line' might be measured in various ways, as by the limits imposed upon the scribe by the breadth of his papyrus, or in the case of poetry by the number of feet in the metre; or again it might be fixed in each instance by the requirements of 345the sense; or it might depend upon a purely conventional standard. Evidence has been produced721 to shew that the last of these methods was adopted in the copying of Greek prose writings, and that the length of the prose stichus was determined by that of the Homeric hexameter, i.e. it was normally a line of sixteen syllables; in some instances the Iambic trimeter seems to have been the standard preferred, and the line consisted of twelve syllables722. The number of letters in the stichus was on the average 37—38 in the one case, and 28—29 in the other. Such a system served more than one useful purpose. Besides facilitating reference, it regulated the pay of the scribe, and consequently the price of the book. The number of the lines in a book once determined, it might be written in any form without affecting the cost723. The compiler of the Cheltenham list explains that dishonest scribes at Rome and elsewhere purposely suppressed or mutilated the stichometry724. Thus the careful entry of the στίχοι in the margins of ancient books, or the computation at the end of the number of στίχοι contained in them, was not due to mere custom or sentiment, but served an important practical end.

(b) Besides this conventional measurement there existed another system which regulated the length of the line by the sense. Sense-divisions were commonly known as κῶλα or κόμμετα. The colon, according to Suidas, is a line which forms a complete clause (ὁ ἀπηρτισμένην ἔννοιαν ἔχων στίχος; the comma is a shorter colon725.

This arrangement was originally used in transcribing poetry, but before Jerome's time it had been applied to the great prose 346authors; cf. Hieron. praef. ad Isa.726: "nemo cum prophetas versibus viderit esse descriptos, metro eos aestimet apud Hebraeos ligari, et aliquid simile habere de Psalmis vet operibus Salomonis; sed quod in Demosthene et Tullio solet fieri, ut per cola scribantur et commata, qui utique prosa et non versibus conscripserunt, nos quoque, utilitati legentium providentes, interpretationem novam scribendi genere distinximus"; praef. in Ezech.727: "legite igitur et hunc iuxta translationem nostram, quoniam per cola scriptus et commata manifestiorem legentibus sensum tribuit." Cf. Cassiod. de inst. div. litt., praef. Hesychius of Jerusalem († c. 433) treated the Greek text of the Dodecapropheton in the same way728: ἔστι μὲν ἀρχαῖον τοῦτο τοῖς θεοφόροις τὸ σπούδασμα στιχηδόν, ὡς τὰ πολλά, πρὸς τὴν τῶν μελετωμόνων σαφήνειαν τὰς προφητείας ἐκτίθεσθαι. οὕτω τοιγαροῦν ὄψει μὲν τὸν Δαβὶδ κιθαρίζοντα, τὸν Παροιμιαστὴν δὲ τὰς παραβολὰς καὶ τὸν Ἐκκλησιαστὴν τὰς προφητείας ἐκθέμενον· οὕτω συγγραφεῖσαν τὴν ἐπὶ τῷ Ἰὼβ βίβλον, οὕτω μερισθέντα τοῖς στίχοις τὰ τῶν ᾈσμάτων ᾄσματα . . . οὐ μάτην ἐν ταῖς δώδεκα βίβλοις τῶν προφητῶν καὶ αὐτὸς ἠκολούθησα.

Specimens of colometry may be seen in Codd. א B, where the poetical books are written in cola of such length that the scribe has been compelled to limit himself in this part of his work to two columns instead of dividing his page into three or four.

Among the lists of the books of the O. T. canon printed in an earlier chapter of this book (Part II. c. i.) there are three which are accompanied by a stichometry. We will now collect their measurements and exhibit them in a tabular form.


Steven Avery

Bernhard Lang

Handbook of the Vulgate Bible and Its Reception (2023)

The edition of the critically established text is presented per cola et commata, i.e., in accordance with Jerome’s way of presenting his translation, each short meaningful unit receives its own line, and there are no further marks such as commas or full stops. On the layout per cola et commata, see Malcolm B. Parkes: Pause and Effect. An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West. Aldershot 1992 (xvi, 327 pp.), p. 161.