In college post-mish as I was studying biblical languages I gained an interest in the subject of textual criticism. I never had a class in it, but I remember spending a lot of time in the library reading about it, which I’ve followed up with additional readings since, such as Metzger, Aland, Ehrman, Wurthwein and Tov. Even then, as a young student, the thought occurred to me that someone needed to do this kind of work for our modern LDS scriptures. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one to have thoughts along these lines, as in recent years a great deal of text critical work has been done for our LDS scriptures. The gold standard is what Royal Skousen has done over the last two decades with the BoM. The JST now exists in a very large critical edition. The D&C isn’t there yet, but with the ongoing work of the JSPP it will get there.
The latest entry in this type of study tool is Brian M. Hauglid, A Textual History of the Book of Abraham: Manuscripts and Editions (Provo: Maxwell Institute, 2010), volume 5 in the Studies in the Book of Abraham series.
Let me avoid the suspense by saying upfront that this is a terrific volume. I found it to be very well organized and executed.
The book begins with a history of the BoA. In describing the work of translation, Hauglid is careful to rely on various journal and other records and not make unsupported assumptions. He proposes a new system of identification of the BoA manuscripts, which if widely adopted will help to avoid some of the confusion in the old labels. He then gives a kind of verbal stemma with his understanding of the genetic relationships among the BoA mss. He believes that the oldest mss. we have were visually copied from a lost ur-text rather than created at the same time by simultaneous dictation, and articulates evidence for that view (I’m sure the counterargument will be forthcoming in some venue).
Next is an historical text of the BoA. This is not an eclectic text, but rather based on the T&S publication. Footnotes are then used to identify all variants in the mss., published editions and Kirtland Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar mss. (a complete record of the latter is set forth in Appendix 2). The sigla used are the same as those used in the JSPP (Robin Jensen verified the transcriptions), so there is a certain consistency with the documentary editing standards being used in that much larger project.
Next come presentations of the six Ab mss. and the Appleby journal entry. Each begins with an introduction detailing issues of provenance, paper, ink, scribes, and so forth. Then there are gray-scale images of the mss. with facing page transcriptions.
There are five appendices:
1 is a timeline of the translation and publication of the BoA.
2 identifies all the places in the Egyptian alphabet and grammar mss. that have text used in the BoA. (It would have been too big a job to include the actual alphabet and grammar mss. in this publication; they are being edited for a separate publication in a future volume of the series.)
3 is a set of complete color images of all the mss, as well as the lead plates used to print the three facsimiles (very cool!).
4 contains images from the Appleby journal.
5 contains images from Talmage’s 1888 edition of the BoA showing his mark up of the text for the then new edition he was preparing (also very cool!).
Brian is a friend, an excellent scholar and a really good guy. I’m pleased to report that this latest contribution to our corpus of critical editions is a worthy addition, and a must for serious students of the BoA.