Does anyone actually find alphabetic sigla for manuscripts helpful, in a book? I’ve been sitting here trying to sort out Wormald’s system of sigla (for which the directory, for some reason, is on page 167, rather than sensibly at the beginning or end of the book), and listing manuscripts mentioned in other books which I may also have to add, and it occurs to me that the whole enterprise is more confusing than helpful.
There’s no central directory- so my manuscript, Cotton Nero A.i, is variously ‘G’, ‘I’ and ‘Y’, just in the books I have around me on the floor at the moment. A sensible option might be to refer to everything by it’s Ker catalogue number, but then what do you do with new books, or relevant books not in Anglo-Saxon? Individual sets of siglum, relevant to the topic at hand, are the only really tenable option. For it all to make sense, though, you have to presume that the reader is reading your whole book- and that’s an unrealistically optimistic outlook. Fact is, people pick up books and flick through them looking for the bits they need: unless your work is really relevant to them they’re not going to read the whole thing, and searching around for lists of siglum is a downright nuisance.
Me, even when I am reading a whole book, I get the alphabetical sigla horribly mixed up. Are we talking about MS G part i, or MS GI? Which one was MS O again? Personally, I’d be quite happy if books were routinely identified by a short form of their MS title. It’s hard to get confused about what ‘CCCC 201′ means, and personally I’d find it easier to remember the difference between ‘CCCC 201′ and CCCC 265′ than MS C and D. Perhaps it’s that the longer string of numbers turns on my pattern-retention reflex, which is actually pretty good.1
Does anyone else feel this way?
Of course, the CCCCs are a fairly simple example. If only we could call them 4C201… My manuscript, BL Cotton Nero A.i(B) is rather more problematic, though. I can’t call it Nero- there’s another legal text, Cotton Nero E.i, which I may have to refer to. I can’t call it Nero A.i, because I have to refer to the first part of the composite, Cotton Nero A.i(A). So that leaves me with Nero A.i(B), which is rather lengthy and perhaps contains too many different types of information to read smoothly (as opposed to the CCCCs, which contain only two pieces of information even though the shorthand is hardly short).
I could call it Nero B, as opposed to Nero A, and specify that any other Nero manuscripts will be reffered to by their full shelf/number/part designations. Or I could use a siglum- in which case, I’d have to use sigla for the whole lot. Or I could teach MS Word to autocomplete Nero A.i(B) and save me the bother of typing it out every time…
What do you think, people?
Which would be the least odious form to read?
1. Which is why I never forget a randomly generated pin number. Don’t ask me why I can’t remember my own mobile phone number, though.