Richard Rufus of Cornwall, In Physicam Aristotelis, ed. Wood, 76:
In the critical text itself, we do not reproduce the abbreviations, the punctuation, the capitalization, or the spelling. To do otherwise would be to make the edition inaccessible to modern students of philosophy and useful only to trained medievalists. Medieval spelling practice is never uniform and often unclear. So if we followed scribal practice, we might spell the same word differently on the same page, noting in the apparatus cases where the abbreviation employed made it imposible to determine what spelling was intended. Like manuscript abbreviation, capitalization, and punctuation, medieval spelling reflects scribal, rather than authorial, decisions. Retaining manuscript spelling would make it difficult for philosophers equipped with an ordinary Latin dictionary to get through the text; modernizing it makes the text accessible to people with minimal competence in Latin.Now most of this is fair enough. It would be impossible to reproduce most of what she mentions, as no two manuscripts ever agree on such things. Such and edition would be unintelligible to everyone, medievalists included. I also take offense at the jab at medievalists. Sadly, we are mighty among historians, but to philosophers we are mere nichileitates. One might mention that medievalists are just about the only ones actually interested in medieval philosophy. But I digress. Wood’s comment that such phenomena represent scribal, not authorial, intention is difficult to swallow. After all, all medieval authors wrote in ... (wait for it...) medieval latin. And in the case of Thomas Aquinas we have autograph material, which does not follow classical orthography. The Leonine commission is currently re-editing all their previous editions and preserving the original spelling. But all Wood may mean is that the individual spelling on a particular folio (say, “ydea” followed two lines later by “idea”) is not the result of authorial intention. Fine. Let’s move on to the final remark. Wood thinks that the manuscript spelling would make it hard for philosophers with an ordinary latin dictionary to get through the text, while modernizing (that word again!) the text means that minimally competent people will be able to read it. I have two responses to this.
1. Is it really that hard? Does ydea/idea, preterea/praeterea, ydemptice/identice, nichil/nihil really cause hardship? The only areas it might be tricky are when you have words that could be adverbs or adjectives: “obiective” could be either “obiective” or “obiectivae”. But context surely could be your guide (otherwise, I suggest attendence at one of the yearly academic conferences devoted to the theme of “Text and Context: Interdisciplinary Textual Communities”).
2. Why should it be accessible to people who are only minimally competent at latin? I would think that someone who was actually interested in reading philosophy in latin would not remain minimally competent for long. And someone who did not care enough to polish their latin would probably just be mining the text for something to run through the logic machine. Furthermore, I for one would not want to read an article about a medieval argument by an author minimally competent at latin; what guarantee would there be that they had the argument right? So, in the end, I think editions, like philosophy, should offer a healthy amount of forbidding gloom to the casual wanderer; enough to tantalize with half-guessed wealth, but not given freely from the street corner.