6

I'd like to typeset an excerpt of Metalogicus from Ioannis Saresberiensis. The Patrologia Latina version can be found here (MPL199 – the exact reference of the excerpt is Lib. III, Chap. 4, col. 900c.)

The issue I have is that the editor seems to use three different punctuation items:

enter image description here

  1. word . Word : regular period, as in English (gray).
  2. word , Word : regular comma, as in English (purple).
  3. word , Word : specific comma, surrounded by two space characters (orange).

Question: Is there really such a thing as space-comma-space in Latin, or "orange" commas are just regular commas that are badly positioned?

Or in other words, should I typeset the second line like this:

nanos, gigantium humeris incidentes , ut possimus

or like this?

nanos, gigantium humeris incidentes, ut possimus

  • Out of curiosity--is that the first known mention of the saying, "We stand on the shoulders of giants"? – brianpck May 5 '17 at 14:24
  • @brianpck That is at least what claims related Wikipedia page. – ebosi May 5 '17 at 15:09
8

As we all know, the Romans did not have punctuation. Modern (and not so modern) editions of Latin books generally follow the typographic norms of the country where they are printed. For example, Latin texts published in France and Germany use lower-case initials for adjectives derived from proper nouns (latina, like latin, lateinisch), while those published in England use capitals (Latina, Latin). In modern French typography you leave a space before and after complex punctuation marks (? ! ; :) but only after simple punctuation marks (. ,). But in older books you find spaces both before and after commas and full stops. Here is an example from an old book about typography: https://books.google.fr/books?id=Kdmpyl_TXQMC&pg=PT12&hl=fr#v=onepage&q&f=false The editors of the PL were simply following the then current French style.

4

The typesetter just used extra space before some of the commas to help get the text block properly justified on the right edge. So [space],[space] is completely equivalent to [no space],[space]. You should typeset without the space before the commas.

Update:

When interword spacing is used for justification, one of the longstanding standard principles in typesetting is that you want to avoid having the large white spaces in multiple (esp. 3 or more) successive lines of text line up in such a way that they form a noticeable path or 'river' down the page (rivers that run over just 2 lines can be quite hard to avoid, esp. in a text that has many short words); as I consider the occurrences of [space],[space] in the example, it looks to me that space is being used in front of the comma instead of an extra wide space after it precisely where this is necessary to prevent such rivers.

And I think this explanation really does apply to all instances of [space],[space] that are shown. Imagine that 'incidentes' in line 2 were followed by [no space],[large space]; in this case, there would be a strong diagonal river in the first 3 lines to the right of 'nos' – 'incidentes,' – 'non'. Likewise, imagine that 'videre' in line 3 and 'acquieverim' in the last line were followed by [no space],[large space]; in this case, there would be a 4-line river running to the right of 'videre,' – 'eminentia' – 'extollimur' – 'acquieverim,'.

Note also that, technically, there's a river at the beginning of lines 2–6 (to the right of 'nanos,' – 'plura' – 'visus' – 'altum' – 'Et'). In this case, though, all the spaces are regular size – or perhaps even a bit thinner – so the effect is mitigated and the alignment of spaces over 5 lines doesn't 'read' as a river.

  • I wondered if this could be it. It seems odd to use space before the commas for this though rather than adjusting the inter-word spacing, which seems like it is less likely to be stand out. – Asteroides May 5 '17 at 1:19
  • When interword spacing is used for justification, one of the standard principles is that you want to avoid having the large white spaces form a noticeable path or 'river' down the page; as I look at the occurrences of [space],[space] in the example, it looks to me that the space is being put in front of the comma rather than after it precisely to prevent such rivers. – cnread May 5 '17 at 1:42
  • @cnread That's a good observation. Can you add it to your answer? Also note that there is a large gap between corporis, and sed but the comma is not in the middle. This seems to indicate that not all stretching leads to space before a comma, and the location is consistent with avoiding rivers. – Joonas Ilmavirta May 5 '17 at 1:53
  • Yes, but I don't see that the large space after 'corporis' particularly forms a river with the spaces in the lines above and below it – the large spaces those three lines are offset enough to prevent one. By contrast, imagine that we had 'videre,[big space]' in line 3 and 'acquieverim,[big space]' in the last line; in that case, there would be a 4-line river running to the right of 'videre,' – 'eminentia' – 'extollimur' – 'acquieverim,'. – cnread May 5 '17 at 2:40
  • 2
    @JoonasIlmavirta. Yes, it is a woefully small sample to derive certain principles from; I should probably qualify my answer a bit more or add a caveat. And it doesn't surprise me that you found that things start to look inconsistent in a larger sample from the book, because, from what I know about the subject, it's quite likely that different pages of the book were set by different people, each of whom could have applied a somewhat different set of principles. – cnread May 5 '17 at 4:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.