Textual criticism (or lower criticism) is a branch of literary criticism that is concerned with the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of manuscripts. Ancient scribes made errors or alterations when copying manuscripts by hand. Given a manuscript copy, several or many copies, but not the original document, the textual critic seeks to reconstruct the original text (the archetype or autograph) as closely as possible. The same processes can be used to attempt to reconstruct intermediate editions, or recensions, of a document's transcription history. The ultimate objective of the textual critic's work is the production of a "critical edition" containing a text most closely approximating the original.
There are three fundamental approaches to textual criticism: eclecticism, stemmatics, and copy-text editing. Techniques from the biological discipline of cladistics are currently also being used to determine the relationships between manuscripts.
The phrase lower criticism is used to describe the contrast between textual criticism and "higher" criticism, which is the endeavor to establish the authorship, date, and place of composition of the original text.
Read more about Textual Criticism: History, Basic Notions and Objectives, Process, Eclecticism, Copy-text Editing, Cladistics, Application of Textual Criticism To Religious Documents, Classical Texts, Legal Protection
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“Nothing would improve newspaper criticism so much as the knowledge that it was to be read by men too hardy to acquiesce in the authoritative statement of the reviewer.”
—Richard Holt Hutton (18261897)