Wednesday, December 27, 2017


The Quiet Building Up of Facts

Henry Bradshaw (1831-1886), The Early Collection of Canons Known as the Hibernensis: Two Unfinished Papers (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1893), p. 44:
When all this preliminary process has been gone through, there remains the primary task of examining thoroughly the text of the work itself. It is here that most editors are content to begin their labours, perhaps indeed not even at this point; being content to do all their work upon a mere transcript, or even a collation, of a manuscript which they have themselves never seen; incapable, for the most part, of perceiving that any good can possibly arise out of an attempt to study the history and, so to say, the setting or surroundings of the material books which enshrine the literature upon which they are engaged. But the quiet building up of facts, the habit of patiently watching a book and listening while it tells you its own story, must tend to produce a solid groundwork of knowledge, which alone leads to that sober confidence, before which both negative assumption and ungrounded speculation, however brilliant, must ultimately fall. It is to be hoped that our schools of history may year by year foster more such methods of research.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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