July 7, 2010
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Oldest autograph manuscript?

A Tinderbox user sent me this BBC report of the discovery of musical patterns in Plato. The BBC describes Dr. Jay Kennedy (Manchester) as “working from the original scripts,” which might be taken to mean that the study was working from Plato’s own manuscripts.

No autograph manuscript of a literary work survives from Greco-Roman antiquity. Indeed, I’m having a tough time discovering what the oldest surviving literary manuscript might be. Do you know? Email me.

Ground rules: the manuscript must have been written by the hand of the author or, if this is how the author customarily worked, dictated by the author to his or her customary secretary or scribe. The primary purpose of the work must be publication, not personal memoranda, private notes, or personal correspondence. We’ll interpret these strictures generously, so work written in the form of a letter but clearly intended for a general audience does count.

Updates: British literary manuscripts online (Guardian)☙ Sumerian incantation with a colophon