Paratextuality, Materiality, and Agency

Elizabeth Buchanan (Assistant Professor, University of Findlay, Ohio)

The Evidence for Late Antique Egyptian Notaries as Financial Intermediaries between Creditors and Debtors

Essentially all extant credit acknowledgements from Late Antique Egypt represent peer-to-peer credit. Banks existed in this period and participated in tax collections and transfers of large amounts of money but did very few documented loans. Credit in late antique Egypt looked very much like credit in pre-modern French and English economies—with extensive use of peer-to-peer credit, driven by a lack of available coins and the seasonal nature of much of the income. An examination of the parties to the credit acknowledgement reveals many ordinary people making and taking loans from each other. The creditors and debtors frequently came from different towns or cities or from towns and adjacent rural areas, making it likely that there was intermediation to bring them together. The notaries who created these documents are the likely source of intermediation. With the disappearance of the village grapheia, and the reduction of public recording of private legal documents between the third and fourth centuries, the banks would not have easy access to information about the assets, debts, and payment history of individual for whom they may be considering lending money. This would significantly increase their risk of default unless they knew the individuals. The notaries who prepared the private legal documents for each community had that information and would have been in a much better position to intermediate transactions between creditors and debtors than the banks. There is not much direct evidence for intermediation by notaries, but this presentation looks at the available evidence to explore this function of the notaries.

Yunxiao Xiao (PhD Candidate, Princeton University)

Duties and Crafts of the Scribes: Handwriting, Materiality, and the Genre of the Tsinghua Manuscripts

According to the traditional narratives, the history of scholarship in early China was driven by the development of ancient texts, not people. Scribes were completely invisible and the names of only a few scholars remain; the names of those few scholars that do happen to be known are always associated with certain classics. However, as the transmitted sources left the ancient scribes in complete silence, the recently discovered manuscripts remind us that they were by no means voiceless.

By reading into a series of the Warring States (476–221 BC) literary manuscripts that Tsinghua University has in its collection, I find imperfect yet clear overlaps among the typology of paratextual and material configuration (e.g. title, slip numbers, and punctuation), the classifications of orthography and hands, and possibly also the genre of the texts. Such coincidence indicates that the duties and the crafts of the scribes of the Tsinghua corpus extend to both writing the texts and producing the manuscripts. Furthermore, when comparing this corpus with another important literary corpus, the Guodian manuscript, a high degree of consistency in orthography, handwriting, and many other physical features shows that, despite the intertextualities shared between these two corpora, they are two very different sets of material objects with distinct and distinctive standards of production, utilization, or preservation.

Finally, this study also emphasizes the idea that the significance of an excavated manuscript does not only lie in the ancient texts it conveys, but it also betrays the ancient text's physical reality—and, most importantly, it stands for a moment, a condition, and a group of people—as scribes, as artisans, or, maybe also as scholars like us.