Chart Before Jerome

Before Jerome of Stridon produced his revised Latin version of the Christian Bible in about 400 CE, the version that remains in use today, a Latin edition by translators unknown had existed and had been in wide use. The Great Stemma, the world's oldest network diagram, is product of that culture.

My new reconstruction of the Great Stemma appeared several weeks ago, initially in an English translation. Hot off the press today is an update containing the Vetus Latina or Old Biblical Latin text.

Seeing the chart reconstructed to the original shape is amazing enough. Seeing it in its original language from the time before Jerome adds to the verisimilitude. We don't know exactly when the Great Stemma was made. It was certainly before 427 CE. If it was not made before 400, its ignorance of Jerome's work is in no way surprising. It took centuries for the Jerome Bible to establish itself.

Flipping text upside-down and making it land dead centre in every circle or roundel were among the challenges in the initial reconstruction. One of my difficulties this time round was squeezing these Vetus Latina labels, which mostly take the stereotypical form of "Salomon filius David" (Solomon son of David), into the roundels.

It helped to adopt a condensed/narrow font (CSS: font-family: "Arial Narrow", "Helvetica Condensed", Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;), but many of the labels still burst the confines of the circles. In a handwritten chart, you used to be able to vary the text size or squeeze it close together, or split words in unconventional ways. With modern, regularized, typographical text, that is hardly possible, and I did not want to make the text any smaller or it would not have given the impression the chart used to make, so I have allowed labels to spill when they are too long. Tell me what you think.

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