Manuscrit: tout document écrit à la main; par extension, on y inclut parfois des documents dactylographiés ou imprimés (‘le fonds manuscrit de Proust à la Bibliothèque nationale comporte des carnets, des cahiers de brouillons, des cahiers de mise au net, des dactylographies et des épreuves corrigées’) (Grésillon 1994, 244).
The manuscript is not the text; it holds, it signifies the text. What we ‘have’ is the manuscript alone. We use it as a starting point to arrive at the text, and we go back to it to verify the text we have attained (by interpreting the manuscript). The manuscript record is in its contingency irrelevant for the text itself, but essential for the constitution of the text. (Zeller 1995, 43).
A work’s manuscripts are clearly distinct from the text; although they lead to the text, they also keep reminding us that they are prior and external to it. To grasp the vast movement that, with increasing precision, produces the final text, without covering up the many divergences operaring inside its transformation–such is the critical work of manuscript analysis. This means changing the critical status of the holograph dossier from undifferentiated “manuscripts of the work” to “avant-texte.” Following from a good deal of other preparatory work, this operation represents the essential stakes of the scientific bet introduced by “genetic” textual criticism (de Biasi 2004, 38).