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In the margins of the g'mara are many notations indicating changes that various rabbis (Bach, G'ra, Tzon Kadashim, Shita M'kubetzes, etc.) made in the wording of the g'mara, seemingly to resolve difficulties that arise with the text. (Also there are some in other commentaries, not published in the margins.) Presumably these rabbis would maintain that the original text of the g'mara was what they amended it to and that it had gotten mangled over the years.

  1. Can someone confirm that last presumption ("these rabbis would maintain...") with a source?
  2. Have there been recent finds (more recent than the notations) of old manuscripts of the g'mara that 'proved' the notations right, i.e. that were worded in line with the notations?
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For a nice example of how the Gra essentially rewrote page after page of the Yerushalmi, see maatikei-hashemua.org They used rather modern methods to uncover the Gra's handwritten notes and then did extensive analysis on the changes he made. –  Curiouser Jul 11 '11 at 17:18
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1 Answer

All of the risonim (starting from Rashi and Tosafot) take up the task of determining the correct wording of the gemara. All of the commentators who do this maintain that the version they correct it to is the correct version, and whatever they saw on the page had gotten mangled.

The Bach's emendations were speculative, based on the opinion that it solves certain problems (or often simply makes the text understandable) if the correct text were what he says in margin.

The Gra's emendations were often based on manuscripts and he had his own collection of manuscripts for this purpose.

The Oz V'hadar gemaras have a collection of corrections, some of which have been in the margins of gemaras for ages, others are researched from old printings and manuscripts.

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Thanks: I never knew that the G'ra's were manuscript-based. –  msh210 Jul 12 '11 at 4:46
    
"Additionally, based in part upon this, Y.S. Speigel notes the Vilna Gaon did not use manuscripts or earlier printed editions when he amended the text." seforim.blogspot.com/2006/06/vilna-gaons-talmud.html See the citation there for the full discussion in Speigel's book. –  Curiouser Jul 13 '11 at 0:15
    
@Curiouser: thanks for the information. I though I had read that the Vilna Gaon used manuscripts from the ArtScroll biography. Now I'll have to find the biography again, check it out, and see whether I misremembered, or whether they do disagree with Speigel. –  Chanoch Jul 13 '11 at 13:04
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@Curiouser: I looked it up, and it seems I misremembered. –  Chanoch Jul 18 '11 at 0:45
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