Rush-That-Speaks (rushthatspeaks) wrote,

The Recovery of Ancient Philosophy in the Renaissance; James Hankins, Ada Palmer, 365 Books, Day 129

The unofficial theme of the last two days is 'trying to get all the relevant information to fit in the subject line'.

A note: one of the authors is my roommate.

So this is a book that will be profoundly, life-savingly, devastatingly useful to about ten people in the world, and quite useful to some others, and interesting to a wider selection, and completely irrelevant to the world at large. I fall into the 'quite useful' category, although I am using it as background research for my novel and not for anything academic.

If you are studying intellectual history, it is important to know what books were available at what points in time. If the specific thinker you are interested in did not have access to a work, or did not have access to it in a relevant language, or had access to it only in manuscript, it makes a big difference. The Catalogus Translationem et Commentariorum is attempting to go through all the significant ancient authors and list all editions, printings, commentaries, known manuscripts, translations, excerpts, citations, etc.; but they've been going since 1945 and have produced eight volumes, which is not nearly comprehensive as of yet.

Therefore this, which is focused on the great ancient philosophers and their availability in the Renaissance. It gives the date of the first print edition, the date of translation into Latin, the dates of relevant translations into vernacular and their print editions, and occasionally other useful bibliographical data (it will usually let you know when something was widely circulated in manuscript).

Now, I have a novel with a chunk set in Florence in 1508, so this is useful to me, but I also find it interesting. For example, Marcus Aurelius? Almost unknown in the Renaissance. Survived in only two Greek manuscripts. Translated into English before translation into any other vernacular, which is really weird, and that English not till well into the 1600s. His place in the canon did not come till later. But Diogenes Laertius? Incredibly omnipresent, incredibly reprinted, cited, read, etc. etc., and the major source on biographical data for ancient author after ancient author. Nowadays, not so much.

Or the entire system of commentaries and summaries, which has basically gone by the wayside. The number of works mentioned which are things along the lines of an early Latin commentary on Aristotle translated into the Italian from a single Hebrew print copy picked up by the translator on a trip to Constantinople... we simply do not value commentary this way anymore. Especially now that textual emendation and correction are not participatory exercises for the reading public.

Also, without Marsilio Ficino I swear the history of Europe would be entirely different. The list of things he translated, edited, had printed, corrected, collated, wrote commentaries on, dug out of basements and was generally responsible for is ridiculous. Before him, the only Plato available in Latin was the first half of the Timaeus. After him, the entirety of Plato and vast stretches of ancient commentary on Plato and just about everything we have to this day of the neo-Platonists and neo-Pythagoreans. Did he ever sleep?

Oh, and the various pseudo-Platos, pseudo-Aristotles, pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagites and so on are also covered, along with discussion of when people began to doubt their authenticity, which was almost uniformly after the Renaissance. The Renaissance did not as yet even see the point of differentiating Seneca the Elder (rhetorician) from Seneca the Younger (tragedian).

And I will always love the various Humanist names, there was a translator actually named Hieronymous Wolf, I couldn't get away with that in a fantasy novel as it would be insufficiently realistic.

Therefore I loved this. If it should happen that you are one of the people to whom it would be desperately vital, be aware that it was put out by one of those terrifyingly confusing Italian academic presses, and therefore the best way (or possibly only way) to get hold of it would be through one of the authors (i.e. PM or email me and I'll tell her). Unless you are better than we are at confusing Italian academic presses, in which case please tell us how you manage to get hold of it so we can a) do the same and b) tell others to do likewise. But seriously, the reaction of the Italian press to being informed that if the book were given a barcode, it could be sold on Amazon, was 'but why would anyone want to do that?', so I have no particular faith.

You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comment count unavailable comments over there.
Tags: 365 books, author: hankins james, author: palmer ada, genre: history, genre: philosophy

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