THE BRITISH LIBRARY

European studies blog

4 posts categorized "Classics"

03 May 2018

Transparency and Too Much Information!!

Add comment

Do you find yourself saying out loud what should really have stayed in your head?

In the course of a short recent bus ride one passenger exclaimed to no-one in particular, “How am I supposed to get to work on time?” when the driver stopped for a minute for the maintenance of headway (see Magnus Mills’s novel of 2009).  (My answer fortunately stayed silent: “Get up earlier.”)

Five minutes later a man was on the phone, berating his local council for incompetence in the Council Tax department.

The ancients didn’t have buses or phones, but they knew about the problem: mens fenestrata, the windowed mind.

In Lucian:

According to the myth, Athene, Poseidon, and Hephaestus had a match in inventiveness. Poseidon made a bull, Athene planned a house, Hephaestus constructed a man; when they came before Momus, who was to judge, he examined their productions; I need not trouble you with his criticisms of the other two; but his objection to the man, and the fault he found with Hephaestus, was this: he should have made a window in his chest, so that, when it was opened, his thoughts and designs, his truth or falsehood, might have been apparent (Hermotimus 20); tr. Fowler,  p. 52.

We should recall that to the ancients site of the mind was the breast.

Momus# ‘Momus’. Emblem from Hadrianus Junius, Emblemata (Antwerp, 1575) 832.a.4

In the Renaissance the idea  was picked up by Leon Battista Alberti:

Momus found fault with these gifts [of Pallas, Minerva and Prometheus], particularly when the other gods sang their praises. [...] The job had been carried out stupidly in one respect, for man’s mind had been hidden in his chest, among his internal organs, whereas in ought to have been placed upon his lofty brow, in the open space of his face [propatulaque in sede vultus locasse oportuit]  (p. 17)

(‘Open’ I think alludes to the window or door.)

And the 17th century, when Momus was so popular, liked the idea of uncovering the truth. In Luis Vélez de Guevara’s satirical novel of 1641 El Diablo Cojuelo, the Devil on Two Sticks as the English translation calls him, peels the roofs off the houses of Madrid to reveal their true contents:

You are really too polite, replied the Devil; but, can you guess now why I have brought you here? I intend to show you all that is passing in Madrid; and as this part of the town is as good to begin with as any, you will allow that I could not have chosen a more appropriate situation. I am about, by my supernatural powers, to take away the roofs from the houses of this great city; and notwithstanding the darkness of the night, to reveal to your eyes whatever is doing within them. As he spoke, he extended his right arm, the roofs disappeared, and the Student’s astonished sight penetrated the interior of the surrounding dwellings as plainly as if the noon-day sun shone over them. It was, says Luis Velez de Guevara, like looking into a pasty from which a set of greedy monks had just removed the crust. (Translated by Joseph Thomas from the French translation of Lesage)

Diable Boiteux frontis
Frontispiece from Alain René Lesage (tr.), Le Diable boiteux (Amsterdam, 1707), 634.a.18.

Lucian, and those who followed him, thought the window in the chest was a good idea, an instrument of the transparency for which we’re constantly calling nowadays.

But if our inner thoughts were exposed to the world this might be too much information.

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies

References

The Works of Lucian of Samosata ... Translated by H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler (Oxford, 1905) 11340.aaa.24.

Leon Battista Alberti, Momus, ed. and tr. Sarah Knight and Virginia Brown (London, 2003) YK.2004.a.2189

Alejandro Coroleu, ‘Mens fenestrata: the Survival of a Lucianic Motif in seventeenth-century Spanish Literature’, Res publica litterarum, 19 (1996), pp. 217-26. 7713.892000

Asmodeus, The Devil On Two Sticks, Translated by Joseph Thomas (London. 1841) 12549.i.1.

 

 

 

20 March 2017

Actaeon was not a voyeur

Add comment

The current small exhibition about Ovid in art (primarily ceramics) at the Wallace Collection reminded me of an earlier one at the National Gallery. Here some artists of our time paid homage to Actaeon on the entirely bogus grounds that he was a voyeur, and regaled us with a mock-up of a peep-show and similar treats.

But let’s back to the text, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, book III: Actaeon was out hunting and stumbled on Diana, goddess of chastity and the hunt, bathing with her nymphs.

Actaeon MS Harley 4431

Actaeon surprising Diana at her bath, miniature from Christine de Pizan, L’Épître Othéa, part of MS Harley 4431.

In Mary Innes’s translation for Penguin Classics (1955 and much reprinted):

The nymphs, discovered in their nakedness, beat their breasts at the sight of a man ... Crowding around Diana, they sheltered her with their bodies, but the goddess was taller than they, head and shoulders above them all

Vengefully, the goddess sprinkles Actaeon with water, turning him into a stag and causing him to be killed by his hounds.

Actaeon Emblemata 12305.bbb.37 Actaeon transformed, and pursued by his own hounds, from Andreas Alciatus, Emblemata (Lyons, 1551). 12305.bbb.37

Ovid gives the message right at the start:

Fortunae crimen in illo,
non scelus invenies; quod enim scelus error habebat?
(Destiny was to blame for Actaeon’s misfortunes, not any guilt on his part; for there is nothing sinful in losing one’s way.)

Ovid himself likens himself to Actaeon in Tristia II. Explaining why the Emperor Augustus exiled him to Romania, he says “Like Actaeon, I saw something”. What we don’t know, but Ovid obviously thought Actaeon was innocent, which meant that he was innocent too.

Actaeon 833.l.1

Diana and Actaeon from Ovid, Metamporphoses (Venice, 1513) 833.l.1.

But later authorities couldn’t help wanting to put the blame on Actaeon.

Fulgentius (5th century) said that Actaeon wasted all his time on money on leisure (hunting) and was therefore consumed by his hobby.

Actaeon IB.23185

 The story of Actaeon, from Ovidio methamorphoseos vulgare, translated and allegorised by Giovanni di Bonsignore (Venice, 1497) IB.23185.

Giovanni di Bonsignore (14th century) said he turned into a stag because his love of the solitary pursuit of hunting had made his proud and anti-social, like the stag.

Camões in the Lusiads (16th century) says much the same about Actaeon, but this is interpreted by Manuel de Faria e Sousa in the 17th century as something to be applied to the young King Sebastian.


Actaeon King Sebastian 10631.c.4
 The headstrong King Sebastian of Portugal from Fray Bernardo de Brito, Elogios dos reis de Portugal (Lisbon,
1603) 10631.c.4

Headstrong young Sebastian, like Actaeon, was too keen on sports and neglectful of the need to find a wife. And of course he died young, at the battle of Alcacer Quibir, because of his hot-headedness and left Portugal without an heir, leading to what the Portuguese call the “Philippine Domination” of 1580-1640.

So, be careful when you go down to the woods.

But whatever his mistakes Actaeon was not a voyeur.

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies

References:

Barry Taylor, ‘O mito de Actéon: interpretação e poetização’, in Mythos: a tradição mitográfica portuguesa; representações e identidade séculos XVI-XVIII, ed. Abel N. Pena (Lisbon, 2008), pp. 55-66. YF.2012.a.29085

The Metamorphoses of Ovid. Translated and with an introduction by Mary M. Innes (Harmondsworth, 1955) W.P.513/58.

Gerlinde Huber-Rebenich, Sabine Lütkemeyer, Hermann Walter, Ikonographisches Repertorium zu den Metamorphosen des Ovid : die textbegleitende Druckgraphik (Berlin, 2004-), I.1, pp. 38-39. YF.2008.b.1354

 

07 February 2017

“Ex musaeo” on a Latin title page = “from the library of” or “edited by”?

Add comment

On a Latin title page the author and title are only a small element: early printers just had to tell you where an author came from, his offices and distinctions (very important in an age of hierarchy) and the grandee to whom he dedicated his work (often in hope of patronage).

A phrase which turns up from time to time and which had puzzled me is: “ex musaeo”. Now, “museum” could mean “library”, and I often assumed that this meant that the edition had been prepared from a copy (presumably manuscript) “in the possession of” a certain party.

This seems to have be in the mind of the British Museum Library cataloguer who produced this record:

Musaeo Catalogue entry

Museo Maiansius 92.c.26

And of course there are examples when “ex musaeo” does clearly mean this. Take a look at the plate between columns 1011 and 1012 of Fortunius Licetus, De Lucernis Antiquorum reconditis libb. sex …. (Oldenburg, 1652; 810.l.18.): ‘Ex Musaeo Cl. V. Joan. Galvani. J. C. Pat.’

Museo plate

Proof positive that this means “in the possession of” is given in the text: “Inter alia quamplura cimelia Ioannes Galuanus Pt. I. C. in suo Gazophilacio pulcherrimam habet ... imaginem” [Among many other treasures Ioannes Galuanus has this most beautiful statue in his gallery]

In a textual context, “e museo” (note the variant “ex Museio”) does indeed mean “from the collection of”, as in the case of: J. Scaligeri ... Poemata omnia, ex Museio P. Schriverii. ([Leyden], 1615; 1213.b.6.). Schriverius writes (p. 12): “Quare cùm intellexissent quidam docti et venusti homines servari inscriniis meis integriora et auctiora Scaligeri poëmata ...”[When certain learned and distinguished men discovered that better and fuller poems of Scaliger were held on my shelves ...]

But I think it’s just as likely (if not more so) that “ex musaeo” indicates the labours of the editor.

These all have prologues by the editors which make no mention of where their copy-texts were to be found.

Museo Petronius 1489.a.26

Petronius, Satyricon. Extrema editio ex musæo ... J. A. Gonsali de Salas. (Frankfiort, 1629) 1489.a.26.

González de Salas says the text is “seriò castigatum, et nonnullis locis auctum, partim ex ingenio, partim ex Lutetianâ editione ann. 1595” [seriously corrected, and in a number of places increased, partly out of [my own] invention, partly from the Paris edition of 1595].

Guilielmi Postelli De republica seu magistratibus Atheniensium liber. Ex Musaeo Joan. Balesdeni, In Principe Senatu Advocati. Accessit A. Thysii Discursus politicus de eadem materia, et Collatio Atticarum et Romanarum legum. (Leyden, 1645). 9025.a.14.

Apuleius Madaurensis Platonicus serio castigatus. Ex musæo Pet. Scriverii. (Amsterdam , 1624) 1079.a.5.

Thesaurus novus Theologico-Philologicus, sive Sylloge Dissertationum Exegeticarum ad selectiora atque insigniora Veteris et Novi Instrumenti loca; a Theologis Protestantibus maximum partem in Germania diversis temporibus separatim editarum, nunc vero secundum seriem librorum, capitum et commatum digestarum, junctimque recusarum, additis indicibus ... ex Musæo T. Hasæi et C. Ikenii. Lugduni Batavorum ; Amstelodami, 1732. 5.g.7,8.

So, although unrecorded, I deduce “museum” here draws on a particular use of “Musae” to mean “sciences, studies” (Lewis and Short, citing Cicero no less).

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies

References:

D. J. Shaw, “‘Ars formularia’: Neo-Latin Synonyms for Printing”, The Library, 6th series, 11:3 (1989) 220-30.

Silvia Rizzo, Il lessico filologico degli umanisti. (Rome, 1973). X.900/14989.

11 January 2017

Father Manuel Alvares, the Portuguese Jesuit who taught the British Latin

Add comment

When John Aubrey, best known for his unbuttoned biographical sketches Brief Lives, drew up the programme of studies for his ideal school, he referred no less than five times to the work of a Portuguese Jesuit:

In the first year (age 10) the boys should learn “the rules of Emmanuel Alvarus’s Grammar” (p. 64)
The library should include “Emmanuel Alvarus, Grammatica” (p. 71)
“Let them learn the XXI Praecepta de Constructione (translated into English) Institutionum Linguae Latinae, Emmanuelis Alvari” (p. 89)
“When they understand Latin pretty well, then they learn the second part of Alvarus’s Grammar. Many of the priests go no further than the first part.” (p. 93)
“Let them repeat the Latin Alvarus and Greek grammar every month or six weeks: only that memoriter, except in a week or fortnight some good short speech by way of narrare in the hall at diner time” (p. 94-95).

These references are to Father Manuel Alvares (1526-1583) SJ and his De institutione grammatica libri tres. Born in Madeira, he was ordained priest in 1538 and was persuaded to join the Society when a Jesuit stopped off on the island on the way to India. Adept in the three biblical tongues, he was a successful teacher and was commissioned to write a Latin grammar for the Jesuit schools. (A Jesuit education, you will remember, was the best schooling a Catholic boy could get at this period.)

Alvarus tp

Title page of Alvares’s Grammar (Evora, 1599). British Library 1509/4497. Note the device of the Society of Jesus. 

He was Rector of the Colégio das Artes in Coimbra from 1561 to 1566. The Colégio had been founded by John III in 1548 in a spirit of liberal openness to Europe: top scholars were recruited from France and Scotland. But this golden age was not to last: in 1550 the teachers were persecuted for heresy and in 1555 the College handed over to those Cerberuses of orthodoxy, the Jesuits, one of whom was Alvares.

The ESTC lists 26 British editions of his various grammatical works, in Latin or in translation, from 1671 to 1794. A Japanese translation was produced for Jesuit schools in the East.

Alvarus English tp

 An early 18th-Century English edition of Alvares’s Grammar (London, 1707) 1568/3623.

But Alvares thrived into much more recent times. James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus  learned “what little he knew of the laws of Latin verse from a ragged book written by a Portuguese priest” (cited Schork, p. 21).

What this shows is the international quality of Latin in the modern period. Nobody seemed to care that Alvares was a Jesuit: knowledge is knowledge regardless of the vessel which contains it. (I hope that doesn’t sound too sententious.)

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance collections.

References:

R. J. Schork, Latin and Roman Culture in Joyce (Gainesville’, 1997) YC.2001.a.5813

J. E. Stephens, Aubrey on Education (London, 1972) X.529/13983

B. Taylor, ‘Recent Acquisitions: a Rare Work by Jacobus Tevius’, eBLJ, 2003, Article 5