Monday, February 01, 2010


Fraenkel on the Harvard Edition of Servius

Excerpts from Eduard Fraenkel, review of E. K. Rand et al., edd., Servianorum in Vergilii Carmina Commentariorum Editionis Harvardianae Volumen II, quod in Aeneidos Libros I et II Explanationes Continet (Lancaster: American Philological Society, 1946), in Journal of Roman Studies 38 (1948) 131-143 and 39 (1949) 145-154.

p. 133:
The editors seem to have been under a sad delusion as to the magnitude of the task undertaken by them and the severe demands involved in it. Their editorial technique is rudimentary, they have no special gift for the interpretation of a sometimes difficult text and for textual criticism, and there is in their work very little to show that they have understood what kind of information the reader is entitled to expect in a modern edition of any Greek or Latin scholia of some importance.
p. 134:
[I]t is plainly absurd to register every little bit of dirt in every single MS, as is invariably done in Harv.'s app. crit.
p. 142:
It is a sad fact that the typical 'Latinist' cannot be bothered with the most Roman, the most majestic, the most influential book that Rome has left to us (cf. Hermes 60, 1925, 415). [i.e. the Digest]
pp. 145-146:
We now have to examine the 'Test(imonia)', which are placed in the usual way between the text and the app. crit. It is on the careful selection and arrangement of the Test. that the value of a modern edition of scholia to a large extent depends. If this part of the editorial work is done in a scholarly fashion, then even a single scholion, especially in a commentary so rich in information as Servius, may become Ariadne's thread and guide us through a maze of ancient lore. If, on the other hand, the presentation of the Test. is amateurish and haphazard, the usefulness of the whole edition is greatly reduced ; for many scholia mean very little in isolation, but prove interesting and often important when linked up with other pieces of evidence to which they belong.
p. 147:
At 2, 417, the parallel scholion 11, 4, is not mentioned. Petrarch referred to it; see the marginal note in his copy of Virgil (Vergilius Ambrosianus), f. 81 recto. The great trecento scholar, who had neither indexes nor books of reference, but knew his Servius as intimately as he knew the Latin classics, puts the technicians of the twentieth century to shame by showing them how to make proper use of this commentary....Nothing could show better the spirit of that Greekless philhellenist who unceasingly strove to gather from third-rate sources the knowledge which he would have preferred to obtain from the fountain-head. The Harvard Servius would have been improved if one of its editors had excerpted Petrarch's references from the excellent facsimile of the Ambrosian Virgil (Francisci Petrarcae Vergilianus codex, Milan, 1930), although in many cases it would have been sufficient to exploit to the full Mountford and Schultz's valuable Index to Servius.
p. 154:
The work under review raises a wider question. There is a real danger in narrowing the field of Latin studies in the manner which is nowadays the fashion in many countries. It is a commonplace, and in theory everybody admits its truth, that almost everything in Latin literature can be properly understood only against a large Greek background. But in practice most people are unwilling to draw the full consequences of the recognized principle. One may sympathize with their reluctance, for, despite all our losses, there still remains an embarrassing mass of various Greek traditions, and access to them is not always easy. Perhaps it is asking too much if a scholar who knows all about the debased Latin of certain semi-educated writers in the sixth century, or one who is intimately acquainted with the scriptoria of Carolingian Gaul—if such a scholar is expected also to be able to find his way through the intricacies of the schools of Alexandria and Pergamon. It is in difficulties of this kind that planned co-operation and a careful division of labour may be of very great value. If seven scholars associate to do a complicated piece of work, they ought not, as is the case with Harv., all to be of the same brand of scholarship, but should in their individual inclinations and abilities represent as far as possible the different aspects of the complex object with which they are dealing. But whatever the practical solution, in no circumstances must the fact that we happen to be specialists, or regard ourselves as such, blind our eyes to the indivisible unity of Greco-Roman civilization and all its manifestations in literature. Tempting though it is to run away from the complexity with which the Greeks have once and for all stamped the life of the European mind, anyone who attempts such an escape will fail sooner or later. Nor is it likely that the craving after sheltered isolation will help us to invigorate the decaying study of Latin. It seems very doubtful whether the so-called Latinist really represents a genuine species of scholarship, but it is an undeniable fact that the true masters of Latin studies, from Scaliger and Bentley to Lachmann, Ritschl and Madvig, and on to Leo and Housman-that all these great scholars were anything but mere Latinists. It may also be remembered that Ludwig Traube, whose genius inspired the work of his pupil Rand and of Rand's pupils, has put it on record (Textgeschichte der Regula S. Benedicti.; Abh. d. bayer. Akad. d. Wiss., III. Cl., XXI. Bd., III. Abth., 1898, 694) that he owed his conception of 'Textgeschichte' to Wilamowitz.

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