Thursday, February 23, 2012


Rackham, Willis, and Goold

James Willis, Latin Textual Criticism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972), pp. 3-4:
Mr. Rackham's Pliny is vitiated in both text and translation by ignorance of (inter alia) ancient astronomy: 2,91 in austrino polo means 'in the southern sky,' not 'at the south pole,' which none of the ancients ever saw; 2,92 occasura caeli parte is not 'the western sky,' but 'that part of the celestial sphere in which are the stars that set,' being contrasted with those which are sub ipso septentrione (91) and never set; 2,97 defectus means 'eclipses,' 'occultations,' not 'settings'; 2,178 idem a Rhodo absconditur refers to Septentrio, not Canopus.
H. Rackham's edition and translation of Pliny's Natural History, Preface and Books 1-2, first appeared in 1938 as a volume in the Loeb Classical Library. For a 1991 reprinting, the series editor, G.P. Goold, added a "Bibliographical Note," but apparently no other changes were made. The errors mentioned by Willis can still be found in the translation.

Willis and Goold were classmates and friends. On p. x of Latin Textual Criticism, Willis wrote:
Acknowledgments are always tedious and seldom sincere. I should do very wrongly, however, if I did not say, and with emphasis, that nothing has helped me more towards an understanding of textual criticism than my many evenings of discussion with Professor G.P. Goold, who so often led my halting footsteps, after long and patient exposition, to some emendation made by Housman while shaving or by Bentley in his sleep.
Goold also remembered those evenings with Willis, in his "Noctes Propertianae," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 71 (1967) 59-106 (at 80, 105-106), but a bit differently, with Willis as the leader, Goold as the follower. Recalling one occasion on which Willis corrected his interpretation of a passage from Ovid, Goold wrote:
With the emotions of one who has expected a call girl and opened the door to a nun, I weakly heard him describe my rendering as inaccurate, my perception as clouded, and my palaeographical explanation as pure babble from the padded cell.
Thanks to the benefactor who recently gave me all ten volumes of Pliny's Natural History in the Loeb Classical Library series. With these books I will spend many pleasant "noctes Plinianae."

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