Tuesday, April 09, 2013


The Proverb Nulla Dies Sine Linea

Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), #1283, pp. 953-954 (at 953):
Nulla dies sine linea
Pas un jour sans une ligne
Cet adage, célèbre déjà au Moyen Age (cf. De gestis episcoporum Antissiodorensium, PL 138, 835b; cf. aussi Walther 18899)...n'est pas d'origine classique, même si un proverbe similaire existait certainement dans l'Antiquité...
Walther is Hans Walther, Proverbia Sententiaeque Latinitatis Medii Aevi (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1963-1969), unavailable to me (the proverb is in vol. III, I think).

There are two problems with Tosi's citation from De Gestis Episcoporum Antissiodorensium (Concerning the Deeds of the Bishops of Auxerre). First, the column number is incorrect. The correct reference is De Gestis Episcoporum Antissiodorensium, Pars II, Cap. XCIII (De Francisco a Dintavilla secundo), in Patrologia Latina, tome 138, column 385 B, where the following sentence occurs:
Pictoria vero summopere delectabatur, ejus artis peritos domi semper alens; temporis parcissimus, vetus illud Apelleum saepiuscule adducebat, ut nulla dies sine linea abiret.
My translation:
He was certainly very fond of painting, always supporting at his home adepts in that art; most frugal in his use of time, he quite often quoted that old saying of Apelles, that no day should go by without a line.
Secondly, Tosi misleadingly implies that this passage from De Gestis Episcoporum Antissiodorensium comes from the Middle Ages. Although the core of that work does date from the 9th century, the passage in question is no earlier than the late 16th century. Its subject is François de Dinteville II, who lived from 1498 to 1554.

Hubertus Kudla, Lexikon der lateinischen Zitate, 2nd ed. (Munich: C.H. Beck, 2001), #2840, p. 432, cites an earlier example of the proverb, from the Italian humanist Publio Fausto Andrelini (ca. 1460-1518), his Epistolae Proverbiales (1513). The relevant passage occurs in letter VI (Temporis iactura nihil esse, neque pernitiosius, neque detestabilius), at the bottom of this page (click to enlarge):

My transcription, followed by my translation:
Apelles picturae venustate insignis, numquam tam occupatam diem egit, quin artis lineam duceret, quod et in proverbium cessit, nulla dies sine linea.

Apelles, famed for the beauty of his painting, never spent a day so full of business that he didn't draw a line, which also passed into a proverb: no day without a line.
Credit for first tracking the source of the proverb to Andrelini belongs to Oleg Nikitinski, "Zum Ursprung des Spruches Nulla Dies Sine Linea," Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 142 (1999) 430-431, who mentions (note 6) editions of Andrelini's Epistolae Proverbiales (or Epistolae Adagiales) earlier than the 1513 edition cited above.

Update from Ian Jackson:
I do have a set of Walther. The line is indeed in vol.3 (page 443). He prints the Latin and simply gives locations where it may be found. Here are his references, which I've expanded, and in two cases, corrected a misprint:

"Flor. Poet 58 (Apelles)" This is the page number in Flores Poetarum hieme et aestate fragrantes, sive sententiosi versus ... Prague, 1684.

"s. Reichert S. 401 ff" This is under a page number in Heinrich G. Reichert: Lateinische Sentenzen: Essays. Wiesbaden, 1948.

"s. Hempel Nr. 3766" This is under an item number in Hermann Hempel: Lateinischer Sentenzen-und Sprichwörterschatz. 2 Ausg. Bremen 1890.

"Dielitz 222" This is a page number in Die Wahl- und Denksprüche, Feldgeschreie, Losungen, Schlacht- und Volksrufe, besonders des Mittelalters und der Neuzeit gesammelt ... v. J. Dielitz. Frankfurt 1884.

"Lipp. 834" This is a page number in Franz, Freiherr von Lipperheide: Spruchwörterbuch. Berlin 1907.

"Wa, s.v. Tag 342" This is K.F.W. Wander: Deutsches Sprichwörter-Lexikon. 5 Bande. Leipzig 1867-80.


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