Thursday, May 09, 2013


Budé's De Asse

Barbara C. Bowen, Enter Rabelais, Laughing (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1998), p. 76:
Suppose that you were a Classical archaeologist and that a publisher asked you for a treatise on ancient Roman coinage. You would probably list the relevant sources of information, which are not many; enumerate the different names for Roman coins together with what we know about their changing value over time, and estimate their equivalents in U.S. dollars. Shall we say about fifty pages? You would not, almost certainly, eventually produce 819 pages of impassioned argument about Roman coinage but also about etymology, rhetoric, names of plants, the restoration of pure Latin, the glories of France, the evils of wealth and tyranny, the neglect of the liberal arts, the banquets of Anthony and Cleopatra, the boundaries of the Roman Empire, French bread, the measurements of the earth, Hercules as a figure for Christ, or the dearth of owls in Crete. But all this, and much, much more, results from Guillaume Budé's trivial pursuit of Roman coinage in the De asse (the as was a small Roman coin). Can a two-letter word ever have generated copia on so grand a scale? ... The work was several times revised by its author, always with an increase in page numbers, and almost as frequently epitomized and anthologized; humanist Europe obviously loved it.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson, who adds, "She underestimates, however, at a modern 50 pages. Tonight's Bryn Mawr Classical Review brings a review of a new 688-page Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage."

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