January 6th, 2011

green leaves

Detailed account of classical thought which was available in the Renaissance

rushthatspeaks reviews The Recovery of Ancient Philosophy in the Renaissance.

Therefore this, which is focused on the great ancient philosophers and their availability in the Renaissance. It gives the date of the first print edition, the date of translation into Latin, the dates of relevant translations into vernacular and their print editions, and occasionally other useful bibliographical data (it will usually let you know when something was widely circulated in manuscript).

Now, I have a novel with a chunk set in Florence in 1508, so this is useful to me, but I also find it interesting. For example, Marcus Aurelius? Almost unknown in the Renaissance. Survived in only two Greek manuscripts. Translated into English before translation into any other vernacular, which is really weird, and that English not till well into the 1600s. His place in the canon did not come till later. But Diogenes Laertius? Incredibly omnipresent, incredibly reprinted, cited, read, etc. etc., and the major source on biographical data for ancient author after ancient author. Nowadays, not so much.

Or the entire system of commentaries and summaries, which has basically gone by the wayside. The number of works mentioned which are things along the lines of an early Latin commentary on Aristotle translated into the Italian from a single Hebrew print copy picked up by the translator on a trip to Constantinople... we simply do not value commentary this way anymore. Especially now that textual emendation and correction are not participatory exercises for the reading public.

Also, without Marsilio Ficino I swear the history of Europe would be entirely different. The list of things he translated, edited, had printed, corrected, collated, wrote commentaries on, dug out of basements and was generally responsible for is ridiculous. Before him, the only Plato available in Latin was the first half of the Timaeus. After him, the entirety of Plato and vast stretches of ancient commentary on Plato and just about everything we have to this day of the neo-Platonists and neo-Pythagoreans. Did he ever sleep?

Oh, and the various pseudo-Platos, pseudo-Aristotles, pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagites and so on are also covered, along with discussion of when people began to doubt their authenticity, which was almost uniformly after the Renaissance. The Renaissance did not as yet even see the point of differentiating Seneca the Elder (rhetorician) from Seneca the Younger (tragedian).

And I will always love the various Humanist names, there was a translator actually named Hieronymous Wolf, I couldn't get away with that in a fantasy novel as it would be insufficiently realistic.

When I saw this, I thought-- this is the sort of thing sf writers like, and would probably be of interest to history junkies. A lot of the sf writers on my flist are also on rushthatspeaks', but it would be a shame if anyone who wants to know about this sort of thing missed it.

rushthatspeaks has been reviewing a lot of interesting books.

Addendum:The subject line was "Details of the classical thought was available in the Renaissance" and when I looked at it this evening, it seemed completely incoherent. I hope it's clear now.

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