Thursday, September 2, 2010


Version at BMCR home site
Mariarosa Cortesi, Silvia Fiaschi (ed.), Repertorio delle traduzioni umanistiche a stampa: secoli XV – XVI. (2 vols.) Edizione nazionale delle traduzioni dei testi greci in età umanistica e rinascimentale 5. Firenze: SISMEL edizioni del Galluzzo, 2008. Pp. lxxviii, 1846. ISBN 9788884503237. €240.00.
Reviewed by Ioannis Deligiannis, Research Centre for Greek and Latin Literature of the Academy of Athens, Greece

[Table of contents is listed at the end of the review.]

This Repertorio, produced within the framework of the project "Edizione Nazionale delle Traduzioni dei testi Greci in età umanistica e rinascimentale" (ENTG), itself part of a broader one, "Ritorno dei classici nell' Umanesimo", is a monumental work addressed to those working on the Latin translations of Greek texts, classical and patristic, on the reception of the Greek literature in the West, and even on the editorial activity of the time; it is also a valuable bibliographic tool for libraries possessing incunabula and early editions. It is the second publication in the series of "Strumenti" of ENTG,1 and a stupendous attempt of the authors, not only to collect the immense material included in the catalogue, but to organize it in an effective and reader-friendly way and to overcome obstacles related to the nature of their material. The result is a two-volume catalogue that includes bibliographic references to the printed editions of 766 Latin translations of 127 Greek authors, 560 authentic or spurious texts, and 178 translators, plus much other significant information.

In the first part of the introduction, Fiaschi explains the process of collecting, organizing, and composing the material into the form of a research tool. She starts with justifying the need for a complete and functional catalogue of this kind, and recommends its use in parallel with the online record of manuscripts preserving the Latin translations of Greek texts, as provided by ENTG.2 In the style of a totally reasonable and justified praemunitio, Fiaschi records all the difficulties (with examples) the two authors encountered in compiling, sorting out and arranging their material: e.g., selection of translations to be included in the catalogue, overlapping or partial Latin versions of the same text, abundance or scarcity of editions, transfusion of translations into the manuscript tradition, translations produced within the pre-defined time period (1300-1525) but printed later than the end point, and thus not included in the Repertorio, cultural factors (moral, linguistic, etc.) leading to partial or selective editions, editorial preferences for translators of greater or lesser reputation, editions of translations of texts of the same author by various translators, or on the other side, translators arranging editions of their own versions of various Greek texts, editions of special interest translations (rhetoric, pedagogy, epistolography, biography, natural sciences, medicine), etc. To all these should be added limitations deriving from inadequate modern bibliographic and cataloguing records, practical difficulties in physically checking every single edition, problems in authorship attribution due to the anonymity of many editions, erroneous attributions in the manuscript tradition repeated also in the editions or copied from older editions to newer ones, and mistakes in modern catalogues. In every case Fiaschi describes how the authors overcame these obstacles and stresses the significance of the Repertorio in providing a research tool as accurate, consistent, and comprehensive as possible, which illustrates editorial activity within and outside Italy and the need of the scholars of the time to familiarize themselves with Greek literature.

In the second part (2.1 and 2.2) of the introduction, Cortesi describes in detail and with examples the editorial criteria and principles for the Repertorio. In 2.1 ("Contenuti") we get an idea of the Latin translations of Greek texts included in it (those produced from late 1300 to 1525 and printed by 1600, translations of classical works produced by the 4th cent. and of patristic texts produced by the 7th cent., complete and partial translations, free paraphrases) or excluded from it (epitomes of translations, and some epigrams), and why 1525 was set as the end point of the editions included in the Repertorio: a) for historic and political reasons related to the Italian Wars of 1521-26 and their aftermath, and b) for cultural reasons related to the influence of Italian Humanism on European culture for the first two decades of the 16th cent. This limit did not allow the inclusion of translations produced after it, especially by transalpine scholars, and left out important versions produced in the 16th cent. (reserved for another promised catalogue, the "traduzioni dal greco nel Rinascimento"). The system and the layout of the entries in the Repertorio is described in detail in 2.2 ("Struttura"): Greek authors and their text(s), authentic and spurious, arranged alphabetically, are followed by translators also in alphabetical order (anonymous or doubtful translations are clearly indicated), the editions of each translation in chronological order (or other criteria, if sine notis), accompanied by any available information on the editions. Translation entries also include dedicatee(s), incipit and explicit of dedicatory epistles, argumenta, prefaces, and of the actual translation. The edition entries contain information on their place of production, printer(s), year, some elements of physical description, but no page numbers; they also include all the texts included in each edition, while in the "Note" the authors have included any information related to the edition of the translation under consideration. Under the sections "Fonti" and "Esemplari esaminati" are included the sources consulted for each edition and the location of the exemplars actually examined by Fiaschi and Cortesi.

The introduction is supplemented with a bibliography list (comprising and expanding all the abbreviated bibliographic references in the Repertorio, as well as some useful web sites accompanied by a few informative comments on their content), and two tables: a) of the translations included in the Repertorio, and b) of the places of publication of the editions (followed by a map of Europe indicating the major printing locations, and two histograms on the numbers of printers per city and the cities with the highest number of printers). The Repertorio is completed (in vol. II) with seven Indices, as indicated in the Table of Contents, and a number of illustrations from editions included in it.

It must be stressed that one should NOT expect to find in it ALL the Latin versions of Greek texts produced between late 1300 and 1525, i.e. those preserved still in manuscripts and never printed; the Repertorio contains only those translations that somehow reached at least one printing house.

A selective but thorough reading and checking of entries (Anaximenes, Diogenes Laertius, Euclides, Homer, Lucian, Marcellinus, Pausanias, Plutarch, and Xenophon) and indices was sufficient for me to confirm the comprehensiveness and accuracy of the catalogue. The erroneous attribution of a Latin version of Lucian's Calumniae non temere credendum to Guarino Veronese, though, is something that the authors should take into consideration in the future (quoting from p. 862):

c. Guarino Veronese: ded.: Giovanni Quirini; inc. dedica: Animadverti saepe mecum, Quirine pater, et magna quidem mentis consternatione; expl. dedica: ea quoque plane licebit ex legendis intueri; inc. testo: Gravis ac molesta res est ignorantia et multorum malorum hominibus; expl. testo: nullum habens locum profugeret illustratis rebus a veritate (--> no. 1) 1. Venetiis, per Simonem Bevilaquam, 1494; cur. Benedetto Bordon. In quarto; lat. Contenuto: Lucianus, Verae historiae (tr. Lilio Tifernate), … Muscae encomium (tr. Guarino Veronese), etc. etc.

I consulted my transcription of De calumnia from a copy of Bevilaqua's 1494 edition from the British Library and, to be more certain, another copy of the same edition, available online.3 Here are a few lines of the opening and closing paragraphs of the text in Bevilaqua's edition, followed by the corresponding ones from Guarino's translation, as published by the reviewer:4

Gravis ac molesta res est ignorantia et multorum malorum hominibus causa tanquam caliginem quandam infundens rebus et veritatem obscurans et uniuscuiusque vitam obumbrans. … quod si Deus velamen auferret ex occulis hominum abiret statim calumnia in barat<h>rumque nullum habens locum profugeret illustratis rebus a veritate.

Gravis profecto res ignorantia est et multorum malorum hominibus causa utpote quae nonnullam rebus caliginem infundat ipsamque veritatem offuscet et cuiusque vitam involvat umbris. ... quod si quis deorum vitae nostrae velamina demeret, ipsa calumnia, nullum iam habens domicilium, ad barathrum fugitiva discederet, rebus ex ipsa veritate lustratis.

Despite the similarities in the vocabulary and phraseology between the two texts, it is more than obvious that they are two different versions. In the bibliography, the text in Bevilaqua's edition is referred to as anonymous, and I believe it should remain so, unless there are secure indications for its authorship attribution. Furthermore, from the entry in the Repertorio one gets the impression that Guarino's dedicatory epistle to G. Quirini (which indeed has the incipit and explicit mentioned in the Repertorio) is printed along with the translation text; yet in the two copies I consulted this is not the case. Guarino's Latin version of Lucian's De calumnia was never printed in the 15th or 16th cents.5

This error does not reduce or weaken the invaluable significance of the Repertorio. It is and will remain a reference work and a study and research tool of insuperable value, the final product of an attempt to collect, organize and portray in an effective way material scattered and/or inconsistently presented before. It is also illustrative of the humanistic culture as formed, developed and spread in Italy and beyond in the 15th cent. and later, of the scholarly interest in the Greek literature as well as the literary production of humanists, and of the editorial activity in Europe of the time. All these and many more make this work useful to a variety of professionals.


1. Percorsi del testo e inganni del libro: finalità di uno strumento di ricerca (xi-xxxi)
2. Il censimento: cronologia e criteri editoriali (xxxi-xl)
3. Strumenti bibliografici (xl-xlvii)
4. Tavola delle traduzioni censite (xlvii-lxiv)
5. Tavola dei luoghi di stampa (lxiv-lxxviii)
Aelianus Tacticus - Libanius (3-846)

Lucianus - Xenophon (849-1718)
Initia translationum (1721-37)
Initia praefationum et aliorum textuum (1738-52)
Indice dei manoscritti e delle edizioni antiche (1753-66)
Indice dei traduttori (1767-73)
Indice dei tipografi e degli editori (1774-95)
Indice dei nomi propri di persona e di luogo (1796-1844)
Indice delle tavole (1845-46)


1.   Tradurre dal greco in età umanistica. Metodi e strumenti. Atti del seminario tenutosi a Firenze, 9 Settembre 2005, ed. M. Cortesi, Firenze, SISMEL – Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2007.
2.   ENTG.
3. University of Valencia TROBES Library Catalogue.
4. Fifteenth-century Latin translations of Lucian's essay on Slander, Pisa-Roma, 2006, pp. 115 and 136-37.
5. The authors should also check the attribution of the Latin translation of Lucian's Muscae encomium to Guarino (p. 978). I am afraid I cannot be absolutely certain about it, but it is worth checking, because in Kristeller's Iter Italicum (Vol. III; Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Manuscripta Latina, ms. Lat. qu. 226) we read: Musce collaudatio vel explicatio, Lucianus scripsit, Guarinus ludens convertit, inc. Musca quidem adeo inter volucres, with a preface to Scipio Mainentes ep. Mutinensis (7-7v, inc. Animum superioribus diebus averti), while in the Repertorio the incipit and explicit of the translation are: Musca est sic minima volucrum ut posit cum muscellis et culicibus … ne videar secundum proverbium ex musca elephantem facere. Check also I. Fabii, "Calumnia e Musca: due versioni inedite di Guarino Veronese", Interpres, 20 (2001), pp. 7-40.

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