Thursday, March 22, 2012


Stefano Grazzini (ed.), Scholia in Iuvenalem recentiora: secundum recensiones φ et χ tomus I (satt. 1-6), Testi e commenti, 11. Pisa: Edizioni della normale, 2011. Pp. lxxxiii, 454. ISBN 9788876422034. €50.00.

Reviewed by James E. G. Zetzel, Columbia University (

Version at BMCR home site

The margins and interlinear spaces of ninth- and tenth-century Latin manuscripts of ancient poetry are, very frequently, crowded with annotations: grammatical explanations, elucidation of references, glosses, parallel passages. Some of these notes in their extant form are nonsense or gibberish; some purvey genuine information derived from ancient sources; and some actually help a modern reader to understand what Horace or Persius or Lucan or Statius or Juvenal is actually saying. But this material is difficult to read, difficult to assess, and difficult (without direct access to the manuscripts themselves, which few of us have) even to find. For this, we rely on the skill and tact of those who have the patience and the eyesight to work on such material.

The great master of Latin scholia in the twentieth century was Paul Wessner; his edition of the remains of Donatus' commentary on Terence is now somewhat out of date, owing to new manuscript discoveries, but his edition of the Scholia Vetera on Juvenal, originally published in 1931, is, for students of such material, unsurpassed not only in its accuracy but in the care and intelligence he devoted to presenting a text of extraordinary complexity. Wessner's edition is not in any sense easy to read: in addition to a textual apparatus, there is an apparatus of parallels from other portions of the tradition of the Juvenal scholia and a remarkable appendix of sources, explanations, and other valuable observations—and the whole is presented using a set of symbols and codes that, although they are probably the clearest and most economical way to display the complicated text, require the careful reader to keep flipping back to the key at the beginning of the text. It is a masterpiece of editorial technique, but it is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Wessner's editorial goal, and the goal of most editors of such material until fairly recently, was the recovery and reconstruction of the ancient scholarship underlying the medieval marginalia. In the case of Juvenal (unlike Persius or Lucan, for instance) that is not impossible: one invaluable ninth-century manuscript, P, the Codex Pithoeanus, contains in its margins a set of notes unlike those found elsewhere in the tradition; their antiquity is guaranteed by a brief overlap with the marginalia in the fragmentary fourth-century palimpsest preserved in Vat. Lat. 5750. What is more, the P scholia have parallels in a few other Carolingian sources, and it is thus possible, with some confidence, to see these scholia as indeed of ancient origin.

Wessner, however, did more than merely print a text of the ancient notes. In addition to the valuable scholia of P and its congeners, ancient lore is probably, and unsurprisingly, preserved in other scholia to Juvenal, and Wessner assembled in an apparatus of parallels drawn from four different sets of Carolingian marginalia some of the evidence to demonstrate just that. In other words, while Wessner concentrated on what was ancient, his edition cast at least an oblique glance at the tradition in which the ancient material was embedded.

Modern editors of Carolingian materials, including Stefano Grazzini in the volume under review, have a different perspective on these scholia from Wessner's, or indeed of most editors of his generation. Wessner and his contemporaries tended to discard what they thought of as Carolingian material as useless and uninformative; modern editors are more inclined to value the light these manuscripts cast on Carolingian intellectual life. A ninth-century manuscript may contain ancient texts; but it is also very much a product of, and thus evidence for, its own time and place.

What Grazzini has done, for the first half of the corpus of Juvenal, is to follow Wessner's lead towards the Carolingian commentaries but to examine them for themselves, not as evidence for the ancient commentary. He has edited (for Satires 1-6) the two Carolingian commentaries labelled by Wessner φ and χ; the former is represented by four manuscripts, the latter by seven. He does not include, although he discusses in his introduction, two further commentaries (L and Z); and he also omits, although he discusses it briefly, a recently identified and apparently very important manuscript, Cambridge, King's College 52, which may contain autograph comments of Heiric of Auxerre himself—generally considered to be, if not the sole author, at least a major contributor to the Carolingian commentaries on several authors.

In his long introduction, Grazzini explains the background and discusses Wessner's edition; describes the manuscripts he is using (and not using); deals (somewhat inconclusively, as is right) with questions of authorship and provenance; and sets out in elaborate detail his methods of selection and his presentation of the material. In this, he is, if not exactly succinct, far more lucid than most editors of this sort of text: he is scrupulous in informing the reader of what s/he will or will not find within. The account of the manuscripts and the intellectual milieu of the text is far too brief to be useful except as an aid to reading this edition, but Grazzini in the introduction announces a supplementary volume on the subject.

What the reader will find here is a careful and clear edition of the marginal and interlinear scholia drawn from eleven manuscripts, with φ witnesses cited before χ witnesses. Grazzini's sigla usefully distinguish the location of the various notes: upper-case sigla represent marginalia, lower-case interlinear notes. One can tell almost instantly what words (including the lemmata) are preserved in what manuscripts. The orthography is, as Grazzini admits in the introduction (xlviii-xlix), somewhat inconsistent, but nonetheless clear. His text is, as is appropriate for editions of this kind, very conservative. The greatest weakness of the edition is the testimonia, which are remarkably sparse, and, except for the occasional reference to Servius or Isidore, tend to draw attention to later uses of the material (in the late medieval dictionaries of Papias and Uguccione above all) rather than to parallels in other Carolingian commentaries: references to the contemporary commentaries on Horace, Lucan, or Persius are, as far as I can see, rare indeed. One senses a certain willingness to settle for an easy solution: the reference to Numa and Egeria at 3.12 (4) is, as Grazzini's testimonia indicate, similar to the tale in Livy 1.19.4-5, but it is very hard to believe that that was the scholiast's direct source. Livy was abridged, recycled, and revised many times; and there is no reason to believe that Heiric or Remigius got this racy tidbit straight from the horse's mouth.

Given the nature of the texts that Grazzini is publishing, his reticence in this area is perhaps appropriate. The note on Numa and Egeria has more ancient content and (unfortunately) more interest than most of the scholia in this volume. Like other commentaries written in the ninth and tenth centuries, these notes offer helpful glosses of words; they often paraphrase in a way useful for the beginning student; they explain syntax occasionally and allusions often —and often wrongly. (Grazzini's testimonia too infrequently trace the genealogy of error.) Compared to the very laconic, but more frequently intelligent scholia in P, these notes are wordy, dull, and empty; if they are an accurate representation of the state of ancient learning in the Carolingian age, it is not a very pretty picture. If these notes are by Heiric, they do not show the abilities revealed by his life of St. Germanus or his Collectanea; that suggests, at the very least, a different audience—not scholars, but students. To have these scholia presented in such a clear and careful edition is a service to any student of medieval intellectual life; but school commentaries were no more exciting in the tenth century than they are in the twenty-first.

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