Sunday, October 30, 2016


Maria Salanitro, Petronio e i 'Veteres Poetae' a Reims. Nuovi Saggi 117. Pisa; Rome: Fabrizio Serra editore, 2015. Pp. 106. ISBN 9788862277792. €38.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Daniel H. Abosso, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (

Version at BMCR home site

Does anything delight classicists more than the discovery of a new manuscript of a work or author long thought lost? No less exciting can be the discovery of new witnesses to extant texts. Virtually no ancient text is ever perfectly transmitted. When new evidence comes to light, we can hope for a sounder text from which obeli are removed and misguided conjectures are banished to dusty oblivion. But finding new witnesses can be difficult. Libraries and archives possess riches that not even expert cataloging can reveal: the research must be done in situ, and very often a researcher finds nothing. But there are almost certainly new witnesses to ancient texts that have yet to be unearthed. Maria Salanitro believes she has found new manuscript evidence for some of the poetry in the Satyricon, not in a 9th century manuscript, but in a 17th century paper commonplace book.1

The Satyricon is famously transmitted as membra disjecta. The editio princeps of 1482 presented just one group of excerpts; it was not until the second half of the 16th century that French scholars, using manuscripts no longer extant, gathered together all the excerpts known at the time and published them. A century later the manuscript (now Par. Lat. 7989) of the Cena Trimalchionis was found in Venetian Dalmatia, apparently an Italian copy of Poggio's apograph of the manuscript he found in Cologne, which is now, of course, lost.2

Salanitro's commonplace book was compiled by canon Jacques Favart, in Reims, between 1656 and 1709. Very little is otherwise known about Favart. He excerpted from the Satyricon and other Latin poems from various periods. Salanitro's book is arranged according to the order of the excerpts in Favart's manuscript. After a brief introduction, she prints each excerpt and provides a commentary. Two appendices, an index nominum, a black-and-white facsimile of the corresponding pages in the commonplace book, and a vignette of Reims in the 17th century make up the rest of the volume. There is no bibliography; sources are given in footnotes.

Favart mostly copied texts in French from printed books, such as works by Corneille and La Fontaine. Indeed, of the six bound manuscript volumes that make up Favart's compilation, only eight pages contain Latin texts. According to Salanitro, Favart copied them before 1657 (17). Salanitro notes that Favart used both manuscripts and printed editions (17), but elsewhere assumes that Favart used a manuscript of Petronius (or at least with excerpts of Petronius) unknown to us (27, 65, 66, 68). If Salanitro is right, then Favart's excerpts could offer, at the very least, valuable clues to the nature and circulation of the Satyricon in manuscripts in 17th century France.

Three problems should be discussed. First, Salanitro assumes a terminus ante quem of 1657 for the Petronius excerpts based on the structure of Favart's commonplace book. The date Favart copied the excerpts is not, of course, crucial to Salanitro's argument. Second, Salanitro does not discuss the transmission of the Satyricon and the relationship between its witnesses and Favart's exemplar.3 Third, Salanitro notes that Favart used texts copied from manuscripts or printed editions (17, on 18 Salanitro explicitly states that Favart was familiar with printed editions of the Satyricon) but does not state which editions he was using in the case of Petronius. To disentangle for the reader the jumble of manuscripts and printed editions would have been helpful. There were, after all, nearly 60 printed editions of Petronius by 1657.4

Salanitro does not localize her text within the transmission of the Satyricon, but she compares it mainly to Müller's (1995) and Buecheler's (1862) editions. It thus becomes clear that, if Favart had access to a manuscript unknown to us, it was of little value: the majority of differences between Favart's texts and those of modern editors are ones of punctuation and capitalization.

But as it turns out, Favart's manuscript is known to us. The tip-off is in the facsimile. On each page of the manuscript there are two sets of numbers. The first set, at the head of each page, corresponds to the pagination of Favart's manuscript. The second set – never mentioned by Salanitro – sits next to each excerpt. They cannot be line numbers (e.g. one excerpt consists of a single line and is numbered 482). They look suspiciously like page numbers. And that is precisely what they are. Favart copied, verbatim, portions of the Satyricon and other Latin texts not from a manuscript, but from the 1669 Amsterdam edition of the Satyricon– the first edition to include all extant text of the Satyricon.5 The page numbers in Favart correspond exactly to the page numbers in this edition.6

This oversight is a salutary reminder, because it was not uncommon for manuscripts to be copied from printed books, as Michael Reeve showed long ago.7

Even if Favart's text is without critical value, there remains Salanitro's commentary. Here too there are problems. It suffers from an unclear focus and audience. Consider, for example, Sat. 43.6: Nequaquam recte faciet, qui cito credit. Salanitro gives the context of the sententia, then tells us that "[c]osì si legge nel codice di Traù. Numquam si riscontra anche nel Florilegium Parisinum e in Iacobus Magnus. La lezione nequaquam del nostro compare nell'editio Tornesiana (t), ma questo non postula alcuna parentela fra i due testi in quanto la Tornesiana presenta reddit, un'evidente corruttela di credit" (23).

The Tornesian edition of 1575 (named for its editor and printer, Jean de Tournes) to which Salanitro refers does indeed print reddit but in a note attributes the correct credit to Cujas' manuscript on leaf 109 verso.8 She then states that "[s]iamo di fronte ad un modo di dire a cui Petronio dà particolare impronta sfruttando due diversi significati del verbo finale che qui può significare sia 'dà fiducia' sia 'dà credito', nel senso della concessione di una somma o di un bene a titolo di prestito" (23). This observation is true, but Petronius' wordplay here has been commented upon previously by Schmeling in his 2011 commentary (171). Then, "[p]arecchi editori segnano una lacuna fra credit e utique homo negotians" (23). Which editors, and why? Salanitro does not say. She then translates the excerpt. Finally, she reminds readers that "la presenza del proverbio è un'attestazione della consuetudine di estrapolare dal S. proverbi e frasi sentenziose, una consuetudine che risale al Medioevo come ci conferma la già segnalata trascrizione dello stesso proverbio nel Florilegium Parisinum composto nel XIII sec." (24; a similar statement is on 54). One can add up such elementary statements: "Il nostro carme è in esametrici, un metro epico" (34); "perché ci sono casi in cui è necessario nonostante il consensus codicum" (40-1).

Despite these criticisms, scholars will find some parts of Salanitro's commentary useful. Because the differences between Favart's readings and modern editions are negligible, not much can be said, for example, when Favart excerpts Dignus Amore locus (Sat. 131.8) – so Salanitro comments on the entire poem instead. She often sets out arguments of previous commentators (with the notable exception of Schmeling, whom she cites only once) on the Satyricon, and she often translates the passage in question, a commendable practice that all editors and commentators ought to follow.

The book is beautifully produced, printed on fine paper and very handsomely designed. Typographical errors are few. But one should note that the page count is misleading: there are six entirely blank pages before the introduction (which starts on page 13), and there are numerous pages which contain little more than a sentence.

It is commendable that Salanitro visited libraries and searched for new witnesses. A professor of mine was fond of saying that classicists "believe OCTs grow on trees," because (in his opinion) they so often fail to do the hard work of looking for and sifting through the manuscripts. And even if one finds no new witness to an extant text or no ancient manuscript of Ovid's Medea, one could still illuminate a text's reception. Indeed, I found myself wondering why Favart copied the Latin texts he did, and why in a commonplace book hundreds of pages long he copied a rather motley assortment of (mostly) poetry, some of it racy in a scant eight pages. The last Latin text Favart copied was the raunchiest part of Ausonius' Cento nuptialis. Perhaps there is a story waiting to be told here?

List of texts in Salanitro's book

The Latin texts in the order Favart excerpted them are: Sat. 43.6, 79.8, Anthologia Latina (AL) 651, Sat. 131.8, 132.15, 137.9, AL 468, 464, 650, 694, 700, 701: q. Ciceronis de mulierum levitate. epig., Pentadii de Beata vita. The Veteres Poetae in the book's title is a reference to a section in Favart's manuscript entitled Veterum Poetarum, which includes the incipit from Pervigilium Veneris, AL 246, AL 250, two versus populares from Suetonius' life of Caesar (Iul. 51 and 49), AL 714, AL 892, Ad Lydiam, and vv. 101-131 of Ausonius' Cento nuptialis.

Table of Contents

Petronii Satyricon
Fr. 1. Qualis nox fuit illa, dii deaeque!
Fr. 2. Nequaquam recte faciet, qui cito credit.
Fr. 3. Somnia quae mentes ludunt volitantibus umbris.
Fr. 4. Dignus Amore locus …
Fr. 5. Nam quis concubitus, veneris quis gaudia nescit?
Fr. 6. Quisquis habet nummos, secura naviget aura
Fr. 7. Non bene olet qui bene semper olet
Fr. 8. Uxor legitimus debet quasi census amari
Fr. 9. Inveniat quod quisque velit, non omnibus unum est
Fr. 10. Fallunt nos oculi, vagique sensus
Fr. 11. Quod satiare potest dives natura ministrat
Fr. 12 = AL 700 R. Foeda est in coitu et brevius voluptas
AL 701 R. Accusare et amare tempore uno
q. Ciceronis, de mulierum levitate. Epig.
Pentadii De Beata vita
Veterum Poetarum
Elogio di Claude Binet
Quando un grande filologo dormicchia
Apparato iconografico
Index nominum


1.   The catalog entry for Favart's commonplace book is here at Catalogue Collectif de France.
2.   In the case of the lost manuscripts of the 16th century, printers often simply discarded them as no longer useful after the edition went press.
3.   S. does not mention T. Wade Richardson's important work Reading and Variant in Petronius: Studies in the French Humanists and their Manuscript Sources (Toronto 1993).
4.  See the excellent A Bibliography of Petronius by Gareth L. Schmeling and Johanna H. Stuckey (Leiden 1977) for a convenient list.
5.   Titi Petronii Arbitri equitis Romana Satyricon cum fragmento nuper Tragurii reperto : accedunt diversorum poëtarum : Lusus in Priapum, Pervigilium Veneris, Ausonii ceno nuptialis, Cupido crucifixus, Epistolae de Cleopatra, & alia nonnulla : omnia commentariis, & notis doctorum virorum illustrata : concinnante Michaele Hadrianide (Amstelodami : Typis Ioannis Blaeu, MDCLXIX).
6.   The 1669 edition can be viewed here.
7.   "Manuscripts Copied from Printed Books" In: Manuscripts in the Fifty Years after the Invention of Printing, ed. Joseph Burney Trapp (London: 1983), 12-20. Conveniently reprinted in Michael D. Reeve, Manuscripts and Methods: Essays on Editing and Transmission (Rome 2011).
8.   nunquam r.f.q.c. credit (in Cuiac.) ​

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