Ancient book dissemination.

Discuss the world of the Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, and Egyptians.
mbuckley3
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Re: Ancient book dissemination.

Post by mbuckley3 »

It was not only 'unfriendly' transmitters of texts who caused problems. 'Editorial' activity is often detected and motives inferred. Occasionally, the impresario breaks cover.

Porphyry, notoriously, gives himself a fair degree of latitude in the introduction to his Philosophy from Oracles (Eusebius, Praep.Ev.4.6.3) : "I have neither added anything, nor taken away from the meaning of the responses, except where I have corrected an erroneous phrase, or made a change for greater clarity, or completed the metre when defective, or struck out anything that did not conduce to the purpose, so that I preserved the sense of what was spoken untouched."

Rufinus is more sophisticated. In the preface to his translation of Origen's On First Principles, (letter 80 in Jerome's epistolary corpus), he is upfront about his method of deploying substitute interpolations. Any discontinuity in the text and any seeming 'unorthodoxy' is regarded as a sign of hostile interpolation; rather than simply excise, he will often substitute an interpolation created from Origen's undisputed passages, so creating a text which is, in his eyes, seamlessly Origen's :
"I shall not reproduce passages in Origen's books which disagree with or contradict his own statements elsewhere. The reason of these inconsistencies I have put more fully before you in the defence of Origen's writings composed by Pamphilianus which I have supplemented by a short treatise of my own. I have given what I consider plain proofs that his books have been corrupted in numbers of places by heretics and ill-disposed persons....Whenever then in his books I have found a statement concerning the Trinity contrary to those which in other places he has faithfully made on the same subject, I have either omitted the passage as garbled and misleading, or have substituted that view of the matter which I find him to have frequently asserted. Again, wherever- in haste to get on with his theme- he is brief or obscure relying on the skill and intelligence of his readers, I, to make the passage clearer, have sought to explain it by adding any plainer statements that I have read on the point in his other books. But I have added nothing of my own. The words used may be found in other parts of his writings : they are his, not mine....I adjure and require everyone who shall either read or copy these books of mine...let him add nothing to what is written, let him subtract nothing, let him insert nothing, but let him compare his transcript with the copies from which it was made, let him correct it to the letter, and let him punctuate it aright..."
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Re: Ancient book dissemination.

Post by Secret Alias »

Dormitat Stephanus ?
Yes. I've been doing this a lot lately. Apologies.
mbuckley3
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Re: Ancient book dissemination.

Post by mbuckley3 »

Another (limited) method of authorial control over his text, at least at the elite level, was the depositing of an 'authorised' copy in a civic or imperial library.

Galen, 'On Avoiding Distress' 21 : "Everything had already been written in two copies for distribution [προς εκδοσιν], excluding what was meant to stay in Rome, since friends back home [ie Pergamum] were asking for copies of all my writings to be sent to them to be deposited in public libraries, just as some others had already done elsewhere with many of our books, and I was planning also to have copies of everything in Campania."

This is apparently 'an almost unique case'* of Galen admitting to an active role in the εκδοσις/publication/distribution of his work. So : he keeps the original manuscript in his high-security storage unit on the Palatine, close to the imperial libraries; he has a duplicate made for transfer to his country villa; and another duplicate - yes, just a single copy - for his friends (usually termed 'followers'/εταιροι) to place in a public library. This would be the source of further privately-requested copies, whose accuracy depended on the competence of the scribe (and the motive of the client).

Galen is writing in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 192, which destroyed the imperial libraries on the Palatine, as well as the supposedly fire-proof storage facilities. So some of his works only survive thanks to the uncontrolled, 'freelance' copying of sparingly-distributed authorised manuscripts.







* So P.N. Singer, 'New Light and Old Texts : Galen On His Own Books' (@ academia.edu). This excellent article explores the various referents of εκδοσις in Galen, and tackles the ambiguities of the term in a writer who obsesses about restricting a 'clean' text to an inner circle, yet assumes it will 'leak' via unauthorised copies, indeed relies on that, and at one point admits : "..but after this..whatever I gave to people I composed with an eye to general distribution [προς κοινην εκδοσιν αποβλεπων], not to the level of those people alone who were the recipients"
mbuckley3
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Re: Ancient book dissemination.

Post by mbuckley3 »

When patristic writers 'misquote' biblical texts, it is an open question whether they are misremembering 'our' text, are accurately reproducing a (valid?) variant text, or freely adapting 'our' version to fit the context of their argument.

Galen's project, the recovery of Hippocrates' original teaching, and the refutation of his previous interpreters, is explicitly text-based, and leaves no room for a fallible memory. For example, the preface to the commentary on Hippocrates' Epidemics VI * :
"Somehow many interpreters have inflicted outrages upon this book too..as each hoped to give a plausible interpretation by altering the reading here. As a consequence, I was compelled to make a further investigation, both of the oldest copies [τα παλαιοτατα των αντιγραφων] and the commentaries of those who first explained the book...If then, after revealing the ancient reading [την παλαιαν γραφην], they had said that the passage is likely to be corrupt and that, on this account, they suspect that some [other] particular reading is Hippocrates', I too would have accepted their view, at least if I saw that, after the emendation, what they were teaching was both useful and, at the same time, consistent with the purport of the ancient [author]. But since they sometimes stumble in both respects, it seemed much better to me to preserve the ancient reading [φυλαττοντι την αρχαιαν γραφην] and always to make a serious effort to explicate it." (tr. H. von Staden)

So what did the imperial libraries on the Palatine contain to inform such precise research ?
Galen, 'On Avoiding Distress' 12b-18 :
"There is no hope of recovery since all the libraries on the Palatine were burnt on that same day. For there is no possibility of finding not only the rarities and works that were available nowhere else, but also copies of common works that were prized because of the precision of their text [την της γραφης ακριβειαν], like those of Callinus, Atticus, Peducaeus and even Aristarchus, including the two Homers, and the Plato of Panaetius and many others of that sort; within these writings were preserved things written by or copied for the individuals whose name they bore. There were also many autograph copies [αυτογραφα βιβλια] of ancient grammarians, orators, doctors and philosophers. Besides these books, so numerous and so important, I also lost on that day copies of many books that had been unclear as a result of scribal mistakes, but which after correction I had transcribed afresh to provide almost a new edition....You will be particularly distressed to learn that I had found in the Palatine libraries some books not described in the so-called Catalogues and some, on the other hand, that were clearly not the work of the author whose name they bore, being similar neither in language nor in ideas...There was also a work of the same name by Aristotle which I carefully found and transcribed but which is now also lost, and likewise works by Theophrastus and other ancient writers that did not appear on the Catalogues, as well as others that were mentioned there, but did not circulate widely [μη φαινομενα]. Many of these I found in the libraries on the Palatine, and I managed to procure copies. But now the books on the Palatine were destroyed on the same day as my own..." (tr. V. Nutton)

The imperial libraries had obviously benefitted from shrewd acquisitions by scholarly directors to make Rome what Alexandria once was. But in terms of this thread, what stands out is Galen's reliance, aside from (alleged) autographs, on 'corrected' texts, whether edited by himself or by a select canon of predecessors. This was not simply the correction of scribal mistakes. Aristarchus, for instance, had decided views on what Homer would/should have said which informed his editions. Modern specialists in Galen's technical work have no trouble demonstrating that he imports his own ideas into his 'sources'. To put it unkindly, he is often 'proof-texting' his arguments, and unreliably summarising the views of previous/rival interpreters. **

Galen is operating at a rarefied intellectual level with the resources of the premier manuscript collection in the empire. He cites and summarises sources at great length. Yet he is not necessarily a more reliable witness for the ipsissima verba of those sources than the church fathers are for their quotations.




* Of perhaps passing interest to Paulinists : Galen only regards this work as 'authentic' in the
sense of being a compilation of Hippocrates' observations, possibly by his son Thessalus

** As with any controversialist, Galen does not shrink from the argument ad hominem, e.g. of
Asclepiades : "Must we not therefore suppose he was either mad or entirely unacquainted
with practical medicine ?" ('On Natural Faculties' I.13)
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Re: Ancient book dissemination.

Post by Secret Alias »

Fascinating reading. Eagerly waiting more and more.
mbuckley3
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Re: Ancient book dissemination.

Post by mbuckley3 »

So, it is intrinsic to this method of book production that the only reliable version of a text was the autograph manuscript, or what I have termed an authorised copy, one marked up and corrected by the author himself (which, in a dictated work, would have been the form of the original anyway). An autograph had intellectual value quite apart from its scarcity/cash value as a 'collector's item'. That is the logical case; what was the perception?

First, some preliminaries. Galen's 'On Avoiding Distress' 13 has been quoted above : of 'classic' critical editions, "..within these writings were preserved things written by or copied for the individuals whose name they bore. There were also many autograph copies [αυτογραφα βιβλια] of ancient grammarians, orators, doctors and philosophers." The Budé edition substitutes αντιγραφα/'copies' for the manuscript's αυτογραφα. Anglophone scholars (Nutton, Singer) consider this an unnecessary emendation. Not only is αντιγραφα βιβλια a strange locution, it imports a modern view of what was plausible. The line can be translated (Manetti) : "There were also the autograph manuscripts of many grammarians, [containing the texts of] ancient authors : orators, doctors and philosophers. ." This essentially repeats the previous sentence, which definitely claims autograph status for editors' editions, just not for the ancient texts discussed.

So it seems safe to say that Galen, a (self-styled) specialist, believed at the end of the C2 that he had handled autographs from the Hellenistic era, but that the 'most ancient manuscripts' of Hippocrates, Plato etc were just that and no more. The questions that remain are how long were autographs thought to survive, and how prevalent were they?

To take an extreme example, C1 Pliny NH 13.27 : "Mucianus who was three times consul has stated that recently, when governor of Lycia, he had read in a certain temple a letter of Sarpedon written on paper at Troy." Pliny dismisses this supposed relic of the Trojan war, using 'historical' arguments to demonstrate that papyrus had not even been invented at this time.

But in the same chapter he restrains his scepticism over two alleged survivals from a more recent legendary past : "It is however universally agreed [inter omnes vero convenit] that the Sibyl brought three volumes to Tarquin the Proud, of which two were burnt by herself while the third was destroyed in the burning of the Capitol in the Sulla crisis."

Then there's the strange case of the lost books of Numa, the discovery in 181BC of Numa's coffin, containing no body but a mixture of priestly and Pythagorean works : "this was 535 years after the accession of Numa; and the historian [Cassius Hemina, C2BC] says that the books were made of paper, which makes the matter still more remarkable [maiore etiamnum miraculo], because of their having lasted in a hole in the ground. " Hemina is cited quoting the discoverer's account of how the books were treated and wrapped, as evidence for how they might have been authentic. (Livy in his account of the episode pointedly describes them as 'recentissima specie').

Pliny can afford to be open-minded about texts which no longer existed : the books of Numa were burnt in a public sacrifice. A timespan where he is clearly more comfortable occurs at NH 13.26 : "This process may enable records to last a long time; at the house of the poet and most distinguished citizen Pomponius Secundus I have seen documents in the hand of [manus] Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus written nearly 200 years ago; while [as for autographs] of Cicero, of the Divine Augustus, and of Virgil, we see them constantly [saepenumero]."

That latter trio recur in Pliny's younger contemporary, Quintilian. Inst. 1.7.20 : "That he [Cicero] and Virgil both used this spelling is shown by their own autograph manuscripts"/quomodo et ipsum et Vergilium quoque scripsisse manus eorum docent. Inst. 1.7.22 : "..and the same spelling is found in the letters of Augustus written or corrected by his own hand"/quas sua manu scripsit aut emendavit.

Galen's C2 contemporary, Aulus Gellius, also believed in Virgilian autographs. 9.4.7 : "I readily believe those who have stated that they saw a manuscript in Vergil's own hand [ideographum librum], in which it was written.." 2.3.5 : " I recall that Fidus Optatus, a grammarian of considerable repute in Rome, showed me a remarkably old [mirandae vetustatis] copy of the second book of the Aeneid, bought in the Sigillaria for 20 pieces of gold, which was believed [credebatur] to have belonged to Virgil himself."

The trio of favourites, 'saepenumero', 'credebatur', 20 pieces of gold : it is at this point that alarm bells ring, with the very real possibility that private and curated imperial libraries were contaminated, both in the sense of modern manuscripts being passed off as antique, and the creation of forged documents being created to meet a market demand.

Imperial archives existed, of course, but there is no mention of archival research when Suetonius, Div.Aug. 87-88, writes : "That in his everyday conversation he [Augustus] used certain favourite and peculiar expressions appears from letters in his own hand [litterae ipsius autographae ostentant]...I have also observed this special peculiarity in his manner of writing : he does not divide words or carry superfluous letters from the end of one line to the beginning of the next, but writes them just below the rest of the word and draws a loop around them...Of course his frequent transposition or omission of syllables as well as of letters are slips common to all mankind." So intimate, so personal, yet we have no provenance for these supposed autographs.

More definitely, Suetonius, Nero 52, refers to 'imperial' documents from a private collection : "I have had in my possession [Venere in manus meas] notebooks and papers with some well-known verses of his [Nero's], written with his own hand [ipsius chirographo scriptis] and in such wise that it was perfectly evident that they were not copied or taken down from dictation, but worked out exactly as one writes when thinking and creating; so many instances were there of words erased or struck through and written above the lines."

Sharp practice in the book trade was ridiculed by C2 Lucian, 'The Ignorant Book Collector' 4 : "On that theory, collect and keep all those manuscripts of Demosthenes [C4BC] that the orator wrote with his own hand [οσα τη χειρι τη αυτου ο ρητωρ εγραψε], and those of Thucydides that were found [ευρεθη] to have been copied, likewise by Demosthenes, eight [!] times over."

The 'distressing' of modern manuscripts to give the appearance of antiquity is witnessed by Dio Chrysostom, Or. 21.12 : "Surely you have noticed what some of our booksellers do?..Knowing that old books are in demand since better written and on better paper, they bury the worst specimens of our day in grain in order that they may take on the same colour as the old ones, and after ruining the books into the bargain they sell them as old."

In short, the belief that autographs (at one time) existed was logical and well-founded. Whether the supposed autograph was genuine, and thus authoritative, was more a matter of faith.
mbuckley3
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Re: Ancient book dissemination.

Post by mbuckley3 »

Recapitulations : additional illustrations of items on this thread

A) An unfinished text sent out for 'peer review' could be the source of an unauthorised copy.

Cicero, Letters to Atticus 13.21a : "Come now, do you really think you ought to publish without my orders?..Do you really think anyone [should have it] before Brutus, to whom at your advice I dedicated it? Balbus writes to me that he copied book five of De Finibus from you, a book in which I have made changes, admittedly not many, but some nevertheless. However, I shall be obliged if you will keep back the others, so that Balbus may not get unrevised copies [αδιορθωτα] and Brutus what is stale."


B) Even at this early stage, with just the autograph and a single copy, versions could proliferate.

Cicero, same letter : "Caerellia ablaze in her wonderful enthusiasm for philosophy no doubt, is copying from your people. She has this very work De Finibus. Now, I assure you (being human I may be wrong) that she did not get it from my people - it has never been out of my sight. Moreover, so far from writing two copies they had difficulty in finishing one."


C) The motive of the copyist/client could (allegedly) distort the text even as it was copied.

Origen, Commentary on Matthew 15.14 : "The differences among the manuscripts [of the gospels] have become great, either through the negligence of some copyist or through the perverse audacity of others; they either neglect to check over what they have transcribed, or, in the process of checking, they make additions or deletions as they please."


D) Once outside the circle of the author and his associates, there was no control whatever over the accuracy of textual transmission.

P.Oxy. 2192, a private letter, c.170AD : "Make and send me copies of books six and seven of the Characters in Comedy of Hypsicrates. For Harpocration says that they are among Polion's books. But it is likely that others, too, have got them. He also has prose epitomes of Thersagoras' work on the myths of tragedy."
Another hand (the addressee?) adds : "According to Harpocration, Demetrius the bookseller has got them", whether in stock, or, more likely, loaned by Polion for copying.


E) Even a standard, 'canonical' text could be shamelessly interpolated.

Julius Africanus, Kestoi 18 (otherwise P.Oxy. 412 or PGM XXIII) is a prime example. It quotes Homer's Odyssey XI.34-43, 48-51, expanded with a transitional cento then a long magical incantation. The additional material amounts to 29 lines. JA argues for the authenticity of this 'recovered' version and states that it can be found complete in the archives at Jerusalem and Nysa, in part at the Pantheon library in Rome. It is ambiguous whether JA placed or discovered these texts, was hoaxer or dupe : material to our point is that this version was in circulation. That JA seems also to be claiming to have curated the Pantheon library for the emperor is a delicious final twist.
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Re: Ancient book dissemination.

Post by mbuckley3 »

An excursus on υπομνηματα

The distinction outlined in the OP between υπομνηματα/commentarii/'notebooks' and finished works is basic. But there was a sub-set of υπομνηματα which was published as such in deliberate preference to a 'polished' composition.

Parallel to the rhetorical tradition there had always been a distrust of it; it engaged the emotions so as to mislead. Julius Caesar's early volumes on the Gallic wars, propaganda pieces, were titled commentarii. The reasonable modern assumption is that this was done as a deliberate ploy : lacking the rhetorical conventions of history written in the grand manner, they would convince by seeming more 'authentic'.

For explicit confirmation of this possibility we need to look elsewhere. Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 1.3, introduces as a major source the "hitherto unknown υπομνηματα" of Damis, the sage's companion (whether actual or invented is immaterial). "The empress commanded me to recast and edit these essays, at the same time paying more attention to the style and diction of them; for the man of Nineveh had told his story clearly enough, yet somewhat awkwardly."

So far, a perfect example of literary composition. Damis enters the narrative at 1.19 :

"..and Damis stayed with him increasing in wisdom and committing to memory whatever he learnt. The Assyrian's language, however, was of a mediocre quality, for he had not the gift of expressing himself, having been educated among the barbarians; but he kept a journal of their intercourse, and recorded in it whatever he heard or saw, and he was very well able to put together a υπομνημα of such matters and managed this better than anyone else could do. At any rate the volume which he calls his scrap-book, was intended to serve such a purpose by Damis, who was determined that nothing about Apollonius should be passed over in silence, nay, that his very solecisms and negligent utterances should also be written down... [A critic] remarked that he had recorded well enough a lot of things, for example, the opinions and ideas of his hero, but that in collecting such trifles as these he reminded him of dogs who pick up and eat the fragments which fall from a feast. Damis replied thus : 'If the banquets are those of the gods, and it is gods who are being fed, surely they must have attendants whose business it is that not even the parcels of ambrosia that fall to the ground should be lost'." (LCL tr.)

Philostratus was a sophisticated litterateur, who would not have put his name to publishing raw υπομνηματα. Yet here he goes out of his way to stress the intrinsic value of verbatim accounts. He is half way there. The leap was made by Arrian in the epistolary introduction to his Discourses of Epictetus :

"I have not composed these Words of Epictetus as one might be said to 'compose' books of this kind, nor have I of my own act published them to the world; indeed, I acknowledge that I have not 'composed' them at all. But whatever I heard him say I used to write down, word for word, as best I could, endeavouring to preserve it as a memorial [υπομνηματα], for my future use, of his way of thinking and the frankness of his speech. They are, accordingly, as you might expect, such remarks as one man might make off-hand to another, not such as he would compose for men to read in after time. This being their character, they have fallen, I know not how, without my will or knowledge, into the hands of men. Yet to me it is a matter of small concern if I should be thought incapable of 'composing' a work, and to Epictetus of no concern at all if anyone shall despise his words, seeing that even when he uttered them he was clearly aiming at nothing else but to incite the minds of his hearers to the best things. If, now, these words of his should produce that same effect, they would have, I think, just that success which the words of the philosophers ought to have; but if not, let those who read them be assured of this, that when Epictetus himself spoke them, the hearer could not help but feel exactly what Epictetus wanted him to feel. If, however, the words by themselves do not produce this effect, perhaps I am at fault, or else, perhaps, it cannot well be otherwise." (LCL tr.)

Again we have the trope of unauthorised publication of private notes, but rather than rework them, Arrian publishes the raw υπομνηματα, confident that the vividness/εναργεια sought by a rhetor's technique would instead transmit through simply reproducing his mentor's words, and so compel belief.

This method is adapted by Origen to defend the gospel authors; Contra Celsum 3.39 :

"We are convinced that men who had not learnt the technique taught by the pernicious sophistry of the Greeks, which has great plausibility and cleverness, and knew nothing of the rhetoric prevalent in the law-courts, could not have invented stories in such a way that their writings were capable in themselves of bringing a man to believe and to live a life in conformity with his faith. I think it was for this reason that Jesus chose to employ such men to teach his doctrine, that there might be no possible suspicion of plausible sophisms, but that to those able to understand, the innocence of the writers' purpose, which if I may say so was very naive, might be obviously manifest; and that they might see that the writers were considered worthy to be endowed with divine power, which accomplished far more than seems to be achieved by involved verbosity and stylish constructions, and by a logical argument divided into distinct sections and worked out with Greek technical skill." (tr. H. Chadwick)



"
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Re: Ancient book dissemination.

Post by DCHindley »

mbuckley3,

Nice post!

I had contributed a more crude version in the past (2017):

viewtopic.php?p=75401#p75401

But it is all in unicode Greek with English translations.

Enjoy.

DCH
mbuckley3
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Re: Ancient book dissemination.

Post by mbuckley3 »

DCHindley wrote: Wed Apr 20, 2022 12:17 pm mbuckley3,

Nice post!

I had contributed a more crude version in the past (2017):

viewtopic.php?p=75401#p75401

But it is all in unicode Greek with English translations.

Enjoy.

DCH
DCH

Many thanks -
A) for taking time out, as an Old Master, to read this stuff
B) for doing the hard yards, and for folding the results into this thread


You made a clarion call for 'context' back in 2017. It is indeed a problem. I recently tripped over the verbal form υπομνηματισασθαι in Ps-Longinus, 'On the Sublime' 1. It's normally translated as 'prepare some notes.' But he refers to his work at 36 as a υπομνημα, singular. So the verb here more likely means 'write an essay'; (perhaps - as with Galen's smoke and mirrors usage - hinting at the primary meaning with an eye to forestalling criticism, 'it was only a first draft'). In the wider sense of intellectual context, with author unknown, date unknown ('Imperial' doesn't get us far), and not quoted by anyone, 'On the Sublime' is not the most 'helpful' of texts... :)
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