Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An Example Of How I Won't Be Looking For The Lost Books Of Livy

From Philological Inquiries, an alarming random collection of stuff written by James Harris, who is perhaps not to be held solely to blame for it, as he lived from 1709 to 1780, and it was published in 1781. Pp 553-556:

Concerning the Manuscripts of Livy, in the Escurial Library.

It having been often asserted, that an intire and complete Copy of Livy was extant in the Escurial Library, I requested my Son, in the year 1771 (he being at that time Minister Penipotentiary to the Court of Madrid) to inquire for me, what Manuscripts of that Author were there to be found. He procured me the following accurate Detail from a learned Ecclesiastic, Don Juan de Pellegeros, Canon of Lerma, employed by Monsr. De Santander, his Catholic Majestiy's Librarian, to inspect for this purpose the Manuscripts of that valuable Library. The Detail was in Spanish, of which the following is a Translation.

Among the MSS. of the Escurial Library are the following Works of T. Livy.

1st. Three large Volumes, which contain many Decads, the 1st, 3d, and 4th (one Decad in each Volume) curiously written on Parchment, or fine Vellum, by Pedro de Middleburgh, or of Zeeland (as he stiles himself).

The Books are truly magnificent, and in the Title and Initials curiously illuminated. They bear the Arms of the House of Borgia, with a Cardinal's Cap, whence it appears that they belonged either to Pope Callixtus the third, or to Alexander the sixth, when Cardinals.

2d. Two other Volumes, written by the same Hand, one of the first Decad, the other of the third; of the same size, and beauty, as the former. Both have the fame Arms, and in the last is a Note, which recites : This Book belongs to D. Juan de Fonseca, Biship of Burgos.

3d. Another Volume of the same size, and something more antient, than the former (being of the beginning of the fifteenth Century) containing the third Decad entire. This is also well written on Parchment, tho' not so valuable as the former.

4th. Another of the first Decad, finely written on Vellum. At the end is written as follows — Ex centum voluminibus, quce ego indies vita mea magnis laboribus hactenus jcripfffe rnemini, has duos Titi Livii libros Anno Dni. 1441. Ego Joanes Andreas de
Colsnia feliciter, gratia Dei, absolvi — and at the end of each book — Emendavi Nuomaehus Fabianus.

In the last leaf of this Book is a Fragment either of Livy himself or of some Pen, capable of imitating him. It fills the whole leaf, and the Writer fays, it was in the Copy, from which he transcribed. It appears to be a Fragment of the latter times of the fecond Punic.War.

5th. Another large Volume in Parchment, well written, of the same Century, viz. the fifteenth containing three Decads — 1. De Urbis initis. 2. De Bella Punico. 3. De Bella Macedonia). In this last Decad is wanting a part of the Book., This Volume is
much esteemed, being full of Notes and various Readings in the hand of Hieronimo Zunita, its former possessor.

6th. Another very valuable Volume, containing the first Decad, equal to the former in the elegance of its Writing and Ornaments. This also belonged to Hieronimo Zunita; the age the same.

7th. Lastly, there is another of the first Decad also, written on Paper, at the beginning of the fifteenth Century. This contains nothing remarkable.

In all, there are ten Volumes, and all nearly of the same age.

Here ends the Account of the Escurial Manu- scripts, given us by this learned Spaniard, in which Manuscripts we see there appears no part of LiVY, but what was printed in the early Editions.

The other Parts of this Author, which Parts none of the Manuscripts here recited give us, were discovered and printed afterwards.

As to the Fragment mentioned in the fourth article, (all of which Fragment is there transcribed) it has, tho genuine, no peculiar rarity, as it is to be found in all the latter printed Editions. See particularly in Crevier's Edition of Livy, Paris, 1 7 36, Tome 2d, pages 716, 717, 718, beginning with the words Raro simulhominibus, and ending with the words increpatis
risum esse, which is the whole Extent of the Fragment here exhibited.

From this Detail it is evident, that no intire Copy of Livy is extant in the Escurial Library.

My first impulse is to laugh at these 18th century rumors of entire editions of Livy laying around cataloged in some great library or other. On second thought I must acknowledge that I have the benefit of hundreds of years' worth of hindsight, and as ridiculous as those rumors seem to us today, it was good of the Harrises, father and son, to go to the trouble of putting one of them to rest, and that although we chuckle over it today, it did us no harm when Lord Charlemont, visiting Constantinople in 1749, inquired as to whether the Seraglio library might by any chance have a complete copy of Livy lying around somewhere. See his Travels in Greece and Turkey, 1749,p 179, n 1.

There seem to have been all sorts of wild imaginings about the contents of the Seraglio library in the 18th century. They remind me of some of the silly speculation today about the contents of the Vatican library.

No, I don't believe that all 142 books of Livy are sitting around, cataloged, in some great library or other, because someone would've noticed such a thing by now and informed the rest of us. It's somewhat more likely that some little pieces of the lost books may be hiding around somewhere, bound together in a volume with other things in the attic or study of some non-scholar, someone who has no idea what it is or how valuable it is, but I'm about as likely to stumble across such a thing as I am to win the Powerball jackpot. It's not impossible that some such fragments may be mis-cataloged in a library somewhere, but libraries big and small have been combed over for such finds and, in Livy's case, his missing texts have been hunted with extraordinary vigor for centuries now. It may well be that the last find in a great library was that palimpsest from book 91 found in the Vatican library just a little before Harris sent his son to inquire at the Escorial. The finds of Livy's texts since then have been dug up by archaeologists, little scraps of papyrus with a few words here, a few there, and I think that future finds will most likely resemble those more than the palimpsests, or our one copy of books 41-45 -- written in the 5th century, found on a shelf in a monastery in the 16th century. More finds like the latter would be nice, of course. In the same way that it would be nice if I won the MacArthur genius grant and the Nobel prize for literature and got engaged to Reese Witherspoon all within the next couple of years. Fingers crossed on all of the above, of course, but you should keep in mind not only that I expect future finds of Livy to be mostly or all scraps of a few words at a time, buried, covered with thousands or years' worth of dirt and/or halfway-decomposed, requiring the most careful and expert care in order to survive, but that many people who know about such things would consider me a nut for expecting even that much.

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