Wednesday, March 15, 2017

I Thought I Was Picking Up S P Oakley's Commentary On Livy Books VI-X

I thought that was what I had ordered via inter-library loan. However, what I picked up from the local branch of the public library was Volume I of that commentary,

published in 1997, containing an introduction to all 5 books, VI-X, and Oakley's commentary on book VI. I had assumed that Oakley's commentary on all 5 books, VI-X, would be contained in one, medium sized, volume. The Preface to volume I begins with Oakley saying that volume II, covering books VII-VIII, was already in the press (it appeared in 1999), and that volume III would cover books IX-X. Actually, volume III, published in 2007, covered book IX, and there was a volume IV, published in 2009, for book X.

The volume before us, volume I, is not medium-sized, it is large, over 800 pages. Over 300 of those pages contain the introduction to all 5 books, VI-X, and less than 350 contain the actual commentary to book VI, which is proceeded by 50 pages of historical introduction to book VI (distinct from those 300 pages of general introduction to books VI-X) and followed by appendices, a bibliography and indices.

I know that my habit of posting about books which I have just gotten and haven't read yet must be maddening to some of my readers, who expect a review of an entire book which I have already read. In my defense I will just say that there are critics who are paid, quite handsomely paid in some cases, to deliver reviews of books which they have read, and who publish things which pretend to be such reviews, but they haven't actually read the books yet, and, quite unlike me, probably never will.

You want me to provide evidence for this bold and slanderous statement? This book,

an heroic act of public service, is an excellent place to start collecting that evidence. (And yes, I've read it cover to cover.)

I'm sure that the dry tone of this post so far has not adequately conveyed it, but I am excited to have before me this vol I of Oakley's commentary. I'm especially looking forward to an exhaustive discussion of the manuscripts of books VI-X, which covers well over half of those 300 pages of general introduction. (I quote from p 153: "There are at least 195 mss of L's first decade.") (Livy's "first decade" is books 1-10, i to X, of the 142 books of his history of Rome.) (Of those 195, "twenty-four predate the thirteenth century." ibid.) To those who share my inclinations, I know I don't have to explain this excitement. To those who don't, I don't know how to explain it. Maybe some lay readers of my blog have gradually come to share my interest in manuscripts of ancient Latin texts, if they've read many or all of my numerous posts on the subject. Maybe not. (The bibliography cites 8 items by Billanovich and 11 by Reeve! Yay!)

It's amazing to me how recent it was that such commentaries held no interest for me, even though I was very interested in Livy. It was simple ignorance: I had no idea, really, what such commentaries are.

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