Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Neo-Latin Anthologies

Mark Riley first published his Neo-Latin Reader in 2016. The copy before me is from 2018, and on the copyright page it is noted that corrections were made in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Milena Minkova's Florilegium Recentioris Latinitatis was published in 2018.

Neither volume includes facing-pages translations of the Latin texts, indicating that they are intended for readers who actually intend to read them in Latin. 

Riley divides his book by genres, which range from poetry to fiction to history to science. There is even a section of jokes in Latin. I must confess that I cannot completely explain the division of the texts in Riley: it is not strictly chronological, and texts by one author sometimes appear in more than one section. But in the introductions to the texts, in English, Riley offers much of interest about the cultural backgrounds from which they arose. He also gives a lot of information about editions of the various authors, which I find good, as, presumably, readers intrigued by the selections in the anthology might want to read more by these Neo-Latin writers.


Petrarch is mentioned by name on the front cover of this paperback edition, where there is also a picture of his face. However, I couldn't find any works by Petrarch in the table of contents. This left me quite confused, until I saw a letter from Petrarch to Cicero in Riley's introduction to the book. 

Minkova's Florilegium, as you might already have guessed from its title, is written entirely in Latin, from the preface to the entire volume, to to the introductory remarks to each work, to the footnotes. The authors, representing a diversity of genres and subjects comparable to Riley, are presented in chronological order, from Petrarch (14th century) to Pascoli (19th-20th century). The only non-Latin material to be found between these covers, aside from the excerpted Neo-Latin authors' occasional use of phrases in Greek, is to be found in Minkova's lists of recent scholarly work pertaining to each and every author. These lists are most welcome. However, I was not able to find within them any reference to editions of the Neo-Latin authors. That's one point for Riley, imho. Like Riley's prefatory material in English, Minkova's prefaces in Latin contain a wealth of interesting and edifying information, historical, cultural and linguistic.

Reading these two fine volumes, I kept thinking of other Neo-Latin authors who deserve to be anthologized. Riley and Minkova both include much that one would expect in volumes intended to introduce recent Latin: works by Petrarch, More, Erasmus, Landival and others are in both volumes. It is no real reproach to either of these editors that I missed, for example, Ficino, Poliziano, Luther, Calvin, Francis Bacon, Spinoza, Milton, Kant, Marx and Nietzsche, to name a few. Rather, it indicates that this is a very wide field, with a very great deal of material suitable for introductory anthologies.

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