Knowing a Humanist’s Sources

(low tone) – Likewise, Manetti often relied on Bruni as a source of information
for most of his own works on various subjects, from
translation theory to philosophy. Manetti’s “History of
Pistoia” is no exception. This bears important consequences also from a philological point of view. Knowing a humanist’s source
can prove most helpful to fix a corrupt passage, when the extent witnesses do not preserve the original formula, or if the damage already occurred in the archetype itself. I would like to show an example from Manetti’s “Historia Pistoriensis.” In Book Two, paragraph 161, Manetti describes the
Florentine conquest of Artimino, a castle in the Tuscan countryside. The source is certainly the account of this same episode in Bruni’s
“Historiae Florentini Populi,” as the language reveals. Yet, Manetti’s account as transmitted by all seven extent
manuscripts is corrupt, as one can see by reading the following: “[Florentini] in agrum Pistoriensem ingrediuntur, “quod licet ab oppidanis egregie admodum “defenderetur, ad extremum tamen incolumes “abire pacti castellum dedidere.” The English translation reads as follows: “The Florentines entered
the territory of Pistoia, “that although very
well defended by locals, “in the end they surrendered the castle, “having been allowed to leave
without suffering any harm.” The syntax is indeed awkward, suggesting that something
must be wrong or missing. I’d like to pause for a moment here before discussing the specific
case in greater detail and take this opportunity to encourage you always to translate the
text you’re editing. The risk, with the mere recensio, accolation and assessment
of all the exemplars, unaccompanied by a version
in your own language is that your mind, ears and eyes get used to the text after a while, to the point that its prose or poetry soon starts sounding like a mantra, a sort of formula that puts
you in a trance-like state. Inevitably, and often without noticing, your breathing and heartbeats change when you read manuscripts, just as if you were practicing yoga. Comparing the copy in front of you with the reference stacks, becomes like a sort of silent liturgy, a song that you recite to yourself. This ritual, so to speak,
only gets interrupted, when a discrepancy catches your attention. It’s difficult to keep the
necessary level of alertness throughout, so as to notice
every single variant. It may even happen that philologists read the same corrupt
passages many times over without ever realizing that there is something wrong with them, especially if the meaning
is not hard to grasp. In this regard, translating
can render a great service. By transferring that text
into your own language, you have to put yourself in
the author’s shoes, as it were. If I made another similar metaphor, when translating, you must
follow in his or her footsteps. In doing so, it’s a lot easier
for you to see if the author, or the tradition of his text, has stumbled. Alright, enough with this
digression, though important, on the need to translate
any text you’re editing, whether you’re intent to
publish that translation or not. Back to the example I started giving, about a passage in Manetti’s
“History of Pistoia.” It is probably better to
cite this excerpt again, so as to refresh our memory. In Latin: “[Florentini] in agrum Pistoriensem “ingrediuntur, quod licet ab oppidanis “egregie admodum defenderetur, “ad extremum tamen incolumes “abire pacti castellum dedidere.” Apart from the awkward syntax, which one could try to justify as a rhetorical anacoluthon, although that would not be
consistent with Manetti’s style, especially in a page like this, the main thing is that too many things do not seem to work in this
apparently simple sentence. First, the neutral pronoun “quod,” cannot go with the preceding
masculine noun, “agrum.” Second, Manetti uses the word “oppidanis,” but it does not mention
any “oppidum” after “agrum.” “Oppidum” would make perfect sense, also because of its gender, neutral, that could go with the pronoun “quod.” There is, however, a neutral
noun in this sentence that the “quod” could
refer to: it’s “castellum,” mentioned at the end. Thanks to these elements, one could divine a plausible correction. But even closer at
hand, and more reliable, is the source of this passage, Bruni’s “History of the Florentine People.” The corresponding account in Bruni’s History of
the Florentine People, Book Five, paragraph 127, reads as follows: “[Florentini] in agrum Pistoriensem ingressi, “Arteminum obsederunt. “Id quoque castellum per ea tempora “munitissimum erat. “Aliquot dies circa illud commorati, “tandem incredibili virtute expugnare “adorti sunt. Cum egregie resisteretur, “ingenti materiae vi circa muros “congesta incensaque, vallum simul portaque “crematur. Neque die neque noctu “oppugnatione intermissa, qui intus erant, “desperatis ad extremum rebus, “incolumes abire pacti, “castellum dedidere.” And in English, literal translation, this passage would read as follows: “The Florentines entered
the territory of Pistoia “and besieged Artimino. “This castle happened to
be very well fortified. “After spending several days in the area, “they finally started storming
the castle most forcefully. “Since the besieged resisted strenuously, “they amassed a lot of
materials by the walls, “set fire to them, and burned
both the ditch and the gate. “The siege continued night and day. “In the end, the
besieged, being desperate, “surrendered the castle,
having been allowed to leave “without suffering any harm.” I believe it is precisely
the section in italics, quoted above, that was
left out, that is dropped, from Manetti’s reworking of this passage. The omission occurred in the archetype and from there, it trickled down into all the extent witnesses. None of the scribes responsible
for copying this work, not even the one who
transcribed the manuscript of the “Historia Pistoriensis”
for Manetti’s own library, what is now codex
Palatinus Latinus 932 at the Vatican Library,
noticed this omission. This copy corresponds to manuscript V in the critical editition,
whose stemma codicum is as follows: Not even the author himself, Manetti, found anything wrong with this passage, although, as we shall in the next section, it is likely that he intervened to insert some various in copies now
lost, that is so-called, “codices interpositi” of
the “Historia Pistoriensis.” This, however, should not surprise us. Though a privileged reader, an author is still a reader of his own text. As such, he may fail
to detect shortcomings in what he wrote months or years earlier, especially if he does
not intend to carry out a meticulous reworking,
like a brand new edition, in which case, the structure too, will most likely undergo
a significant change. Nor does an author, when intervening on his own text at a later
stage, always opt for lectio difficilior, that is, a more difficult variant. Authors may also
trivialize their own text, that is simplified, either intentionally, or because of carelessness. This, however, pertains to the so-called, “critique of variants,” that I will discuss in the next section. Let us now return to the example I was giving a minute ago. To the best of my
knowledge, only one reader realized that this passage was corrupt, the 18th century Italian scholar, Ludovico Antonio Muratori, who published his work on the basis of one single manuscript in 1731. In his edition for the famous series, “Rerum Italicarum Scriptores,” Muratori inserted three
dots to signal an omission right after “in agrum Pistoriensem ingrediuntur.” Not bothering to offer a critical edition, Muratori avoided checking this paragraph against other witnesses, or
conjecturing an inundation. When working on the Historia
Pistoriensis a few years ago, instead I had to intervene, after collating all extent manuscripts, since my task was precisely to come up with a critical edition. I thus opted for a minimal intervention borrowing as little as possible
from the identified source, again, Bruni’s “Historia Florentini Populi,” precisely the excerpt
in Latin quoted above. Since the extent materials did not allow for a larger, say more
invasive, intervention, and considering that parsimony is always a good principle in philology when one has to intervene on the text, I simply replaced the verb “ingrediuntur” in the extent copies of
Manetti’s “Historia Pistoriensis” with the past participle “ingressi,” followed by the formula “Arteminum obsederunt,” “they besieged Artemino”,
as one finds in Bruni. This way, the syntax makes sense, for “Arteminum” is connected
with the neutral pronoun “quod,” immediately following. In it’s restored form, the
passage reads as follows: “in agrum Pistoriensem ingressi, “Arteminum obsederunt. “quod licet ab oppidanis egregie admodum “defenderetur, ad extremum tamen incolumes “abire pacti castellum dedidere.” The angled brackets in the body of text show that those two words, “arteminum obsederunt,” have been added by the editor. This philological issue
is discussed in detail in the introduction to the edition, precisely pages 81, 82,
discussing the archetype, and then again in pages 87, 88, where I explain the editorial principles that I have followed. Finally, in the apparatus to this passage, the conjecture is highlighted by means of simple philological formulas, in Latin, as tradition
dictates, reading as follows. Speaking of tradition, in all
the meanings of this word, it’s now time to move
on to the next section where I will talk, though briefly, of the following subjects, all of which have already
been hinted at in this video. The issue of authorial variance, the use of marginal notes, and issues of punctuation when working on humanist’s texts.

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