WHAT CATULLUS WROTE: Problems in Textual Criticism, Editing and the Manuscript Tradition

Ed. by Dániel Kiss

The Classical Press of Wales (2015) h/b 194pp £58.00 ISBN 9781905125999

This book, which is the exceptionally worthwhile outcome of a conference held at Munich in 2011, is unashamedly for the specialist. Since its contents reflect this, it may be held that the editor deserves some reproof for neither providing a synopsis of what is to come in his Introduction, nor for insisting that his six contributors (who include himself) provide a summary of or brief conclusion to their individual offerings (David Butterfield is the praiseworthy exception, since Julia Haig Gaisser’s three valedictory lines hardly qualify.

In his Introduction, Dániel Kiss gives us a sketch of the textual transmission. After ‘Antiquity’—i.e. up to the early 5th century AD—when Catullus (hereinafter C.) was widely read, Kiss shows that, against the idée reçue that C. now vanishes until AD 1300, he was read in much of Europe between the 8th and 12th centuries: evidence for this comes from the Codex Thuaneus of the 9th century and is more convincing than other indirect evidence, including the speciously plausible, but unproven, claim of Bishop Ratherius of Vienna to have been reading him in 965/6, to which he returns in the following chapter. We now arrive at c. AD 1300, and the shadowy appearance of the lost Veronensis, from which our four main surviving MSS are derived (there are also 126 codices recentiores). Kiss gives the most plausible stemma codicum, laboriously constructed over the years, but emphasises that the ‘[MS] tradition of C. is exceptionally corrupt’—and, often, attribution of conjectures is far from straightforward.

Kiss goes on to expand this in the next chapter (‘The lost Codex Veronensis and its Descendants: Three Problems in C.’s Manuscript Tradition’), pointing out that Mynors’s ‘rather conservative’ OCT text of C. contains over 800 conjectures—more than one for every three lines. After considering (inconclusively) the vexed question of whether the recentiores contain any value as independent sources for C.’s text, Kiss considers Goold’s contention that corruption in C. is of a ‘superficial (i.e. post-Veronensis) rather than profound nature’. After necessarily dense argumentation, Kiss concludes, against Goold, that corruptions in C. ‘have accumulated gradually over the centuries’.

G.G. Biondi, (in ‘Catullus, Sabellico [& Co.] and … Giorgio Pasquali’), again discusses Pasquali’s ‘recentiores non deteriores’ in relation to C. Again, the argumentation is too dense to permit summary, but Biondi concludes that C.’s text has been ‘successfully supplemented’ by the ‘recentiores and by the writings of the humanists of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries’. Why he then adduces Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle as a possibly valuable source of encouragement to philologists eludes the reviewer.

A lighter tone is introduced by J. H. Gaisser’s ‘Pontano’s Catullus’. Pontano was a 15th  century poet and polymath who was fixated on C. and whom he imitated ‘creatively and extensively’ in hendecasyllables: it is reasonably clear that he owned a MS of C., much less so that he that he contributed to its text in any useful way.

From A. Ramirez de Verger’s contribution—‘Nicolaus Heinsius’s Notes on Catullus’—one might have hoped for more than we get: the great scholar’s suggestions, while invariably worthy of consideration (as dicebat for ducebat at 8.4, papillae for puellae at 55.17, and neglegenti for neglegentem at 10.34), yet fall short of certainty: perhaps only irrupere for peperere at 66.45 is highly convincing.

More satisfying fare is provided by David Butterfield in ‘Cui videberis bella: The Influence of Baehrens and Housman on the Text of Catullus’. Baehrens it was who recognised the importance of the Oxoniensis (as Robinson Ellis had failed to do), and Butterfield gives a number of his convincing conjectures (eg incultum for in ciuum at 64.350 and ultus erratum for ulta peccatum at 44.17). At 76.10, both Baehrens and Housman made attractive conjectures to amend the metre: Butterfield marginally prefers that of Baehrens. Housman’s own most famous correction in C.—Opis for opis—at 64.324 is as beautiful and elegant as Butterfield avers, and his aperit for the parit/perit of the MSS at 64.282 is scarcely less persuasive. Butterfield goes on to discuss five unpublished conjectures: the last of them, dum domino ipso egeat for dum modo ipse egeat at 114.6 is not only plausible and ingenious, but also brings to mind Housman’s famous and certain correction eguit Jove Juppiter ipse at Manilius 1.423. Housman, let it be said, fully understood what Baehrens had achieved in the criticism of C.’s MSS, while regarding most of his conjectures as valueless.

In the final chapter, ‘Poems 62, 67 and other Catullan Dialogues’, S.J. Heyworth examines changes of speaker in the four poems which proceed through dialogue. The reviewer found the arguments (which defy analysis in a brief review) persuasive, and one conjecture ipse sui for illius at 67.23 (by Trappes-Lomax) seems virtually certain.

Although this thoughtful and scholarly book inevitably brings to mind (in the case of C.) what Paul Maas said: ‘There is no remedy against contamination’ (though that remark is not quoted), its appearance is most welcome at a time when detailed textual matters are playing a markedly smaller part in published commentaries than was formerly the case; and of course textual criticism of the high quality of what is on display here is both intellectually demanding and time-consuming (and each chapter is followed by notes of the most detailed kind). The book is elegantly produced, there are all the expected Indexes, and eight full pages of photographs illustrate some of the MSS under discussion: if only there were one of the Veronensis!

Colin Leach


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