Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2004.05.13

Martin Jacobsson (ed.), Aurelius Augustinus. De musica liber VI. Studia Latina Stockholmiensia, 147.   Stockholm:  Almqvist & Wiksell, 2002.  Pp. cxviii, 144.  ISBN 91-22-01959-6.  SEK 239.00 (pb).  



Reviewed by Brad Eden, University of Nevada, Las Vegas (beden@ccmail.nevada.edu)
Word count: 1461 words

This is the first critical edition of the sixth book of the De musica by Augustine. According to the editor, the Maurist edition of this work, published in Paris in 1679 and revised in 1836, is not a critical edition according to modern standards. The Maurist edition did not attempt a survey of extant manuscripts, those manuscripts that were used were not evaluated correctly, and there was no attempt to discuss relationships between and among surviving manuscripts. While the first five books of the De musica are also in need of critical editions (which the editor mentions he may attempt in the future), the focus of this book will only be on book six.

The edition contains an extensive introduction by the editor, in which he describes the purpose of the edition, provides a brief history of the time and circumstances surrounding the composition of the text, discusses previous textual work on the six books of De musica, informs the reader of the various surviving manuscripts and their interrelationships and families, examines textual problems in the manuscripts, provides an overview of the contents of De musica liber VI, gives some selective commentary and describes the editorial principles for establishing and presenting the text, as well as principles for the translation. Following the introduction, the editor provides the translation according to established critical edition procedures, with the Latin text on the left-hand side of the page, and the English translation on the right-hand side of the page. Before the translation, the conspectus siglorum of the surviving manuscripts is given, and following the translation there are two appendices on the deviations from the vulgate text (the Maurist edition), and retractationes I.XI: De musica libri sex. An index terminorum is provided, and a bibliography of works used by the editor for this edition.

The editor mentions early on that his work does not include a commentary proper, just a selective one. This is because the focus of the edition is not on the history of philosophy, nor a summary of what has already been written about the sixth book of De musica, but on elucidating difficulties in the text itself. In the brief history of the composition of the text, the editor provides a history of opinion related to the dating of the six books of Augustine's De musica. He discusses the various arguments of Prosper Alfaric (1918), Heinz Edelstein (1929), Karel Svoboda (1933), Henri-Irenee Marrou (1938), G. Finaert and F.-J. Thonnard (1947), Olivier Du Roy (1966), Ubaldo Pizzani (1990), Maria Bettetini (1991), Adalbert Keller (1993), and Michele Cutino (1997). After the presentation of all of these arguments for the dating of Augustine's De musica, the editor feels that the question still remains: why does Augustine, immediately after having written the first five books, call these books nugacitas, uilis uia, plane pueriliter? In the end, the editor decides that the thesis of Marrou (1938) is the best way of accounting for the discrepancies between the preface of book six and the rest of the work. The editor reminds the reader that Marrou never presumed to date the books of De musica; he only noted that the preface and epilogue of book six were not altogether in accord with the rest of the work.

The editor then points out the singularity of the dialogue genre, as we find it in Augustine's preface to book six. There are two kinds of dialogue: one where the dialogue is placed in a setting and the phrases of the different speakers are introduced by uerba dicendi (as Augustine used while in Cassiciacum), and the kind where the interlocutors are indicated by their names the first time and then by sigla (as Augustine used while in Rome). The dialogues in De musica belong to the latter group. There should, therefore, be no preface in the work (especially in book six), nor should there be any kind of presentation of the interlocutors. The editor explains that the sixth book had become much better known than the other five and that Augustine had probably added a preface at a later stage as a justification and perhaps recognition that book six could be read separately from the other five books, and could stand on its own as a treatise. We know Augustine emended book six sometime around 408/9 (from a letter to his fellow-bishop Memorius), and that the original version of book six has not survived in any manuscript copy, only the emended version.

Moving on from this conclusion, Jacobsson spends some time discussing the unpublished 1986 dissertation of Patrick Le Boeuf on the manuscript tradition of De musica, which I assume has not been widely available prior to this book. The editor then moves into a lengthy examination of the extant manuscripts of De musica. Of the 78 manuscripts that survive from the 8th through the 15th centuries, 38 were collated for this edition. Primary factors for collation were age and availability for study. Out of these 38 manuscripts, six were chosen for the actual establishment of the text of the critical edition. In stating his reasons for choosing these six manuscripts, Jacobsson mentions that in particular cases of text-editing, it is perfectly justifiable for an editor to abstain from collating every extant manuscript and showing its relation to the rest of the tradition, especially in cases regarding texts of the Fathers of the Church, since it is probable that the text was established very early and that examination of a limited selection of manuscripts is enough for the constitution of the text (quotations from Giorgio Pasquali and Wolfgang Hormann are given to support this thesis). In reference to his listing of manuscript families, Jacobsson chooses the six oldest manuscripts (labeled A-F) upon which to base his edition. These six manuscripts are:

A = Tours, Bibl. Mun. 286 (8th-9th century)

B = Paris, B.N. lat. 13375 (9th century)

C = Valenciennes, Bibl. Mun. 384-384 (9th century)

D = Paris, B.N. lat. 7200 (9th-10th century)

E = Vercelli, Bibl. Cap. CXXXVIII (9th-10th century)

F = Angers, Bibl. Mun. 486 (11th century)

In addition to these six manuscripts, the printed editions of 1491, 1506, 1529, and 1577; the Maurist revised edition of 1836; and the edition in the Patrologia Latina were collated. Jacobsson then lays down the critical apparatus principles, and orthography and punctuation guidelines.

Jacobsson provides an annotated description and inventory of the six major manuscripts chosen for the edition, as well as manuscript G (Ivrea, Bibl. Cap. 52, from the 11th century, which was not chosen because the text is of such bad quality as to be useless). The editor then provides an extended discussion of the manuscript families and branches into which these 38 manuscripts fall, and he provides extensive detail regarding differences and errors in the transmission of the text among these manuscripts. Jacobsson spends a considerable amount of time pointing out textual problems in the manuscripts to explain his rendering and choice of various phrases and words in his translation. Particularly useful and helpful to scholars is the editor's conspectus of the contents of De musica liber VI, which I feel helps users and scholars of this edition to understand the logic and flow of the discussion between the teacher and student, along with major topic areas, line numbers, and delineations of debate and rhetoric. As a medieval musicologist, I was especially interested in the discussions regarding the five kinds of rhythm identified by the teacher, and the use of the medieval chant Deus creator omnium as an example throughout the text by the teacher to illustrate certain points related to these rhythms. Jacobsson also includes some selective commentary on some of the more problematic passages of the text.

As far as the translation itself, the Latin text is accompanied by a parallel English version so that those who know Latin well may be able to judge and interpret the way the editor has translated the text and his rationale for choosing certain readings; and so that those without a strong background in the Latin language can learn what Augustine said in the sixth book of De musica. Jacobsson mentions that this treatise has been translated a number of times, but based upon the text of the Maurist edition only. Finally, the translation itself was done nicely, and was very precise in identifying variant spellings and words between the six manuscripts and previous editions chosen as the basis for the critical edition.

In conclusion, I think this critical edition of Augustine's De musica liber VI is long overdue and done extremely well by the editor. I look forward to the same detail and precision in future critical editions of the first five books of De musica, and hope that this same editor will produce them in a timely manner.

Read Latest
Index for 2004
Change Greek Display
Archives
Books Available for Review
BMCR Home

HTML generated at 13:29:18, Friday, 03 April 2009