Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.08.44

Friederike Berger, Die Textgeschichte der Historia animalium des Aristoteles. Serta Graeca 21.   Wiesbaden:  Dr Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2005.  Pp. ix, 242; pls. 19.  ISBN 3-89500-439-1.  €88.00.  



Reviewed by N.G. Wilson, Lincoln College, Oxford
Word count: 619 words

The collection of photographs assembled by the Aristoteles-Archiv in Berlin has made it much easier to undertake systematic research into the transmission of all works in the Aristotelian corpus. The monograph under review is another useful contribution to the history of these texts,

It begins with a discussion of the title of the Historia animalium, the authenticity of the text and its place in Aristotle's output (pp.5-15). Then follows a survey of the work's influence in antiquity and the secondary tradition, which includes Latin and Arabic versions based on early medieval witnesses (pp.17-58). A fascinating fact to emerge is that the early indirect tradition of paradoxography at one point (Antigonus Carystius 102) preserves a reading that agrees with the Arabic version against the rest of the tradition. Another fact worth drawing attention to is that some excerpts attributed to Oreibasius are helpful to the editor in Book 10, which is otherwise preserved only in MS. Vat.gr. 262 (I take it that the conflicting information about MS. Vat.gr. 506 on p.64 is a misprint). On the other hand quotations in Athenaeus tend to give inferior variants, and the papyri are not of great value. The Arabic version is not yet fully known; one has to rely on the rendering into Latin made early in the thirteenth century by Michael Scotus in Toledo.

The main part of the book begins on p.59 with the list of the 31 extant Greek MSS (the figure 23 on p.1 puzzles me), leading into discussion of their stemmatic relationship and of the archetype. The stemma (p.201) is followed by a list (pp.203-226) of variants in all MSS that contribute to reconstruction of the archetype, accompanied by readings implied by the Latin versions (there is also one by William of Moerbeke). The late D.M. Balme was the first to collate all the MSS, but at his death his edition was incomplete and was seen through the press by A. Gotthelf, with whom Berger had has a fruitful correspondence. By and large the stemmatic method yields results without difficulty since the degree of contamination/horizontal transmission seems to be limited. Some complex situations have to be explained by the assumption that a lost exemplar had corrections or variant readings which were not uniformly reflected in the copies. It is important to note that the conclusions are based on collation of the whole of Book 1, samples from the beginning and end of the other Books, as specified in detail on p.2 at n.5, plus the passage 567a10-569a1 which is chosen because it survives in a fragmentary witness written in the ninth century. Much space is occupied, quite correctly, by lists of erroneous readings that establish a point in the stemma. Cardinal Bessarion's various excerpts are treated in considerable detail since they help to clarify some questions. Perhaps the most important result of the discussion is to give due prominence to MS. Laur. 87.4, which had been inaccurately reported until recently and was believed to be of relatively late date, whereas it was written in the middle of the twelfth century. It is also worth noting that the gamma-family appears to derive from a lost copy that had been systematically corrected by a fairly able scholar. One is surprised to learn that when the well-known scribe Johannes Rhosus made his copy in 1457 (now MS. Marc.gr. 200) he committed numerous errors when interpreting compendia in his exemplar and also frequently confused kappa and mu.

Bibliography and indexes complete the volume. There are 19 plates, some of which suffer from a regrettable reduction of scale that makes it difficult to read the script, especially if the marginalia or interlinear notes are the main feature of interest on the page shown.

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