Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007.05.34

H. Nikitinski (ed.), David Ruhnkenius: Elogium Tiberii Hemsterhusii. Bibliotheca Teubneriana.   München/Leipzig:  K.G. Saur, 2006.  Pp. 41; pls. 2.  ISBN 978-3-598-71322-4.  €32.00.  

Reviewed by David Butterfield, Christ's College, Cambridge (
Word count: 2407 words

Ruhnken's Elogium Tiberii Hemsterhusii remains a major contribution to the history of Classical scholarship, eloquently delivered in polished and sparkling Latin. It is a pious but honest account by David Ruhnken (1723-98) concerning his recently departed master, Leiden colleague and close friend, the hellenist Tiberius Hemsterhuis (1685-1766). The eulogy serves not only to provide a revealing portrait of Hemsterhuis' life, manners and scholarly character but also to outline what befits a truly great critic of the Classics. Oleg (Helgus Latine) Nikitinski has, in republishing the Elogium for Teubner, offered forth a generally accurate and accessible version of this important text. Nonetheless, there is an unavoidable sense that an opportunity for a significant and expansive treatment of the work has been missed.

The edition contains a short introduction with some bibliographical footnotes (V-IX) and the text of the work's second edition, accompanied by an apparatus that records variants of the first edition and of a newly discovered copy of that edition annotated by Ruhnken himself (pp. 1-36). An appendix contains a transcription of one of the two facsimiles (on which see below) that appear at the close of the volume. A comprehensive index of names and authors cited in the work follows the appendix.

The Elogium has been printed over a dozen times since its first delivery in 1768 (on Ruhnken's resignation of the Rectorship at Leiden) but it has not seen publication in the last century. It is curious however that this new edition of the work appears as a Teubner text. N., who has demonstrated a prolonged and active interest in neo-Latin, published in 2001 the text of Ruhnken's provocative inaugural lecture on his election to the Latin chair at Leiden (De doctore umbratico), and in the previous year offered to the world a remarkable dialogue, composed in generally smooth humanistic Latin, De eloquentia Latina. N.'s projected dictionary of lateinische Meisterprosa der Neuzeit is eagerly awaited. The natural fruit of such experience in the field would therefore have been a full-scale commentary upon the Elogium, with discussion not only of its Latinity (which, though typically superb, has been questioned in particulars over the centuries) but also of its treatment of critical methodology, its analysis of preceding Classical scholarship and its reception by the respublica litterarum. Such a work would have performed a great service to Classicists and historians of scholarship alike. As it is, N.'s short preface fails to tackle any of these important questions, which neither could nor would be answered in the introduction to a Teubner text.

It is true that a precedent for the Elogium's being published by Teubner exists, namely Josef Frey's sparse edition of 1875 in the short-lived Bibliotheca scriptorum Latinorum aetatis recentioris, which, under Frey's oversight, also published the letters of Muretus and selected other humanists. But Teubner's decision to print the work in 1875 was very much sui temporis, when all manner of texts could be issued through the press (sometimes without any apparatus) and secure an active readership. Yet, in the present day, it is surprising that K.G. Saur (now part of de Gruyter) have seen fit to reissue this slim tract, which could never aspire to being a truly critical edition, in the Bibliotheca Teubneriana series. (Whether my surprise at the work's being issued in orange cloth -- reserved for Greek texts -- is justified, I do not know; perhaps Hemsterhuis' and Ruhnken's great eminence in that tongue allowed them to escape out of the blue?) Notwithstanding the many editions of the Elogium published over the past 240 years, there is strictly only one that reflects Ruhnken's mature text, namely the second, revised edition (Leiden, 1789). The first (Leiden, 1768) is a reproduction, with some minor alterations, of the original oration. Subsequent editors, N. included, have elected to record those readings of the first edition that differ from the second. It is remarkable that this custom has found such favour, since the changes Ruhnken made for the second issuing of the work are typically of very little interest. For example, even the most keen students of Latinity may not find the substitution of tribusve for vel tribus (27.2), of forsitan for fortasse (19.7) or of sese for se (29.5, 37.6) particularly exciting. In many places large parts of the tract were left wholly unchanged: p. 28 of N.'s text, for instance, possesses no 'apparatus'. The most important of Ruhnken's textual changes was the addition of nineteen words at 15.2 that underline Hemsterhuis' resolve, in light of Bentley's criticisms, to understand Greek metre in toto before turning to emend fragments of comic verse. It is also of interest that Justus Lipsius at 29.9 becomes Graecarum [sc. litterarum] mediocriter peritus, whereas he was previously vix mediocriter doctus. Most importantly, however, we are at no point faced with equipollent authorial variants but rather stages of Runken's refinement. In that sense it is misleading for these notes to be recorded as an apparatus criticus. Although the appearance of these earlier readings on each page is convenient for the particularly inquisitive reader, they are of no use for constituting the text.

N. has not only recorded (for the most part accurately) the discrepancies between the first and second editions of the work but has also brought a third piece of evidence to light. Whilst working in Leiden University Library, he stumbled across a copy of the first edition of the Elogium that contains Ruhnken's manuscript revisions (a fact apparently hitherto unknown). These alterations were mostly incorporated in the second edition of 1789. Unfortunately, it cannot be said that these marginalia Ruhnkeniana provide a fascinating glimpse into the workings of the great scholar's mind. Rather, they are very similar to the state of the second edition, which nonetheless contains a few further changes, presumably made by Ruhnken at the proof-reading stage. N. believes that his assiduously recording the contents of this annotated copy (designated 'R') will allow the reader to see 'per quos gradus Ruhnkenius ad summam artis escenderit'. This seems a little hyperbolic, for R is so akin to the second edition that it is almost part of the selfsame step. In only ten instances do R's readings differ from both the first and the second edition, and almost all of these concern orthography, punctuation or but a single word.

Having not seen R (754 D 25), I cannot comment upon the accuracy of N.'s transcription of its marginalia. Nonetheless, from the one leaf of R reproduced in facsimile (Tabula I), a significant error is apparent. N.'s apparatus upon 45.11 (ut hominis vanitatem et impudentiam comprimeret) does not record that the first edition read ut stolidam hominis vanitatem comprimeret. That there is evidently no attempt to delete stolidam in R may further suggest that its not appearing in the second edition is a typographical error rather than a deliberate authorial omission.

Tabula 2, the second facsimile reproduction printed at the close of the volume, is a leaf of some comments (found inside R) upon the first edition of the Elogium from Ludovicus Valckenaer, a scholar who challenges Ruhnken for the mantle of Hemsterhuis' most distinguished pupil. It is a shame that nothing beyond a transcription of these notes (with six minor errors) is offered, for it is fascinating to read Valckenaer's brief criticisms: that Ruhnken (14.3-6) is too bold in bewailing the pernicious preferral of Havercamp over the young Hemsterhuis for the Greek chair at Leiden; that he knows of no work in which Stephanus Bergler can be said to be 'veteris philosophiae scientia...excellens' (14.11); or that some might think that Ruhnken wrote the Elogium in order to depreciate Bentley! Although, as N. notes, Ruhnken appears to have incorporated none of these observations in his second edition, they still deserve to be studied in greater detail.

It is to be regretted that the most exciting part of Ruhnken's 1789 revision of the Elogium, the appendix of two previously unedited letters from Bentley to Hemsterhuis, is here excluded. In these great epistles, written in Bentley's typically respectful but authoritative style, metrical observations and acute emendations are thrown upon the text of Pollux, particularly his tenth book that teems with Comic fragments. It is strange, then, that in spite of this omission N. has still recorded Ruhnken's annotation (14.19) that the letters have been appended 'huic novae editioni'.

Most unfortunate, perhaps, is N.'s apparent oversight of a significant piece of evidence in constituting the text of the Elogium. Although only two editions of the work saw light, Daniel Wyttenbach (Vita Ruhnkenii, Leiden/Amsterdam, 1799, p. 273) records the possibility that a third edition was being contemplated by Ruhnken in his final years. Of course no such work appeared but, remarkably, a 'parva schidula' reached the editor J.T. Bergman in 1824, which contained a few of Ruhnken's annotations upon the second edition of his work. The present location of this manuscript fragment is, as far as I am aware, unknown. Nonetheless, if Bergman's identification of the hand as Ruhnken's is correct, these very notes provide us with a gradus (ut verbo Nikitinskiano utar) over and beyond the 1789 text. No editor has had the chance to introduce these further changes to their text, not even Bergman, who received the manuscript as his own edition (Leiden/Amsterdam, 1824) was already going to press and therefore had to consign them to a supplementary appendix (pp. 495-507). It is true that these changes are also minor in content but the following proposed additions and alterations should be made known: quendam after praecipuum at 4.1; est for sit at 5.2; the observation 'dura ellipsis verbi erat' at 7.3; ex for de at 7.4; transposing percipias to after Grammaticam at 8.4; reverting from progrediaris to progrediare at 17.2; sumsisset for sumsit at 35.4 .

It should be mentioned that one of the two eminent Oxonians thanked for proof-reading the work, Martin West, has offered the sole emendation (if that it be) upon the text. Naturally, any conjecture upon the Elogium must compete against two original printed editions as well as Ruhnken's annotated copy of the first and his occasional notes on the second. Yet West's suggestion is, if I am not mistaken, designed not to correct the reading of the text nor even to reflect Ruhnken's view; instead, it seems an attempt to correct Hemsterhuis' oft-repeated exclamation about Bentley -- o callidum hominem! (14.24) -- which was preserved thereto, one presumes, by oral tradition alone. West 'would prefer' to read o candidum hominem. Most modern Latin writers, it is true, may well follow West's inclination but callidum is a perfectly apt choice for Hemsterhuis (who, Ruhnken informs us (30.1), possessed a scribendi genus ... purum, emendatum ... proprietatis studio et verborum delectu commendandum). For Hemsterhuis reacts to the skill and shrewdness Bentley demonstrated in critical emendation (particularly in his two personal epistles). It is indeed possible that he was recalling the celebrated exclamation of Cicero 'o callidos homines' (Orat. 225; cf. Quint. Inst. 9.4.123), which, however ironic, exhibits the positive force of the adjective. Ruhnken himself, it is worth adding, praises Hemsterhuis' critical sense with the purely laudatory callidissimus at 33.3.

N. has left unaltered the vagaries of eighteenth century Latin orthography but has nonetheless resolved ampersands and reduced instances of tall 's' to its comparably humble counterpart. His marginal notation of the page numbers and divisions of the second edition is useful, although it is to be regretted that he regards the catchwords of this edition as part of the former and not the latter page. We are accordingly faced with the bizarre typographical claim that, e.g., chapter 22 did not begin its own page, but rather opened with 'Phi' at the end of p.33 and continued with 'losophiae' on p.34.

It is to be doubted whether this is the most accurate republication of the Elogium that has yet seen print. For the following changes need to be made to N.'s text: at 6.4 plurimis is a misprint for pluribus (as in both editions); contulissent at 22.8 should be contulisset; a comma should be added after ut at 38.l1; Bentickios should be Bentinckios at 46.9; dubitabant at 46.10 should be corrected to dubitant (as in both editions). Why Ernesti became Ernestum in the annotation upon 36.3 in the second edition, I do not know; Frey may well have acted correctly in printing the former, although N. (VII, n.8) singles this out as an error of his Teubner predecessor.

The following additions also need to be made to the apparatus (I cannot adduce R's readings): 20.4 mandabatur : mandabat; 35.2 post secare comma pro semicolo; 38.4 post tolerabilem comma deest; 47.3 post ecce comma deest; 47.5 solemne : sollemne; 50.6 caussas : causas; finally, in light of my observation above, at 45.11 ut : ut stolidam, R. Since typographical minutiae evidently interest N., it should be noted that at both 17.2 and 29.10 in the first edition '(*) post comma est positum' and that, at least in those copies of the second edition I have seen, 'unci * suo carent' at 29.10. In the apparatus at 20.4 Quicquid and (Q.) are quite superfluous, as is 'Hemsterhusius Tiberius passim' in the index.

Notwithstanding a number of unfortunate shortcomings and the puzzling decision for the work to be published in the guise of a critical text, all serious Classical scholars and historians of scholarship should warmly welcome the reappearance of this fascinating tract. For Ruhnken's Elogium expresses eternal truths of textual criticism as eloquently and colourfully as can be done. One thinks of his praise of Hemsterhuis' demand for critical scholarship to engage with the wider fields of mathematics, astronomy, philosophy and all aspects of material culture (19-25), a passionate predecessor to Wolf's Altertumswissenschaft; or his lauding the view that Latin scholars need Greek like the body needs soul (28.3, cf. 26.2); his admirably powerful refutation of conservative critics (35-7), whose dislike of all conjectures stems not so much from love of the paradosis but frustration at their own faculties; or his plea for informative and original commentaries rather than bland periphrasis and ostentatious display of derivative learning (40). The Elogium manages eloquently to describe, in terms less austere but no less rigorous than a Housmanian preface, those skills, innate and learnt, that the textual critic necessarily requires. Any reader, whatever their own academic bent, is left with a firm appreciation of the rigour of critical scholarship, and if this new Teubner text so inspires future readers then N. has performed a most welcome service.

Read Latest
Index for 2007
Change Greek Display
Books Available for Review

HTML generated at 13:31:54, Friday, 03 April 2009