BMCR 2002.10.11

Marsilio Ficino. Platonic Theology. Volume 2: Books V-VIII. I Tatti Renaissance Library, 4

Marsilio Ficino, James Hankins, William Roy Bowen, Michael J. B. Allen, John Warden, Platonic theology. I Tatti Renaissance library ; 2, 4, 7, 13, 17, 23. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001-2006. 6 volumes ; 21 cm.. ISBN 0674003454 $29.95/EUR 34.40.

This second volume of edition and English translation of Marsilio Ficino’s Platonic Theology contains books five to eight. Five volumes are expected, so as to cover the whole Ficino’s work. Principles of edition and general introduction are to be found in the first volume. This edition, made by James Hankins, with William Bowen, depends on that of Raymond Marcel (Paris, 1964-1970). As the authors explain in the introduction to the first volume, there are only two independant witnesses to the text: the editio princeps, published in Florence in 1482 (= ἀ, which Ficino himself corrected, and the manuscript dedication copy written for Lorenzo de Medici (Florence, Laurenz., Plut. LXXXIII, 10) (= L). These two witnesses have been entirely collated again by Hankins and Bowen. Marcel’s edition is mostly reliable, yet the authors suppressed most of Marcel’s conjectures, for they were not necessary to the comprehension of the text. These conjectures are not to be found in the apparatus of the new edition, and the authors are right doing so, because most of Marcel’s conjectures consisted in additions of several “ergo” or “autem” into the Latin text, often even not translated into French. For example, in Book V, 1, 3, in the sentence “non secundum, quia spontaneus motus assiduus comes est eius”, Marcel adds “non” before “assiduus”, yet he does not translate it: “ni la seconde, parce que le mouvement spontané est le compagnon assidu de…” In Book V, 14, 4, Marcel omits “non”, as Allen-Hankins’s apparatus shows, in the sentence “ut calor non suscipit frigus”, yet he does translate it: “par exemple, la chaleur ne reçoit pas le froid.”

Latin text and English translation lie on opposite pages, and all the notes are relegated to the end of the volume. In both Latin and English texts, each chapter is divided into paragraphs, which make the text easier to read and refer to. The “notes to the text” are readings or conjectures which have been rejected by the editors, indicated by reference marks within the text. The “notes to the translation” are other possible translations, needed explanations of the text, sources of quotations or allusions. Those notes are always short, precise and clear. Although a general index of sources will come only with the last volume, there is an useful index of names, after the bibliography.

Although fewer witnesses were used for this edition, the Allen-Hankins apparatus is more complete (notably giving variants of A before correction) and more precise than that of Marcel. Here are a few examples.

1) Book V, 1, 2: … numquam desinit vivere. Si enim quod movetur… moveri desinit numquam.

Allen-Hankins, Book V, n. 3: ” A omits Si enim — numquam before correction“. Marcel, p. 174, n. 1: “A: Ubi scribitur : desinit vivere, subiunge haec Si enim… desinit numquam. Sequitur : Praeterea…” By these unclear words, Marcel means that A (but he omits to say “before correction”) made a “saut du même au même”, but we would have understood this without help.

2) Book V, 4, 2 (last line): …et, si humiditas, quomodo siccitatem?

Allen-Hankins, Book V, n. 7: ” A omits si before correction“. Marcel, p. 177, n. 2: “si add. A. ” I must say that I don’t understand what Marcel means here.

3) Book V, 7, 3:

Allen-Hankins, p. 38-39: “atque illas in esse perducit” (translated: “and brings them forth into existence”), and n. 19: Marcel corrects silently to producit, perhaps correctly.

Marcel, p. 186: ” atque illas in esse producit” (translated: “et les amène à l’existence”), but the correction is not silent, since he writes n. 1: “perducit LHABC”. From that we must understand that “perducit” is the reading of A and L, of the second manuscript of the text, Haleianus 3482 (ἠ, and of the two Venice editions (published in 1491 and 1524) (B and C). So, it is not necessarily a correction either, but, if the apparatus is correct, “producit” might be the reading of four more recent editions, published in Paris and Bale, between 1559 and 1650 (D, E, F and G). This is doubtful though, and I would rather believe that “producit” is a conjecture of Marcel, as Allen-Hankins think.

It was necessary to have a revised edition and English translation of Ficino’s Platonic Theology in a more accessible publication. This work is important not only to those who are working on Ficino and Italian Humanism, but also to anyone dealing with Platonic revival in the middle ages and renaissance. The translation has been made by probably the most competent specialist of Ficino nowadays, Michael Allen, with the collaboration of John Warden. The translation is absolutely necessary to give to those who don’t know Latin an access to this very important text, and also it helps those who know some Latin, for the text is sometimes difficult and elliptic. To sum up, it is quite rare nowadays to see such a fine, accurate and ascetic piece of philology.