BMCR 2011.04.31

The Manuscripts of Statius Volumes I, II, and III

, The Manuscripts of Statius. Revised edition. Volume I: Introduction and Catalogs of Materials. Arlington, VA: [Harald Anderson], 2009. xxxvii, 568 pages. ISBN 9781449931926
, The Manuscripts of Statius. Revised edition. Volume II: Indices. Arlington, VA: [Harald Anderson], 2009. vi, 247 pages. ISBN 9781449932015
, The Manuscripts of Statius. Revised edition. Volume III: Reception: The Vitae and Accessus. Arlington, VA: [Harald Anderson], 2009. xi, 151 pages. ISBN 9781449932053

In the past two decades, Flavian epic has admittedly enjoyed, and benefited from, a surge in the number of critical studies dedicated to individual poems, as well as to all three epicists of the period, Silius Italicus, Statius, and Valerius Flaccus. Statius is perhaps the most privileged in this triad of poets, not only in terms of the monographs produced on the Achilleid, the Silvae, and the Thebaid, or with regard to the growing number of commentaries on individual books of these poems, but also, and perhaps more importantly, when compared to other Classical authors, in terms of the study of the textual tradition and apparatus of his works. Anderson first published this three-volume opus on the manuscript tradition of Statius in 2000, a product of his dissertation and licentiate. Then the materials also became available in an interactive web version, which was used at the same time by the author as a tool to continue revising this tripartite publication, by adding, removing, and restructuring sections of the original. Anderson’s three volumes paved the path for the most recent critical edition of Statius’ epic poems, produced by J.B. Hall and his collaborators, A. L. Ritchie and M. J. Edwards (Cambridge Scholars, 3 volumes, 2007-2008), and reviewed at BMCR 2010.04.10. It is with great pleasure now that we welcome this revised edition, for the additional reason that the original publication was very hard to access in its printed form (only two libraries owned a copy at the time, when I tried to access it in the beginning of the last decade). This is evidently the product of hard and dedicated labor and of extensive research and autopsy of manuscripts around the world.

Why the manuscripts of Statius then? Anderson correctly identifies the gaps and lacunae still awaiting answers in the transmission and history of the text of the Neapolitan poet. As the author states, “the present work is intended to … provide Statian scholars with the philological, critical, and exegetical toolset scholars of other authors have had for two centuries” (xiv). In this catalog, Anderson offers a description of 463 manuscripts and 85 manuscripts that contain self-standing commentaries. The reader should note here that Anderson also announces his forthcoming publication of an entry on Statius in the CTC [Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum] (probably not in the forthcoming volume 9, set for publication this year, but in a subsequent volume in the series?). We look forward to this article as well; Statius’ fellow-poet Silius Italicus was studied in the third volume of the CTC (by E. L. Bassett, J. Delz, and A. J. Dunston), whereas Statius himself has not yet received the appropriate lemma in the series. Anderson’s CTC study promises to supplement the three volumes on the manuscripts examined here, with a discussion of commentaries and translations in more detail.

As it is difficult to do justice to all the details found in this voluminous work, I will limit my focus on certain aspects in each volume that students and critics will want to consult, extensively or otherwise, as is common with such works of reference. For obvious reasons, I will not discuss here the extensive lists in the entries of the manuscripts.

The first volume comprises an introduction and catalogs of materials, together with a glossary and bibliography. Anderson’s 37-page introduction covers a wide range of topics. From a brief overview of Statius’ life (n.7 on page 1 should read AD 85, not AD 65), the author then discusses the afterlife of the poet’s works in the glosses found in Donatus and the commentary attributed to Lactantius Placidus. Even though the Silvae were lost to view at some point between the sixth and eighth century AD, the Thebaid was evidently studied by Alcuin and enjoyed immense popularity from that period onwards, as Statius became one of the four standard school poets. Anderson appends some statistics accompanied by two tables, one with the number of printings between 1470 and 1995 and a second with the ratio of inventoried to extant manuscripts. The following section discusses the physical aspects of the manuscripts, that is the condition of the texts for the Thebaid, the Achilleid, and the Silvae respectively. Anderson provides the details concerning the Thebaid ’s Π (codices meliores) and Ω (codices deteriores) families; for more information on P (Puteanus), see also Valéry Berlincourt at BMCR 2010-04-10. As the author convincingly claims, at least three or four manuscripts survived into Carolingian Europe (that is two more manuscripts, in addition to the archetypes π and ω). The section on the Thebaid ’s editions following the editio princeps in 1470-71 to D. Hill’s 1983/1996 2 standard edition (published by Brill) is concise (still, students of Statius should also consult Reeve’s 1983 article in Scribes and Scholars). The relevant section on the Silvae offers some details on the complex transmission of the occasional poems and the famous (and lost) manuscript discovered by Poggio Bracciolini.

The introduction then moves to a discussion of the ancilia (scholia; Anderson’s term), that is the writings in the manuscripts which elucidate the ancient text. The reader will find here information on the accessus (lit. “approach”), that is the academic prose introductions to the poem that discuss the poet’s life inasmuch as it pertains to the specific work (e.g., the Achilleid); a vita is not tied to a specific work but offers an overview of the life of the poet in general. Both the vitae and the accessus are extensively covered in the third volume of Anderson’s work. Other ancilia include the verse arguments (some of them called argumenta antiqua and composed in the fourth century, if not earlier) and mnemonic poems. The section on commentaries and exegeses offers an overview of the existing explanatory ancilia to all three poems of Statius. For the Thebaid in particular, Anderson surveys the commentary by Lactantius Placidus and its modern editions, the so-called in principio commentary (abbreviated as “ip”) of the 11th/12th century (named thus from its accessus, the text of which can be found in the third volume), and the “Arundel-Burney” commentary (abbreviated as “ab”) found in manuscripts of the 12th/13th century (and we do need a full edition of this commentary). Of note are also pseudo-Fulgentius’ allegorical exegesis of the poem and the periochae in the Statian manuscripts: those that are called prospective (i.e., summarizing the forthcoming text) and those that can be called circumspective (i.e., summarizing previous and forthcoming text). The reader will find an index to the introduction at the end of this first volume for quick reference.

The 487 pages that follow the introduction form the main part of this volume, namely the manuscript entries, ordered alphabetically, while the remainder of the volume comprises annotated editions, misidentified volumes, manuscripts eliminated from this study, and a catalog of Statius’ works listed in medieval inventories. All these entries are arranged according to the principles explained on pp. 1-2: library name, date, physical description, previous owner, bibliography, and how the manuscript was examined, i.e. by autopsy, seen in reproduction, or not examined at all. This is an exhaustive list of manuscripts. The most recent editors of Statius mentioned above (Hall et alii) have used this seminal work (in its original format in 2000), and this volume should be used as an indispensable companion to the third volume of Hall’s edition (2008). From a personal point of view, this catalog is of extreme significance for my work as commentator on Thebaid 8, as it provides a succinct overview of the manuscript tradition with enough details on each of the members of the manuscript families, one that is the most completely up-to-date.

The second volume provides indices to the catalogs of the first volume. Specifically, and most notably among the indices, Anderson includes here summary tables (of manuscripts, commentaries, florilegia, texts in vulgar languages, and incunabula by contents and date); an incipitarium, that is an index of the incipit and explicit of all subsidiary and ancillary texts (excluding the commentaries, periochae, and translations); indices of commentaries, periochae, and florilegia; a list of manuscripts with decorations/miniatures; an index locorum, listing passages on which notes have been transcribed in the catalogs; and a list of printed editions.

The third volume is dedicated to the reception of Statius, his popularity among and interpretation by the medieval and humanist scholars, as it can be gleaned from the vitae and the accessus. This final volume was conceived as independent from the other two volumes, which nevertheless at many places must still be used as reference point (this volume is an updated version of Anderson’s Ohio State 1997 dissertation). Unfortunately, the latest bibliography incorporated in this updated version stops in 2004. Anderson’s introduction is followed by the vitae and the accessus arranged chronologically, from the 12th to the 16th centuries, and the volume concludes with appendices (with manuscript stemmata for the accessus and an anthology of epitaphs and poems on Statius), additional bibliography, and an index. In the introduction, Anderson offers more details than in the first volume (see above under the discussion of ancilia) on the nature of late antique and medieval accessus, which eventually formed an independent genre from the commentaries. The background of Servius’ and Boethius’ works here serves to illustrate the quasi-standard division of the information found in an accessus, also known as circumstantiae. Correctly Anderson identifies the importance of an accessus over the ancient or medieval commentaries per se: through the lens of an accessus we gather elements of a general interpretation of the poem at hand, instead of the rather limiting information concerning glosses or etymologies available in commentaries of the period. For Statius, in particular, medieval and humanist scholars reconstruct the biographical information from verses in the Silvae or the epic poems themselves and from Juvenal’s seventh Satire (note that the reference to Satire 6 on p. VI should be changed to 7). The author also discusses the principles behind his editorial choices, namely his preference for the oldest manuscripts and those witnesses that preserve the longest and most complete text.

The review of the accessus begins from the twelfth century, and even a little earlier. To mention a few examples here, important insights concerning the choices and taste of the period towards a biographical interpretation of the Thebaid can be seen in the ‘quaerituraccessus (10th century): the accessus opens with an almost standardized phrase queritur quo tempore fuerit Statius, setting the tone for the whole passage, an investigation on the life of the poet of the Theban civil war. In the Bern-Burney accessus, biographical reconstruction of the events that led Statius to the writing of his epic poem is most rewarding: allegedly the Flavian poet composes the poem on Thebes to bring concord back to the people of Rome; he brings back from oblivion the Theban legend, in the time of Domitian, an emperor infamous for his crimes. It is noteworthy that from the thirteenth century the Thebaid takes on a rather moral character and a less political interpretation. Also indicative of the trends of the period is the Lincoln College accessus of the Achilleid: Statius is here called a teacher of morals, that is by means of a negative example, the poet teaches the Romans to avoid effeminacy and at the same time allegorically instructs them how to fight a moral combat.

From the fourteenth century to the rediscovery of the Silvae by Poggio, the accessus acquire an interest in interpretation rather than pure biographical information and reconstruction. A significant development in the period is the explicit Christianizing of Statius, as becomes evident in Dante for instance, and the question of when this trend and beliefs were formed (perhaps a now lost tradition?). Anderson’s exposition of the accessus shows that the poet’s Christianity was an issue already hotly debated in the medieval period (e.g., cf. the Genova accessus).

The penultimate chapter and the epilogue examine the accessus after the rediscovery of many Classical texts in the fifteenth century through the printed age, especially the earlier centuries. Undoubtedly, the vast array of new information equipped the humanist scholars with resources previously lacking, but at the same time their preoccupation with issues concerning Statius’ biographical identity, as well as his status as an epic and lyric poet, two naturally diverse pursuits, continued to occupy their interests well into the subsequent centuries.

There is much to be commended in the wealth of information presented in all three volumes on the manuscripts of Statius, an important tool indeed for every student and scholar of the Flavian poet.