Book Excerpt



New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1994. 4to. stiff paper wrappers. 83 pages. Exhibition Catalogue of the many Greek manuscripts that were on display at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library in 1994 and then later at the Grolier Club. The exhibition celebrated the five-hundredth anniversary of the Aldine Press, which was founded in 1494 by the famous Italian printer Aldus Manutius. Manutius wanted to promote the Greek culture in his printings as well as..... READ MORE

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INTRODUCTION. A keen interest in preserving Greek litera..ture swept Italy after 1453 when the Turks captured Constantinople, the cultural capital ofthe Greek world. The same invasion that threat..ened to destroy the libraries and manuscripts ofGreece also sent a wave of refugees to the West, providing the Italians with an abundance of teachers and increasing the demand for Greek books. When Aldus Manutius established a printing press in Venice at the end of the fifteenth century, only a handful ofGreek texts had yet been printed. In less than twenty..-five years he revolutionized the publishing of Greek literature and produced the first editions ofmore than ninety authors, including Sophocles, Euripides, Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, and Aristotle. Aldus's books directly contributed to the rebirth of Greek studies in Italy and in Europe generally, and their influence extended even beyond the boundaries ofthe known world-in Thomas More's Utopia the natives are described as reading their Greek in Aldine edi..tions. 4[ The exhibition recorded in this catalog commemorates the five hundredth anniversary ofthe founding ofthe Aldine press. Aldus is remembered today for numerous contributions to the history, including his development ofitalic type and his popularization of the pocket book. To his contemporaries, however, Aldus was known especially for his role in printing and disseminating Greek, and this aspectofhiscareer isthefocus oftheexhibition. 4[ThestudyofGreek in the West is as old as Latin literature itsel£ The enthusiasm ofthe Romans for Greek literature played an important part in the revival of Greek during the Renaissance, for the frequent quotations from Greek authors by Latin writers like Varro and Cicero aroused the curiosity ofthe humanists and led them to seek out the Greek works mentioned by the Roman writers. Their interest in Biblical and patristic literature also led the humanists to the study of Greek, just as it had inspired a steady if not always large number of scholars in the Middle Ages. Schola~ship, however, was not the only thing that enticed Westerners to learn Greek. Commerce and diplomacy continually brought the Latin West into contact with the Greeks and encouraged the study of their language. The wide range ofGreek literature and the diverse rea..sons for learning Greek created a demand for a variety ofGreek texts in the Latin world, from grammar books and elementary readers to 3


Constantinopolis expugnatio aturchis (from the Nuremberg Chronicle) Homer and Plato, from music, science, mathematics, and medicine to the New Testament and the liturgy. ([ Learningfrom the Greeks sketches the history of Greek studies in the West from antiquity through the sixteenth century. It includes fragments of papyrus rolls from the Roman period, Biblical manuscripts of the patristic age, and parch... ment codices of the Middle Ages, some of them testifying to the influence ofArabic and Jewish scholars on the transmission ofGreek literature to Western Europe. The exhibition focuses especially on the centuries immediately before and after Aldus, indicating both what

he achieved and what remained for future generations to complete.

INTRODUCTION One ofthe most fascinating aspects ofthis survey, reflecting the chang... ing tastes ofRenaissance scholars as well as their expanding and deep... ening engagement with Greek literature, is that many texts continued to be available only in manuscript for several generations after the introduction of Greek printing. We attempt to trace the continuing production and dissemination ofGreek manuscripts during the six... teenth century and the gradual movement ofspecific genres ofGreek literature into print. This exhibition is not a comprehensive account of the Western study ofGreek; it seeks rather to provide a historical con... text for appreciating Aldus's work. The items exhibited are drawn from the collections of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University and were chosen to highlight the riches of the library for the study of the survival and transmission of Greek through the early modern period.