Bibliotheca Basiliana Universalis: A Study of the Manuscript Tradition of the Works of Basil of Caesarea I: The Letters (review)
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Reviewed by
Paul Jonathan Fedwick. Bibliotheca Basiliana Universalis: A Study of the Manuscript Tradition of the Works of Basil of Caesarea I: The Letters Corpus Christianorum. Turnhout: Brepols, 1993. Pp. xlii + 755. BF 10,400.

Fedwick has produced a book on the manuscript tradition of Basil's letters which is nearly all documentation: data on manuscripts, on the corpora represented in various manuscripts, on ancient testimonia and unedited translations, on the printed editions and translations (1471-1990), and on the single letters themselves. These four chapters are topped off with a useful appendix showing the authentic letters which appear in all twenty-eight of the most inclusive manuscripts, those letters which are missing from the same most inclusive manuscripts, and a concordance between the numbering of the letters used by Maranus and the more refined system, based on the addressees of the letters, proposed by Fedwick. Fedwick's system is user-friendly, since it gives the addressee, the sequence number in the series of letters to that addressee, and Maranus' number, e.g., MelAnt 6/89, for Maranus' ep. 89. There are comprehensive indices of manuscripts and of ancient works cited, and a general index. [End Page 97]

Fedwick honors his predecessor, Marius Bessières, who in the early 1920s attempted to lay out the extensive manuscript tradition of Basil's letters. Though much of Bessières' work remains sound, particularly the general distribution of the corpora of letters into two families, Fedwick shows that it is inadequate. He not only gives reasons for not following Bessières' priority for the "A" family, in which the letters are in little order, but he also goes far beyond his predecessor in the exposition of the documentary evidence. This is not a supplement to the earlier work, but a completely new account.

Chapter 1 describes each manuscript in detail, locating each letter by its folio and its number in the manuscript. Since Fedwick plans to study the rest of Basil's manuscripts as well, all those which contain mainly letters are prefixed "E," for epistulae (there will also be "A," ascetica; "H," homiletica, and "X," Hexaemerori). After that prefix comes a small letter for each distinct corpus, and an arabic numeral for each manuscript in that corpus. Corpora Ea-e and the florilegia in Ef represent family "A," while En-r,u-w and the florilegia in Ex represent "B." The manuscripts in Em show affinity to both families, and there are no corpora Eg-l or Es-t,y-z (despite the expectations created on p. 97). The manuscripts have been classified into corpora by sensible criteria, namely, textual variants, titles of letters, order of letters, common omissions, and unusual inclusions. There are extensive (though sometimes enigmatic) annotations throughout these listings, and Fedwick argues articulately and in detail with other scholars' views on the various manuscripts. He has managed to inspect nearly all the manuscripts himself, at least on microfilm.

The other massive chapter (301-668) takes the letters one by one, beginning with the genuine ones, arranged alphabetically by addressee, and gives the title(s), incipit and desinit, manuscripts in which each is found, and location in existing editions and translations, including unpublished ancient ones. Dubia (including the correspondence between Basil and Apollinarius, ep. 361-364) and spuria (including the famous ep. 38) get the same detailed treatment. Not all the letters have named addressees, of course; there are forty listed as "anepigraphoi" (a continuous group in family "B") and many letters to groups or types of people. Fedwick's conclusions come within this chapter. He is convinced that manuscript copies were so frequently the product of collation from two or more originals that such a procedure was normal rather than exceptional, and consequently all members of a family need to be collated. He comments pungently, "Most of the stemmata are often nothing else but self-fulfilling prophecies. They serve to facilitate the work of the editor reluctant to read or report all the variants but do very little to show the way things are or happened" (667). Understanding a text tradition, as Fedwick portrays it, is as much a historical enterprise as a text-critical one in...