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Reviewed by:
  • New Discourse on the Roman-German Emperor
  • Robert Ulery
Hermann Conring . New Discourse on the Roman-German Emperor. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 282. Ed. and trans. Constantin Fasolt. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2005. xxxviii + 122 pp. index. chron. bibl. $32. ISBN: 0-88698-325-9.

Constantin Fasolt has made a significant addition to the available corpus of Neo-Latin texts on political history, following on his previous discussions of Hermann Conring (1606-81) and his work, in this journal (54, no. 1 [2001]: 188-220) and elsewhere (Sixteenth Century Journal 28 [1997], and "Conring on History," in Supplementum Festivum, MRTS 49 [1987]). His compact and helpful introduction acquaints us with "one of the few great thinkers on matters of history, politics, and law in seventeenth-century Germany," places him in the context of his troubled times, and explains why this work, first published in 1641-42 under the name of one of Conring's students, is to be regarded as the professor's own ideas "in an unguarded early version" (xv). In addition, he provides a detailed chronology comparing events in Conring's life with other events, and full discussions of his own principles in "Notes on the English Translation" and "Notes on the Latin Text."

The Latin text is well edited and provided with a very readable English translation on facing pages and notes to each conveniently located at the foot of the respective pages; to assist the reader, he has added section and subsection divisions with titles to the fifty-eight theses or chapters. The notes to the Latin text make clear any differences between this 1642 text and the versions of 1641 and 1674, and the notes to the translation give precise bibliographical references for works of other authors cited in the text, as well as other necessary explications. All of this apparatus is laid out by the publisher in a book of admirable appearance and easy use. The excellent "Guide to Further Reading" is comprehensive.

The work was "the first book to inform the public about Conring's view of the true nature of the relationship between Germany and the Roman empire" (xii-xiii), and was published as a dissertation by one of his students in 1641, then in 1642 in a pirated reprint, the text of which is the basis for this edition. Fasolt believes that this "unguarded early version" is of special interest in the development of Conring's ideas; he very clearly indicates in the notes the differences between this version and Conring's 1674 edition in his Exercitationes academicae de republica imperii Germanici. These differences seem rather slight, but perhaps account for Conring's anger at the pirated reprint. His ideas were further developed in his 1644 Book on the Roman Empire of the Germans: this would perhaps have been a more likely choice for the first English translation edition of his thinking, being "longer, more detailed, and more accomplished" (xiv), but this set of theses makes a reliable condensation, as Conring later referred to them in his lectures.

The Latin is, of course, not intended to appeal as literature or rhetoric, but is rather dry, precise, and scientific, clearly establishing the points at issue. The English translation is very readable and may strike some Latin readers as rather free; but, in his "Notes on the English Translation," Fasolt has made his approach very [End Page 1250] clear. There are very few points on which one may disagree, remarkably few for a book of this type: for example, on 79 (LV) "super omne quod dicitur deus" does not mean "above all because he was said to be God," but is quoted from the Latin of 2 Thess. 2:4, where the Antichrist is said to oppose and exalt himself "above all that is called God." He is on several occasions too literal about the common indefinite pronoun nescioquis, translating on 73 (LI) "some Henrician heresy that I have never heard of" for "nescio cuius haereseos Henricianae" ("some Henrician heresy or other"); and on 75 (LII) "I do not know what kind of lordship" for "nescio quod . . . dominium" ("some sort of lordship").

The book may...


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