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  • Die Überlieferung der antiken Literatur im Buchdruck des 15. Jahrhunderts
  • Craig Kallendorf
Otto Mazal . Die Überlieferung der antiken Literatur im Buchdruck des 15. Jahrhunderts. 4 vols. Bibliothek des Buchwesens 14. Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann Verlag, 2003. x + 1114 pp. + 62 pls. index. illus. bibl. €583. ISBN: 3–7772–0317–3.

These four volumes show how the literature of antiquity passed from transmission via manuscript to dissemination in printed books. Mazal's goals are similar to those of Howard Jones (Printing the Classical Text [2004]), who provided an overview of the Greek and Latin classics during the incunabular period. Mazal, however, extends his scope to include Jewish and Christian literature as well. This is certainly defensible, since the humanists on whose scholarship the early editions of the classics depend did not in general recognize the rigid distinction we often make today between Greco-Roman antiquity and the Judeo-Christian heritage. [End Page 216] But it makes a difficult task immeasurably harder, in that Mazal had to add the early editions of the Bible to his analysis of the 1,500 early editions of the classics. He deserves our appreciation for this alone. His scholarship in general is also more meticulous than that of Jones, whose inaccuracies have been noted consistently by the reviewers of his book.

The most valuable part of Jones's book derives from his statistics and charts, which allow the reader to follow both the fortuna of individual authors and general trends in the early printing of the classics. For reasons that will become clear shortly, Jones's statistics, which are based on information drawn from the Illustrated Incunabula Short-Title Catalogue, are superior to Mazal's numerically based conclusions. The introduction to the first volume provides basic background on the early printers, the methods of textual criticism, and the transmission of ancient literature. This section breaks little, if any, new ground, and again, Jones is probably the better read. The heart of Mazal's research, however, lies in his systematic analysis of the early printed editions of each major author from Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Christian antiquity.

To assess the strengths and weaknesses of what is found here, let us turn to a representative section, the one on Virgil (vol. 2: 343-63). Mazal begins with a brief description of what Virgil wrote, followed by a list of the major manuscripts and something on medieval interpretation. Then, with the appearance of Sweynheym and Pannartz's 1469 editio princeps, the real work begins. After two pages on this book, Mazal surveys its successors, pausing to discuss the most significant editions briefly, offering some statistics from which trends can be discerned, and analyzing the commentaries that were most often printed in the first fifty years — Servius, Donatus, Calderini, Mancinelli, Landino, and Badius. In general, Mazal's presentation is clear and well-researched, providing a reliable picture of what is in a typical Virgilian incunable.

The big problem here is that Mazal seems completely unaware of any of the computerized databases that have revolutionized the study of printed books, including incunables, in the last few years. His bibliography of printed secondary sources is extensive, but one particularly misses the information that has long been available, in more than one form, from the Incunabula Short-Title Catalogue. This omission is especially puzzling in the Virgil section, since Martin Davies and John Goldfinch also produced a print version over a decade ago (Vergil: A Census of Printed Editions 1469-1500 [1992]). Of the 185 Virgilian incunables in ISTC, forty-eight are not in Copinger, which seems to be Mazal's most consistent source but whose last supplement is now almost a century old. Resources like the Catalogue collectif de France and the Catálogo colectivo del patrimonio bibliográfico español are freely available to anyone with an Internet connection and contain many references that are simply not found in the older printed sources. Even when both print and online versions are available — as in the early Mexican imprint cataloguing and digitalization project that my colleagues at Texas A&M University are beginning to plan with their counterparts in Mexico — the most up-to-date information is to be found on...


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pp. 216-218
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Open Access
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Archived 2009
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