- Rhetoricocum libri quinque
We are long overdue for a critical edition of George of Trebizond's Rhetoricorum libri quinque (RLV), but while we wait for one, Luc Deitz has provided us with an excellent facsimile of Paris 1538 from the Wechel press (based on Paris 1532). This text differs from earlier editions, such as Venice 1523, in a number of minor ways. There are light editorial emendations correcting errors either in George's Latin or in printing. Some words printed earlier in Greek are now in Latin; conversely, some earlier in Latin are now in Greek. The major changes are the division of the text into sections and the addition of marginal notes that are codified in an index. The need for sections, notes, and index clearly was felt at the time; the copy of Venice 1523 in the Huntington Library is covered with marginalia by at least one reader desperate to locate material in George's unbroken running text, and many of these notes match up with the marginalia printed in 1538. All these changes (many taken over from Basel 1522) make the Paris 1538 a much more readable text. The present facsimile is clearly printed, but shows the uneven inking of the original, with minimal bleed-through and broken letters; the entire treatise is printed in italics.
George was both a gifted visionary and a delusional paranoid. Franceso Barbaro invited this cosmopolitan Greek to Venice in 1416, and he established himself in the West by marketing his formidable skills in Greek language and culture. He rarely thought he was adequately appreciated, despite patronage by several popes, and often he engaged in self-defeating quarrels with other humanists. [End Page 1214] One such quarrel with Poggio Bracciolini, who had discovered a complete copy of Quintilian's Institutio oratoria in the same year George came to Italy, led to a fistfight in Rome. Late in life he traveled to Constantinople in a deluded effort to convert Sultan Mehmet II to Christianity and so avert the Apocalypse.
The RLV (1433) shows aspects of George's erratic genius. He composed it relatively early in his career in the West, combining his own Greek rhetorical tradition with the Latin tradition in which he now sought to make his name. In part he tried to update the newly rediscovered Quintilian with a rhetoric that was more systematic and comprehensive. And in part he imported the later-Greek understanding of Hermogenes with its elaborate ways of thinking about stasis, argumentative commonplaces, and qualities of style. George used each tradition to elaborate the other, so that the already numerous categories in rhetoric proliferated in a kind of reiterative calculus that must have been daunting to many readers. But many concepts attributed to Hermogenes are as unclear today as they were in George's time, and George also may have been misreading his Cicero, so that his blend of Greek and Latin traditions could be either a unique vision or a confused compilation of sources (see Lucia Calboli Montefusco, in Rhetorica 26, no. 2 ). George hardly mentions the names of Quintilian or Hermogenes, but if he was hoping to obscure his reliance on them, it did not work, since the marginalia printed in 1538 identify those sources. George did not supplant Quintilian in the Renaissance, and his presentation of Hermogenes was displaced by texts of Hermogenes himself.
Luc Deitz provides a brief but incisive introduction in German to George's life and RLV, starting with a comparison of the Greek and Latin traditions of style. From a modern perspective George's synthesis may be the most distinctive aspect of RLV, but too much focus on it can be misleading since George does not address style until the last of his five books. Deitz, having started at the end, must then back up to discuss some of George's early tractates prior to RLV that are helpful in understanding his...