- Vehicles of Transmission, Translation, and Transformation in Medieval Textual Culture ed. by C. Fraenkel, F. Wallis, R. Wisnovsky and J. C. Fumo
This collection of papers is organised according to three guiding themes: Transmission, Translation, and Transformation. These three themes are intrinsically linked, as the editors explain in the introduction: transmission is linked to translation, translation is adaptation, and, thus, transformation. Firmly diachronic in its approach, its offerings lie in philology (with articles on the tradition of the Latin and Greek classics and on their translation and adaptation) and history of thought (with articles on the reception of Judaic, Arabic, and Greek philosophy, medicine, and science). The articles are articulated successfully around the book’s guiding themes, and, indeed, the editors contextualize them appropriately into their discussion of the book’s themes in the introduction. Moreover, many of the papers are on science, medicine, and philosophy, creating a pleasing thematic and topical unity. The scholars best catered to by this book are philosophers and historians of medicine interested in medieval texts or in the reception of classical texts in the medieval period. Indeed, this collection of papers has quite a few impressive works of scholarship to offer. In particular, I draw attention to A. Touwaide, “Arabic into Greek: the Rise of an International Lexicon of Medicine in the Medieval Eastern Mediterranean,” D. N. Hasse, “Abbreviation in Medieval Latin Translations from Arabic,” and F. Wallis, “Why was the Aphorisms of Hippocrates retranslated in the eleventh century?” Touwaide’s paper will no doubt prove to be of biographical help to anyone interested in modern scholarship on the transmission of Greek and Latin medical texts; early mediaeval, mediaeval, and Renaissance medicine in Europe and in the Arabic-speaking world; and the cataloguing of Greek medical manuscripts. Hasse’s paper is an inquiry into the methods of the Latin translators of Arabic medical texts, with a focus on stylistics (it has nothing to do with abbreviation in the sense of shortened form). Wallis’ paper is also about translation stylistics, but deals as well with issues of intellectual and social history. She argues, succinctly and effectively, that the purpose of the second translation into Latin of Hippocrates’ Aphorisms was to provide a text that would be less “Latinized,” [End Page 353] more Greek in character, as part of an effort to portray medicine in a newly Hellenized guise.
It is always pleasing to see collaboration across disciplines. In terms of subject, most of the articles cluster around philosophy and medicine. However, a few end up orphaned, insofar as they are, even by the broadest definition, the only ones on a specific subject. The excellent pieces of J. C. Fumo and of F. T. Coulson are at risk of being overlooked, situated as they are in a publication unlikely to be consulted by those searching for papers on the mediaeval reception of Ovid. Likewise, H. Inglebert’s “The Universal Chronicle in Antiquity and in the Middle Ages,” while fitting the themes of this collection of articles perfectly, suffers also from being the only paper on the literary genre of the chronicle. While this may be an issue for the authors of these papers to contend with, it does not distract from the thematic cohesion of this book.
The insight of the editors deserves praise for more than their careful choice of quality papers. They have indeed succinctly and eloquently argued, in the book’s introduction, for the sheer importance of diachronic and interdisciplinary thinking when approaching texts that have remained in use over a long tradition or that have been spread to other traditions. The book’s introduction could well be taken as a manifesto for the philological study of texts. As a general comment on the quality of the articles, I note that most stay close to their primary sources, as befits the best works of philology. The articles that offer a broader perspective will interest classical and medieval philosophers and historians of thought and of science.