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Die Meleagris des Basinio Basini.

Die Meleagris des Basinio Basini. Einleitung, kritische Edition, Ubersetzung, Kommentar. By Andreas Berger. Bochumer Altertumswissenschaftliches Colloquium, 52. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2002. 433 pp. 36 [euro]. The Meleagris is the first major work of the Italian humanist Basinio Basini (1425-57). Written in Ferrara around the years 1447/8, the epic poem retells the ancient myth of the Calydonian boar-hunt, of the love-story between Meleager and the huntress Atalante, and of Meleager's cruel death caused by his mother Althaea. The 2002 edition of Andreas Berger's book (B.), originally published as a Wurzburg dissertation in 2000, offers the first printed critical edition of this essentially unknown piece of humanistic epic poetry.

The edition is preceded by an ample introduction (1-50). B. offers a convincing reconstruction of the complicated genesis of Basini's poem, in which he also discusses the poet's socio-cultural background and his relationships with various Italian noblemen (1-21); he then provides the reader with an overview of the structure and the topics of the Meleagris (22-24), and a rather short and perfunctory compilation of Basini's Greek and Latin sources and literary models--the poet was one of the first to understand and imitate the works of Greek epic poets, primarily Homer and Apollonius of Rhodes (25-27). Thereafter, judgements on the work in modern secondary literature are presented (27-28). Furthermore, B. gives an accurate survey of the five extant manuscripts of the Meleagris and of the first printed edition of 1794 and illustrates their relationships within a stemma codicum (29-43). He demonstrates that the manuscript preserved in the Biblioteca Estense (Codex Estensis Latinus 6) is likely to be the dedicatory copy for Leonello Bruni, the noble addressee of the Meleagris. B.'s own edition of the text is mainly based upon a Vatican manuscript (Vat. Lat. 1676) which was corrected by the author's hand and thus can be regarded as the authorized edition of the text. The introductory section concludes with a bibliography containing B.'s main sources of primary and secondary literature (44-50).

The major part of the book consists of the accurate edition of the Latin text of the Meleagris with a German prose translation and a commentary (53-433). The edition of Basini's epic (58-225) is preceded by a bilingual edition of Sylvanus Germanicus' argumenta of the three single books which were added to the text in the Codex Laurentianus (Laur. 33,29), a copy dedicated to Pope Leo X by Sylvanus Germanicus (54-57). In his edition, B. decides not to change the fifteenth-century humanistic orthography (e.g., lacryma, moestus, ocia). Although the editor here departs from the convention of editing neo-Latin texts by adopting the conventions of classical Latin orthography, his decision is reasonable as the orthography of the text is witnessed by the author's corrections of Vat. Lat. 1676, and the humanistic orthography causes no serious problems for the reading and the understanding of the poem. The edition of Sylvanus' and Basini's text is furnished with three critical apparatuses containing (a) the variae lectiones of the manuscripts (without orthographical variants), (b) repeated verses and phrases within the Meleagris, and (c) parallels from Basini's other literary works which show the 'formulaic' and somehow 'Homeric' character of his poems. The exact translation, if now and then somewhat clumsy and stylistically inadequate, is a necessary and welcome aid to the understanding of Basini's obscure Latin, the sense of which sometimes even the editor (through italics in his translation) honestly admits not to have figured out.

The extended commentary (226-433) comprises nearly half of the book. A typical piece of German neo-Latin scholarship, it mainly deals with the antique epic sources of Basini's poem. It consists of two parts. The main text offers an interpretative paraphrase of the text in question. The author concentrates on the relationship between the Meleagris and its epic models, such as Homer, Apollonius of Rhodes, Vergil, and Ovid, seeking out traditional motifs, structures, and 'typical scenes' adapted and reworked in Basini's poem. In the footnotes, B. deals with the verbal reminiscences between Basini's text and its epic predecessors as well as with the statements of the secondary literature (primarily the unpublished Diplomarbeit of B. Hofer, Vienna 1990). In this case, it would perhaps have been helpful if B. had occasionally transcended the limits of the ancient epic tradition and had additionally tried to place the Meleagris into the tradition of the neo-Latin mythological epic represented by poems such as Vellus Aureum of Maffeo Vegio (1431), a friend of Basini's who, like Basini, adopted the structure of the Ovidian version of the myth (as we learn from the edition of Glei/Kohler, Trier 1998, pp. 27-29). Thus, a comparison of this epic to Basini's Meleagris would certainly have enriched the commentary with insights into more general conceptions of the neo-Latin mythological epic.

In summary, B.'s book offers an accurate edition of Basini's Meleagris which allows the modern reader easy access to an essentially unknown text. Scholars will also profit from the numerous parallels collected in the learned commentary and use B.'s edition as a solid base for further analyses of this most interesting piece of humanist epic writing. (Claudia Schindler, Eberhard-Karls-Universitat Tubingen)
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Author:Schindler, Claudia
Publication:Seventeenth-Century News
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2006
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