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Reading and Variant in Petronius: Studies in the French Humanists and Their Manuscript Sources.

The use made of the manuscripts of the Satyricon by French humanist scholars represents one of the most vexing problems in Petronian scholarship. In his trenchant article on the textual transmission (in Texts and Transmission, ed. L.D. Reynolds [Oxford, 1983], 295-300), Reeve underlined the contribution of sixteenth-century scholarship for our understanding of manuscript affiliations and suggested that further study of the manuscripts available to such scholars as Jacques Cujas, Jean de Tournes and Marc Antoine Muret was a desideratum. Wade Richardson's monograph serves to fill this void. It is a most welcome addition to the scholarly literature - well researched, clearly (indeed at times eloquently) written, with well defined and important conclusions. The study will find its most appropriate readership among scholars concerned with the complexities of affiliations in the L class of manuscripts. But readers interested in codicology and humanistic scholarship will also be richly rewarded.

Richardson's monograph consists of eight discrete studies which, though unified by a central thesis, may be read individually with great profit. Chapters deal with such diverse topics as establishing the probable sources for the humanists' own copies of the text; linking specific manuscripts with individual scholars; evaluating the relative merits of French humanists as textual scholars; and discussing the implications of contemporary printing practices for the reconstruction of the text of Petronius. Richardson has rigorously examined the manuscript and printed evidence and is able to discuss it with authority. He deals with a tradition of great complexity and must marshall a wide array of evidence. In general, he does a good job of steering the reader through the relative complexities, though at times one may feel overwhelmed by the sheer mass of material with which he is confronted. Perhaps one of the greatest merits of this deceptively slim volume is its ability to take a seemingly nugatory piece of evidence hitherto overlooked by scholars and draw conclusions of wide-ranging import. So, for example, in chapter eight, Richardson convincingly demonstrates that Parisinus lat. 8790 A, thought to be a worthless manuscript, presents evidence which illuminates the intellectual interests of the young Pierre Dupuy. This is detective work of the highest order and reveals once again the potential for discoveries which remain buried in the riches of European libraries and archives.

To conclude, Richardson's study is a tightly argued monograph which draws insightful conclusions. It may not revolutionize Petronian textual studies but nonetheless compels a serious re-evaluation of that history, particularly as it relates to the L class of manuscripts. Future scholars interested in the text of the Satyricon or the fortuna of the author will ignore this book at their peril.

University of Toronto Press is to be commended for the attractiveness of the volume. The sixteen plates which illustrate codicological and palaeographical problems discussed in the body of the monograph greatly enhance its scholarly usefulness.

FRANK T. COULSON Center for Epigraphical and Paleological Studies, Ohio State University
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Author:Coulson, Frank T.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1996
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