7 February 2015

More Aldus

... and so, all over the world, from Venice to Dublin and even as far as America, ubicumque docti inveniri possunt, there were celebrations yesterday to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the great Venetian printer Aldus Pius Manutius. We had a lecture about him last evening in the Convocation House, followed by wine in the Divinity School, and then out into the Schools Quadrangle as Oxford's bells rang.

As well as the Exhibition of which I wrote yesterday, there was a special little extra case of exhibits containing yet more goodies, only out for the Day itself. Two items struck me.

The Editio Aldina of Ovid's Metamorphoses, with William Shakespeare's signature on the title page. But apparently the authenticity of the signature is doubted. Rightly? I dunno. They say he had Small Latin and Less Greek. But I suspect that Small Latin in those days didn't mean quite as little Latin as the same phrase would nowadays. And Ovid's hexameters are very accessible. When I was coming round from my metal shoulder implant, Pam read the Metamorphoses to me. It's not as though Ovid is exactly Pindar.

Secondly, the Hours of our Lady, secundum usum Romanae Curiae ... Oops! What it actually says is kat'ethos tes Romaikes aules!! Our Western Hours, but in Greek! Aldus plotted to lure Latin clerks further into Greek by giving them in Greek what they would pretty well know off by heart in Latin. Wily. And good for business?

I wonder if anybody else entertained the same thought as I did as we sipped our wine in the Divinity School, Oxford's sumptuously magnificent and unspoiled Perpendicular masterpiece. It was completed by 1490. So, while Aldus and his Venetians were drowning themselves in the honey of the Renaissance, Oxford was still bewitched by what 'Bauhaus' Pevsner, not One of Us, called "the dry repetitive logic of English Perpendicular". Indeed, commenting on the drapery of the statue of our blessed Lady in this very building, Professor P commented "Europeanly speaking - curiously reactionary".

But we never quite stopped hankering after the Perpendicular and the Reactionary, did we? Hawkesmoor's Gothical detailing at All Souls is just across the road; and the fan-vault in the Convocation House is 1758-9. By which time the torch was being passed on to Strawberry Hill and the exquisite little Recusant Chapel at Milton Manor and Kent's tentative 'Picturesque' Gothick at Rousham.


AndrewWS said...

Some of your readers may be interested in a rather good work of modern fiction featuring him - Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore:


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your blog. I daily delight in your writing. It is hard to imagine that there is any other writer, certainly any other Catholic priest who would produce lines like "It's not as though Ovid is exactly Pindar" in the same post as one discussing the influence of the perpendicular style on All Souls and a comparison with the rest of mediaeval Europe. It makes me both rejoice in the ordinariate and hope that my generation may have one or two to match yours.

Joshua said...

What do you make of the Greek version of Our Lady's Hours - is it idiomatic?

(I am reminded of an incident in Sinister Street, wherein the protagonist makes a friend of an Anglo-Catholic and, when looking over his shoulder at the Little Office he is reciting, remarks "What bad Latin.")

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I don't know ... I must confess that I did wonder ... what the Transposer made of the Office Hymns, because the little book was open only at the the beginning of Mattins. "Domine labia" etc. seemed to me LXX. (Facing page: an Annunciation scene in the same sort of Renaissance style as the engravings in the Hypnerotomachia.)

At the top, the rubric did not translate Beatae Mariae Virginis, but read Marias tes Theotokou .. if my memory serves me.

Stephen Barber said...

Shakespeare actually seems to have had a good deal of Latin: the Rape of Lucretia is based on the story as told by Ovid in the Fasti and not at that time translated into English. On the other had he seems to have had no Greek at all.