A Lifetime Behind One Negation

Mark Pattison, Isaac Casaubon:

“From Casaubon’s commentaries we see that the style of his work demanded nothing less than a complete collection of the classical remains. He wants to found his remarks, not on this or that passage, but on a complete induction. It seems easy for Bentley to say, ‘Astypaltea of Crete does not once occur in ancient authors.’ But a lifetime is behind this negation. It is noticeable, how early in his career Casaubon had begun to transcend the sphere of printed greek. In the ‘Notes on Diogenes,’ aet. 25, we find that he had managed to beg, borrow, or buy many anecdota— Polyaenus; Photius; a fragment of Theocritus; a Theodoret ‘De servandis affectibus,’ lent him by Pacius; Scholia on Euripides, given him by Galesius. It must not be supposed that Casaubon could at this, or any time, buy ancient greek mss. What he bought were transcripts made for sale. These were manufactured by Darmarius. Darmarius was one of the last of the calligraphs, a race who long survived the invention of printing. Darmarius—’homo graecus,’ says Casaubon, with a tinge of bitterness at the recollection of some of his bargains— had, it should seem, access to the library at Venice, and went about Europe to sell his copies. His transcripts are no ‘livres de luxe,’ like the productions of the pen of a Vergecio or a Rhosus — true works of art, made to adorn the collections of princes and cardinals. Darmarius’ books are hasty transcripts, on poor paper, of any inedita he could get hold of in Bessarion’s library. Casaubon may naturally have preferred, with S. Jerome, correct books to ornamental books, but this he did not get from Darmarius. The transcripts of Darmarius do not make up for their want of external beauty by accuracy of text; for the transcriber does not seem to have known even the grammar of classical greek.”

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