Portrait of a Patient Reader

Rudolf Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship 1300-1850 (Chp. IX)

“Casaubon was a scholar of a highly individual kind; not being an outstanding grammarian and critic, he did not become in the first place an editor of critical texts, and not having an inventive imagination, he made no historical reconstructions. He was a patient reader and collector; and his genius, if the word is allowable in this connection, was for untiring mental effort. His aim was to amass exhaustive knowledge through extensive reading of all possible sources, and then to construct a picture of the ancient world by putting together what he had learnt. He was always in a state of despondency, because he was for ever finding new texts and new books and was afraid that time would not allow him to perfect his knowledge. His mission was to write commentaries, of which the most important were those on the Geographica of Strabo (1587, second edition 1620), on Theophrastus’ Characters (1592, second edition 1599, third 1612, and many thereafter), on Suetonius (1595), and on Athenaeus. His Animadversiones on the last of these were written with groaning and sighing, day and night, through more than three years. Nobody since Casaubon has possessed self-denial enough for making commentaries on texts like Strabo or even Athenaeus.”

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