J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship, Volume I

Quid est aetas hominis, nisi ea memoria rerum veterum cum superiorum aetate contexitur?

[What is a generation, if it is not conjoined with the age of our predecessors by the memory of ancient things?]

Cicero, Orator § 120


THE present work owes its origin to the fact that, some nine years ago, at the kind suggestion of my friend Professor Jebb, I was initiated by the editor of Social England to prepare a brief survey of the History of Scholarship, which was included in the volumes published in 1896 and 1897. In course of time I formed a plan for a more comprehensive treatment of the History of Classical Scholarship in general, which should begin with its birth in the Athenian age, should trace its growth in the Alexandrian and Roman times, and then pass onwards, through the Middle Ages, to the Revival of Learning, and to the further developements in the study of the ancient Classics among the nations of Europe and in the English-speaking peoples across the seas. I was already familiar with the Outlines of the History of Classical Philology by Professor Gudeman of Philadelphia; and I may add that, if, in place of the eighty pages of his carefully planned Outlines, the learned author of that work had produced a complete History on the same general lines, there might have been little need for any other work on the same subject in the English language. But, in the absence of any such History, it appeared to be worth my while to endeavour to meet this obvious want, and, a few years ago, my proposal to prepare a general History of Classical Scholarship was accepted by the Syndics of the University Press. My aim has been, so far as practicable, to produce a readable book, which might also serve as a work of reference. I confess that the work has grown under my hands to a far larger bulk than I had ever contemplated; but, when I reflect that a German ‘History of Classical Philology’, which does not go beyond the fourth century of our era, fills as many as 1900 large octavo pages, I am disposed to feel (like Warren Hastings) ‘astounded at my moderation’. I had hoped to complete the whole of my task in a single volume, but this has proved impossible, owing mainly to the vast extent and the complexity of the literature connected with the history of classical learning in the West of Europe during the eight centuries of the Middle Ages. In studying this part of my subject, I have found myself compelled to struggle with a great array of texts, in various volumes of the Rolls Series., the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, and Migne’s Patrologia Latina; and to master the contents of a multitude of scattered monographs in French, German and Italian, as well as English, publications. With these and other resources I have endeavoured to trace the later fortunes of the Latin Classics, to deal with all the more important indications of the mediaeval knowledge of Greek, and to give an outline of the Scholastic Philosophy. Without taking some account of the latter, it is impossible to have an adequate understanding of the literature of the Middle Ages. And it is a necessary part of my subject, in so far as it arose out of the study of translations of Greek texts, and was inextricably bound up with the successive stages in the gradual expansion of the mediaeval knowledge of the works of Aristotle. But, in tracing the general course of a form of philosophy, which, however valuable as a kind of mental gymnastic, was on the whole unfavourable to the wide and liberal study of the great masterpieces of Classical Literature, I have mainly confined myself to the points of immediate contact with the History of Scholarship; and thus (if I may give a new turn to a phrase in Seneca), quae philosophia fuit, facta philologia est. In the work in general I have studied the History of Scholarship in connexion with the literary, and even, to some slight extent, the political history of each period. But the treatment of the principal personages portrayed in the course of the work has not been on any rigidly uniform scale. Thus, among the three great authors of far-reaching influence, who stand on the threshold of the Middle Ages, there is necessarily far less to be said about the personality of Priscian than about that of Boethius or of Cassiodorus. Many names of minor importance, which are only incidentally mentioned in the text, have been excluded from the final draft of the Index, and space has thus been found for the fuller treatment of more important names, such as those of Aristotle and Plato, Cicero and Virgil. The study of the subject will, I trust, be further facilitated by means of the twelve chronological tables. A list of these will be found on page xi.

Of the twelve divisions of my subject (set forth on page 14), the first six are included in the present volume, which aims at being complete so far as it extends, and, in point of time, covers as many as nineteen of the twenty-five centuries, with which those divisions are concerned. In continuation of this work, I hope to produce, at no distant date, a separate volume on the History of Scholarship from the time of Petrarch to the present day. The first draft of a large part of that volume has already been prepared, and, in the Easter Vacation of last year, I was engaged in the further study of the literature of the Renaissance, as well as of certain portions of the Middle Ages, in the hospitable libraries of Florence. In the spring of the present year I visited the homes of mediaeval learning on the Loire, and also studied the sculptured and the written memorials of the mediaeval system of education, which still survive as a visible embodiment of the influences that moulded the mind of John of Salisbury in ‘the classic calm of Chartres’.

It is a pleasure to conclude this preface by offering the tribute of my thanks to all who in any way have helped towards the completion of what has unavoidably proved a very laborious undertaking. My gratitude is due, in the first place, to the Syndics of the University Press, and to the staff of the same, not forgetting the ever-attentive Reader, who (besides more important corrections) has endeavoured to reduce the spelling of mediaeval names to a uniformity little dreamt of in the Middle Ages themselves. If, in the next place, I may here record my thanks to those under whose influence this volume has been prepared, I cannot forget the friend who (as I have stated in the opening words of this preface) gave the first impulse which led to the ultimate production of the present work. If, again, I may give a single example of all that I owe to two other scholars — one of whom I have happily known for forty years, the other, alas ! for too few — a hint from the late Lord Acton gave me my first clear impression of the erudition of Vincent of Beauvais; a word from Professor Mayor set me at work on Joannes de Garlandia. Among the Fellows of Trinity, Dr Henry Jackson has been good enough to supply me with a clear statement of his views on Plato’s Cratylus, and Mr James Duff has kindly tested and confirmed my opinion as to a point connected with the mediaeval study of Lucretius [p.515 n.3]. The College catalogues and other works of Dr James have brought to my knowledge not a few points of interest in the mediaeval manuscripts of Cambridge. I have thus been led to include among the facsimiles an autograph of Lanfranc, an extract from a copy of the works of John of Salisbury, which once belonged to Becket, and the colophon of an early transcript of a translation by William of Moerbeke. Four of the facsimiles are here published for the first time. To Sir Edward Maunde Thompson, and to his publishers, Messrs Kegan Paul and Co., I am indebted for the use of five of the many facsimiles which adorn his well-known Handbook of Greek and Latin Palaeography. I have also borrowed two short extracts from the three hundred facsimiles in Chatelain’s Paléographie des Classiques Latins, and one from those in Wattenbach and von Velsen’s Exempla Codicum Graecorum. I have to thank the Registrary of the University for the use of a single illustration (and the offer of more) from his important volume on the Care of Books; and I gratefully recall the trouble taken on my behalf by the Librarian and the staff of the University’ Library; by the Librarians of Peterhouse, Gonville and Caius, Corpus Christi, Magdalene, and Trinity Colleges; by the Librarian and Assistant Librarian of my own College; and by one of my former pupils, Professor Rapson, of the British Museum. My debt to the published works of scholars at home and abroad is fully shown in the notes to the following pages.


Merton House


October, 1903