Reading is Like Eating: Here’s How It’s Done

Pier Paolo Vergerio, de ingenuis moribus et liberalibus adulescentiae studiis, L:

“In learning, however, it often happens that that which should have been a great help turns out to be a great impediment – I am talking, of course, about eagerness for learning, from which it sometimes happens that students want to take in everything, but are able to retain none of it. For, just as excess food does not nourish the stomach, but rather affects it with disgust while aggravating and weakening the rest of the body, so does the great mass of facts heaped up into the mind easily slip away in the present, while making one’s mind weaker in the future. Therefore, those who are eager for learning should always read many things, but each day they should select a few which their memory is able to let simmer; in this way, they can register three or four things (depending on their mental strength and free time) as the profit of the day. By reading other things it happens that they can preserve by meditation those things which they have already learned, and can make those things which they haven’t learned more familiar every day by constant reading.”

A Renaissance book-wheel

In discendo autem solet esse plerisque impedimento id quod magno adiumento esse debuerat, multa videlicet cupiditas discendi; qua fit ut dum omnia pariter complecti volunt, nihil tenere valeant. Ut enim superfluus cibus non nutrit sed stomachum quidem fastidio afficit, reliquum vero corpus aggravat atque infirmat, ita multa rerum copia simul ingesta memoriae, et facile in praesenti elabitur et in futurum imbecilliorem vim eius reddit. Semper igitur multa legant disciplinae studiosi, sed pauca quotidie deligant quae decoquere eorum memoria possit; sicque tria aut quattuor plurave, ut cuiusque vis erit aut otium, pro eius diei praecipuo lucro seorsum reponant. Alia vero legendo id consequentur, ut quae iam didicerunt meditatione salvent, quae vero nondum, quotidie magis familiaria sibi legendo faciant.

Lending, Buying, Loving Books: Passages for #WorldBookDay

Callimachus

μέγα βιβλίον μέγα κακόν

“Big book, big problem.”

 

Cicero on Lending Books, Letters to Atticus, 8

“Beware of lending your books to anyone; save them for me, as you write that you will. The greatest excitement for them has gripped me, along with a contempt for everything else.”

libros vero tuos cave cuiquam tradas; nobis eos, quem ad modum scribis, conserva. summum me eorum studium tenet, sicut odium iam ceterarum rerum.

 

Vergerio, a Lament on the Books We’ve Lost: de ingenuis moribus et liberalibus adulescentiae studiis, XXXVIII:

“Letters and books are a record of things and the common treasury of all knowable things. Therefore, if we ourselves are unable to produce anything of our own, we ought to take care that we transmit those which we have received from earlier generations to posterity intact and uncorrupted. By this we can lend counsel to those who will come after us, and we will in this one way repay the labors of those who have come before us. In this matter, we may justly censure a certain age and the ages which immediately succeeded it. Indeed, we may feel indignant (though we accomplish nothing in so doing) that these earlier ages have allowed so many notable works of famous authors to perish. Of certain of these, indeed, only the names, though decorated with the highest praise, have come down to us. Of others, parts and fragments have come to us. Then, from the splendor of the praises and the noted name, we desire their works as well. We may be indignant that the rest of their labors have perished when we consider the excellence and dignity of those which survive; though it must be conceded that they are in many places so corrupt, cut up, and mangled, that it would almost be better if nothing of them had survived to our day.”

Nam sunt litterae quidem ac libri certa rerum memoria et scibilium omnium communis apotheca. Idque curare debemus ut quos a prioribus accepimus, si nihil ipsi ex nobis gignere forte possumus, integros atque incorruptos posteritati transmittamus, eoque pacto et his qui post nos futuri sunt utiliter consulemus et his qui praeterierunt vel unam hanc suorum laborum mercedem repensabimus. In quo iuste forsitan possumus quoddam saeculum proximasque superiores aetates accusare. Indignari quidem licet, proficere autem nihil, quod tam multa illustrium auctorum praeclara opera deperire passi sunt. Et quorundam quidem nomina sola, summis tamen laudibus ornata, aliorum etiam pars vigiliarum et fragmenta quaedam ad nos pervenerunt. Unde fit ut ex splendore laudum ac nominis opera desideremus illorum. Horum vero reliquos labores deperisse indignemur ex earum rerum quae superant adhuc excellentia ac dignitate, tametsi ea ipsa in plerisque partium suarum tam vitiose corrupta, quaedam etiam intercisa ac mutilata suscepimus, ut paene melius fuerit ex his nihil ad nos pervenisse.

Plato’s Book Purchases: Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 3.16

  • This too has been entrusted to history by the most trustworthy men: Plato bought three books of Philolaus the Pythagorean and Aristotle acquired a few volumes of the philosopher Speusippus at inconceivable prices.

It has been said that the philosopher Plato was a man without great financial resources; yet he nevertheless purchased three books of the Pythagorean Philolaus for ten thousand denarii. That amount, some write, Dio of Syracuse, his friend, gave to him.  Aristotle too is said to have bought a few books of the philosopher Speusippus after his death for three Attic talents. That is as much as seventy-two thousand sesterces!

The acerbic Timon wrote a very libelous book which is called the Sillos [i.e. “Lampoon”]. In that book, he takes on Plato insultingly for the fact that he bought the book of Pythagorean philosophy for so high a price and that he cobbled together that noble dialogue the Timaeus from it. Here are Timon’s lines on the matter:

And You, Plato: the desire of education seized you
And you bought a small book for a vast sum,
This book is where you learned to write a Timaios.”

 P.Oxy. XI 1362

XVII. Id quoque esse a gravissimis viris memoriae mandatum, quod tris libros Plato Philolai Pythagorici et Aristoteles pauculos Speusippi philosophi mercati sunt pretiis fidem non capientibus. 

1Memoriae mandatum est Platonem philosophum tenui admodum pecunia familiari fuisse atque eum tamen tris Philolai Pythagorici libros decem milibus denarium mercatum. 2 Id ei pretium donasse quidam scripserunt amicum eius Dionem Syracosium. 3 Aristotelem quoque traditum libros pauculos Speusippi philosophi post mortem eius emisse talentis Atticis tribus; ea summa fit nummi nostri sestertia duo et septuaginta milia. 4 Timon amarulentus librum maledicentissimum conscripsit, qui sillos inscribitur. 5 In eo libro Platonem philosophum contumeliose appellat, quod inpenso pretio librum Pythagoricae disciplinae emisset exque eo Timaeum, nobilem illum dialogum, concinnasset. Versus super ea re Timonos hi sunt (fr. 828):

καὶ σύ, Πλάτων· καὶ γάρ σε μαθητείης πόθος ἔσχεν,
πολλῶν δ’ ἀργυρίων ὀλίγην ἠλλάξαο βίβλον,
ἔνθεν ἀπαρχόμενος τιμαιογραφεῖν ἐδιδάχθης.

Image result for ancient books

On Not Confusing the Author with His Book: Martial, Epigrams Book 11.15

“I do have drafts that Cato’s wife
And those dreadful Sabine women might read:
But I want this whole little book to laugh
and to be dirtier than other little books.
Let it soak up wine and not shudder
To be died dark with Cosmian ink,
Let it play with the boys and love the girls
And let it just name directly that ‘thing’
From which we are born, the parent of all
Which holy Numa called a little dick.
Remember still, Apollinoris, that
These verses are Saturnalian.
This little book’s morals aren’t mine!”

Sunt chartae mihi quas Catonis uxor
et quas horribiles legant Sabinae:
hic totus volo rideat libellus
et sit nequior omnibus libellis.
Qui vino madeat nec erubescat
pingui sordidus esse Cosmiano,
ludat cum pueris, amet puellas,
nec per circuitus loquatur illam,
ex qua nascimur, omnium parentem,
quam sanctus Numa mentulam vocabat.
Versus hos tamen esse tu memento
Saturnalicios, Apollinaris:
mores non habet hic meos libellus.

 

 

Reading is Like Eating: Here’s How It’s Done

Pier Paolo Vergerio, de ingenuis moribus et liberalibus adulescentiae studiis, L:

“In learning, however, it often happens that that which should have been a great help turns out to be a great impediment – I am talking, of course, about eagerness for learning, from which it sometimes happens that students want to take in everything, but are able to retain none of it. For, just as excess food does not nourish the stomach, but rather affects it with disgust while aggravating and weakening the rest of the body, so does the great mass of facts heaped up into the mind easily slip away in the present, while making one’s mind weaker in the future. Therefore, those who are eager for learning should always read many things, but each day they should select a few which their memory is able to let simmer; in this way, they can register three or four things (depending on their mental strength and free time) as the profit of the day. By reading other things it happens that they can preserve by meditation those things which they have already learned, and can make those things which they haven’t learned more familiar every day by constant reading.”

A Renaissance book-wheel

In discendo autem solet esse plerisque impedimento id quod magno adiumento esse debuerat, multa videlicet cupiditas discendi; qua fit ut dum omnia pariter complecti volunt, nihil tenere valeant. Ut enim superfluus cibus non nutrit sed stomachum quidem fastidio afficit, reliquum vero corpus aggravat atque infirmat, ita multa rerum copia simul ingesta memoriae, et facile in praesenti elabitur et in futurum imbecilliorem vim eius reddit. Semper igitur multa legant disciplinae studiosi, sed pauca quotidie deligant quae decoquere eorum memoria possit; sicque tria aut quattuor plurave, ut cuiusque vis erit aut otium, pro eius diei praecipuo lucro seorsum reponant. Alia vero legendo id consequentur, ut quae iam didicerunt meditatione salvent, quae vero nondum, quotidie magis familiaria sibi legendo faciant.

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