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FW: BMCR 2004.05.13, Martin Jacobsson, Aurelius Augustinus

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  • Cosmin I. Andron
    Martin Jacobsson (ed.), Aurelius Augustinus. De musica liber VI. Studia Latina Stockholmiensia, 147. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 2002. Pp. cxviii, 144.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 5, 2004
      Martin Jacobsson (ed.), Aurelius Augustinus. De musica liber VI. Studia
      Latina Stockholmiensia, 147. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 2002.
      Pp. cxviii, 144. ISBN 91-22-01959-6. SEK 239.00 (pb).

      Reviewed by Brad Eden, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
      Word count: 1461 words

      This is the first critical edition of the sixth book of the De musica
      by Augustine. According to the editor, the Maurist edition of this
      work, published in Paris in 1679 and revised in 1836, is not a critical
      edition according to modern standards. The Maurist edition did not
      attempt a survey of extant manuscripts, those manuscripts that were
      used were not evaluated correctly, and there was no attempt to discuss
      relationships between and among surviving manuscripts. While the first
      five books of the De musica are also in need of critical editions
      (which the editor mentions he may attempt in the future), the focus of
      this book will only be on book six.

      The edition contains an extensive introduction by the editor, in which
      he describes the purpose of the edition, provides a brief history of
      the time and circumstances surrounding the composition of the text,
      discusses previous textual work on the six books of De musica, informs
      the reader of the various surviving manuscripts and their
      interrelationships and families, examines textual problems in the
      manuscripts, provides an overview of the contents of De musica liber
      VI, gives some selective commentary and describes the editorial
      principles for establishing and presenting the text, as well as
      principles for the translation. Following the introduction, the editor
      provides the translation according to established critical edition
      procedures, with the Latin text on the left-hand side of the page, and
      the English translation on the right-hand side of the page. Before the
      translation, the conspectus siglorum of the surviving manuscripts is
      given, and following the translation there are two appendices on the
      deviations from the vulgate text (the Maurist edition), and
      retractationes I.XI: De musica libri sex. An index terminorum is
      provided, and a bibliography of works used by the editor for this

      The editor mentions early on that his work does not include a
      commentary proper, just a selective one. This is because the focus of
      the edition is not on the history of philosophy, nor a summary of what
      has already been written about the sixth book of De musica, but on
      elucidating difficulties in the text itself. In the brief history of
      the composition of the text, the editor provides a history of opinion
      related to the dating of the six books of Augustine's De musica. He
      discusses the various arguments of Prosper Alfaric (1918), Heinz
      Edelstein (1929), Karel Svoboda (1933), Henri-Irenee Marrou (1938), G.
      Finaert and F.-J. Thonnard (1947), Olivier Du Roy (1966), Ubaldo
      Pizzani (1990), Maria Bettetini (1991), Adalbert Keller (1993), and
      Michele Cutino (1997). After the presentation of all of these arguments
      for the dating of Augustine's De musica, the editor feels that the
      question still remains: why does Augustine, immediately after having
      written the first five books, call these books nugacitas, uilis uia,
      plane pueriliter? In the end, the editor decides that the thesis of
      Marrou (1938) is the best way of accounting for the discrepancies
      between the preface of book six and the rest of the work. The editor
      reminds the reader that Marrou never presumed to date the books of De
      musica; he only noted that the preface and epilogue of book six were
      not altogether in accord with the rest of the work.

      The editor then points out the singularity of the dialogue genre, as we
      find it in Augustine's preface to book six. There are two kinds of
      dialogue: one where the dialogue is placed in a setting and the phrases
      of the different speakers are introduced by uerba dicendi (as Augustine
      used while in Cassiciacum), and the kind where the interlocutors are
      indicated by their names the first time and then by sigla (as Augustine
      used while in Rome). The dialogues in De musica belong to the latter
      group. There should, therefore, be no preface in the work (especially
      in book six), nor should there be any kind of presentation of the
      interlocutors. The editor explains that the sixth book had become much
      better known than the other five and that Augustine had probably added
      a preface at a later stage as a justification and perhaps recognition
      that book six could be read separately from the other five books, and
      could stand on its own as a treatise. We know Augustine emended book
      six sometime around 408/9 (from a letter to his fellow-bishop
      Memorius), and that the original version of book six has not survived
      in any manuscript copy, only the emended version.

      Moving on from this conclusion, Jacobsson spends some time discussing
      the unpublished 1986 dissertation of Patrick Le Boeuf on the manuscript
      tradition of De musica, which I assume has not been widely available
      prior to this book. The editor then moves into a lengthy examination of
      the extant manuscripts of De musica. Of the 78 manuscripts that survive
      from the 8th through the 15th centuries, 38 were collated for this
      edition. Primary factors for collation were age and availability for
      study. Out of these 38 manuscripts, six were chosen for the actual
      establishment of the text of the critical edition. In stating his
      reasons for choosing these six manuscripts, Jacobsson mentions that in
      particular cases of text-editing, it is perfectly justifiable for an
      editor to abstain from collating every extant manuscript and showing
      its relation to the rest of the tradition, especially in cases
      regarding texts of the Fathers of the Church, since it is probable that
      the text was established very early and that examination of a limited
      selection of manuscripts is enough for the constitution of the text
      (quotations from Giorgio Pasquali and Wolfgang Hormann are given to
      support this thesis). In reference to his listing of manuscript
      families, Jacobsson chooses the six oldest manuscripts (labeled A-F)
      upon which to base his edition. These six manuscripts are:

      A = Tours, Bibl. Mun. 286 (8th-9th century)

      B = Paris, B.N. lat. 13375 (9th century)

      C = Valenciennes, Bibl. Mun. 384-384 (9th century)

      D = Paris, B.N. lat. 7200 (9th-10th century)

      E = Vercelli, Bibl. Cap. CXXXVIII (9th-10th century)

      F = Angers, Bibl. Mun. 486 (11th century)

      In addition to these six manuscripts, the printed editions of 1491,
      1506, 1529, and 1577; the Maurist revised edition of 1836; and the
      edition in the Patrologia Latina were collated. Jacobsson then lays
      down the critical apparatus principles, and orthography and punctuation

      Jacobsson provides an annotated description and inventory of the six
      major manuscripts chosen for the edition, as well as manuscript G
      (Ivrea, Bibl. Cap. 52, from the 11th century, which was not chosen
      because the text is of such bad quality as to be useless). The editor
      then provides an extended discussion of the manuscript families and
      branches into which these 38 manuscripts fall, and he provides
      extensive detail regarding differences and errors in the transmission
      of the text among these manuscripts. Jacobsson spends a considerable
      amount of time pointing out textual problems in the manuscripts to
      explain his rendering and choice of various phrases and words in his
      translation. Particularly useful and helpful to scholars is the
      editor's conspectus of the contents of De musica liber VI, which I feel
      helps users and scholars of this edition to understand the logic and
      flow of the discussion between the teacher and student, along with
      major topic areas, line numbers, and delineations of debate and
      rhetoric. As a medieval musicologist, I was especially interested in
      the discussions regarding the five kinds of rhythm identified by the
      teacher, and the use of the medieval chant Deus creator omnium as an
      example throughout the text by the teacher to illustrate certain points
      related to these rhythms. Jacobsson also includes some selective
      commentary on some of the more problematic passages of the text.

      As far as the translation itself, the Latin text is accompanied by a
      parallel English version so that those who know Latin well may be able
      to judge and interpret the way the editor has translated the text and
      his rationale for choosing certain readings; and so that those without
      a strong background in the Latin language can learn what Augustine said
      in the sixth book of De musica. Jacobsson mentions that this treatise
      has been translated a number of times, but based upon the text of the
      Maurist edition only. Finally, the translation itself was done nicely,
      and was very precise in identifying variant spellings and words between
      the six manuscripts and previous editions chosen as the basis for the
      critical edition.

      In conclusion, I think this critical edition of Augustine's De musica
      liber VI is long overdue and done extremely well by the editor. I look
      forward to the same detail and precision in future critical editions of
      the first five books of De musica, and hope that this same editor will
      produce them in a timely manner.

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