Neo-Latin Events: from Aberdeen to Florence

March 16, 2010

After the 1629 portrait of Arthur Johnston by George Jamesone in King's College Aberdeen, with the motto 'NOSCE TE IPSVM'

On 2 March, Alexander Farquhar gave a presentation on the seventeenth-century Scottish poet Arthur Johnston (c. 1579-1641), widely acknowledged as the greatest Scottish neo-Latin poet after Buchanan and also notable as the editor of Deliciæ Poetarum Scotorum hujus Ævi (Amsterdam, 1637), which brought Scots poets into a series of publications of different nations’ neo-Latin verse. (No comparable volume for England was published.) Farquhar brought out the international character of his career and writing, as a poet who vindicated his compatriot George Buchanan to a European audience and joined the Scots diaspora on the Continent before becoming Rector of King’s College, Aberdeen. Johnston died in Oxford and one of his daughters married George Dalgarno, whose work on a system of shorthand while he taught in Oxford in the 1650s brought him in touch with the  natural philosophers who were to play a leading role in forming the Royal Society.

Today’s Professor of Humanity at Aberdeen, Jane Stevenson, is the author of Women Latin Poets: Language, Gender, and Authority from Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century (2005). She continued the Scottish theme on 2 March with a paper to the Early Modern Literature Graduate Seminar on ‘Latin and Literature in Seventeenth-Century Britain’ in which she highlighted the particular emphasis on Latinity in early modern Scottish culture, as manifested not only in the large body of poetry but also in the number of Scottish translations from European vernaculars into Latin.

On 10 March James Hankins (Harvard University) spoke on the I Tatti Renaissance Library, of which he is a founder and General Editor, and which has done so much to make authoritative texts of neo-Latin writings widely available. The series has been successful in financial as well as scholarly terms, thanks in part to volumes like Boccaccio’s

Famous Women. Professor Hankins made clear the challenge of establishing editorial consistency and rigour across such diverse texts, which have often received little scholarly attention – as in the case of Aurelio Lippo Brandolini’s Republics and Kingdoms Compared, a forceful critique of Florentine civic humanism of which his own edition gives the first translation into any language.

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