Thursday, May 30, 2013

D'Antraigues Testimony About Ancient Books at St Macarius Confirmed

The story behind the source of this story is almost more interesting than the reference. In an otherwise unrelated discussion of books ending with -ana we are told:

The earliest printed of the innumerable French ana, is the 'Scaligerana ' of 1668. If, however, Des Maizeaux is correct, the term had been used nearly half a century earlier by Francois Pithou the younger, in the manuscript of his notes of the table-talk of his uncle Francois Pithon the elder, which, however, was not printed until 1704, when it appeared, under the title of 'Pithoeana,' in Teissier's 'Nouvelles Additions aux Eloges dea Homines savans tirez de 1'Histoire d» Mr. de Thou,' printed at Berlin. M. la Croze, who professed to have copied it from the original manuscript, entitled 'Pithoeana, sive excerpta ex ore Francisci Pithoei, anno 1616,' and according to Des Maizeaux, in his edition of the 'Scaligerana' and other -ana (Amsterdam, 1740). La Croze wrote at the foot of his copy, " Tout ceci a été copié sur l'Original qui est a Paris dans la Bibliotheqne de Mr. Desmarets, de la propre main de Francois Pithou, neveu de Pierre et de Francois Pithou. [White, Notes and Queries p. 92]

So in what has been determined to be the first French book to end with -ana (an odd distinction in itself) we find within this collection of table-talk from the French lawyer Francois Pithou (1543–1621) the following obscure reference to the existence of ancient historical works at the St Macarius monastery:

Lui parlant du défaut de Tite-Live, et que j'avois ouï dire qu'il se trouvait en Punique; il me dit qu'il se l'avoit jamais ouï dire; mais bien que un, qui a fait sur Leonis Tactica, lui avoit dit les avoir vus au Désert saint Macaire en Arabe, et me dit que si cela eût été retrouvé avec ce qui défaut de Ammian Marcellin, eût suffi avec ce que nous avons de Suétone à toute l'Histoire de Rome. [Des Hommes Savans, Antoine Teissier - Pithoeana Excerpta ex ore Francisci Pithoei anno 1616 p. 17]

It is now impossible to argue that D'Antraigues simply 'made stuff up in his head' about his visit to St Macarius.  The only possibility it would seem for his story about discovering the Hypotyposeis of Clement and various ancient historical works in the library to a lie is if he had read the table-talk of Francois Pithou or some version of the narrative as gossip or legend. 

In other words, he didn't simply make stuff out of thin air.  His claims about ancient texts there can only be attributed now to (a) actual truth or (b) the careful cultivation of apocryphal legends about St Macarius.  The difficulty with (b) of course is that D'Antraigues should be expected to have confirmed Pithou's original testimony rather than invent a whole new set of lies about the Hypotyposeis.  I am once again leaning in favor of authenticity with respect to this story. 

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