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Aristoteles Latinus (Corpus Philosophorum Medii Aevi)

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The Aristoteles Latinus is a international project aiming at the critical edition of all medieval Latin translations of the Corpus Aristotelicum. It was proposed by C. Michalski of the Polska Akademia Nauk (Polish Academy of Sciences) of Cracow as the first part of a much larger project entitled Corpus Philosophorum Medii Aevi and was adopted by the International Union of Academies in 1929. The corpus of Aristotle’s work translated into Latin offered during the Middle Ages the authoritative text for study in all domains of philosophy and science. The role the translations played in the development of the Western philosophical and scientific terminology can thus hardly be overestimated. Without knowing the exact Latin version of Aristotle accessible to medieval scholars it is not possible to fully understand their own contributions in these fields. Initially, the project quite ambitiously aimed at editing the Latin translations made both from the Greek and from the Arabic. In 1971, the project was redefined and limited to the edition Greek-Latin translations only, whereas the edition of the Arabic-Latin translations became one of the purposes of a new project, the Aristoteles Semitico-Latinus, founded by Jan Drossaart Lulofs.

At the start of the project, the exact dimensions of the project remained to be determined. This first required a detailed catalogue of all preserved Latin manuscripts (see Aristoteles latinus. Codices 1939,1955,1961). More than two thousand extant manuscripts were inventoried, and even nowadays previously unknown copies regularly show up. The amount of translations to be edited was thus shown to be considerable. Many of Aristotle’s works were translated more than once, and some versions were wholly or partly revised by the same translator or by others. The translations cover period of some 800 years, starting with the translations of logical works by Boethius (480-525) and ending with the ‘translatio Durandi’ of the Oeconomica, made in 1295. Initially most attention was paid to the logical works of Aristotle, starting with Minio-Paluello’s edition of the Translatio Ioannis of the Analytica Posteriora (1953) and ending with the edition of De sophisticis elenchis by B. G. Dod in 1975. In the meantime two other edition projects had already been undertaken. In 1970, G. Vuillemin-Diem published two translations of the Metaphysica. Editions of the two other translations of this text were to follow in 1976 and 1995. From his side, R.A. Gauthier had published in 1972-1974 all translations of the Ethica Nicomachea. These editions would be followed, in 1978, by B. Schneider’s edition of the translations of the Rhetorica. The Libri naturales had to wait longer before they became the object of systematic study. Already in the first period of the project, some texts had been published, such as the Physica Vaticana by A. Mansion in 1957 or Moerbeke’s translation of De generatione animalium by J. Drossaart Lulofs in 1966; but the major texts remained unedited. This started to change from 1986 onwards, when J. Judycka published the translatio vetus of De generatione et corruptione. This edition was followed, in 1990, by F. Bossier’s and J. Brams’s edition of the Physica by James of Venice. F. Bossier and P. Beullens also edited some zoological treatises (2000), and thanks to the efforts of G. Vuillemin-Diem (2008) and E. Rubino (2009) the translations of the Meteorologica are now also available.

In total, some thirty volumes have been published so far. Each volume offers a detailed study of the manuscript tradition, examines the Greek model used by the translator and determinates its place in the Greek tradition, and investigates the first reception of the translation by medieval scholars. The edition of the text is accompanied with two apparatus, one with the textual variants within the Latin tradition, the other confronting the translation with the Greek tradition of the text. Finally, the correspondence between the Greek and Latin terminology is demonstrated by means of a complete Greek-Latin and Latin-Greek indexes.
A considerable work still remains to be done. Important texts such as the De Anima, the De Caelo, the Politica are still waiting for a critical edition. A reasonable estimation is that some 25 more volumes are expected. Some of the texts are in advanced preparation, others till wait for an editor. In the meantime the standards for an edition have been raised, what makes the time to finish an edition much longer. Finding new expert editors to complete the edition project within a reasonable time-period is the major challenge of the Aristoteles Latinus. Apart from the printed series, there is also the Aristoteles Latinus Datebase published in collaboration with the Turnhout-based CTLO (Centre Traditio Litterarum Occidentalium). The Database offers only the edited texts, without introduction, apparatus or indexes, and is in the first place an instrument for identifying sources quoted by medieval authors and for research on the vocabulary of translations. A first release of ALD, which appeared in 2003 on CD-ROM, contained all Greek-Latin translations published of forthcoming in the printed series. This corpus was augmented, in 2006, with new texts and was made accessible online and interconnected with other CTLO databases. Future releases will complement the collection of Greek-Latin translations with provisional editions in anticipation of the critical editions and also include Arabic-Latin translations and the Greek-Latin translations of the ancient commentaries on Aristotle. The Aristoteles Latinus project has thus become one of the most prestigious editing projects in the domain of medieval philosophy, and set standards for the edition of other Corpora.

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