Scholia Reviews ns 11 (2002) 35.
Donald A. Russell (ed. & tr.), Quintilian: The Orator's Education. Cambridge, Mass. and London, Harvard University Press (Loeb Classical Library), 2001. Vol. 1: Books 1-2 (LCL 124). Pp. vii + 430. ISBN 0-674-99591-0. Vol. 2: Books 3-5 (LCL 125). Pp. xii + 535. ISBN 0-674-99592-9. Vol 3: Books 6-8 (LCL 126). Pp. xii + 483. ISBN 0-674-99593-7. Vol 4: Books 9-10 (LCL 127). Pp. xii + 404. ISBN 0-674-99594-5. Vol 5: Books 11-12 (LCL 494). Pp. xii + 432. ISBN 0- 674-99595-3. All volumes UKú14.50 each.
University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Quintilian deserves to be read. Unfortunately, his voluminous Institutio Oratoria is often only consulted for individual passages or excerpted, and only very few readers manage to study the work in its entirety. This may be due to its massive dimensions (no less than twelve books), or to Quintilian's general image as a rather unexciting, mediocre author, or to large sections in the work that are predominantly technical, such as the long paragraphs devoted to figures of speech and figures of thought (9.2-3) or to 'status' (7.2-10).
Reading the whole of Quintilian is, however, a highly rewarding experience, for his work contains much interesting material that merits the attention of a wide audience of classicists, historians, and rhetoricians. In fact, all professional users of language will benefit from studying the work. A well known highlight is Quintilian's survey of Roman literature (10.1), but the earlier books have much to offer too. Among my personal favorites are the splendid Books 1 and 2, which offer many sound observations on education (this should be compulsory reading for anyone engaged in teaching at any level), or Quintilian's fascinating accounts of memory and delivery in Book 11.
Hardly a reader in the world will need only the Latin text to read Quintilian, and good translations are therefore essential. Modern editions are available in many languages. Here let me mention the splendid new Quintilian in Dutch, published in one impressive volume in 2001.[] This book was given much publicity in the Netherlands and Belgium and has even become something of a bestseller in its own way.
For a worldwide audience, there is now a brand new edition of Quintilian in the famous Loeb series. This set of five volumes, edited by Donald Russell, emeritus professor of Classical Literature at Oxford University, replaces the outdated Loeb edition in four volumes by H. E. Butler of 1921-22. As with most new Loebs, the results are excellent, and the replacement of the older edition constitutes real progress.
The new edition is based on the Oxford text of M. Winterbottom (1970), but differs from it in many places in choice of readings. A textual apparatus lists 'all substantial divergences from the Oxford text' (Vol. I, p.19), but one would have liked to find a full list of differences somewhere in the five volumes. Meanwhile, the number of divergences remains relatively limited. For instance, the apparatus of Book 2 has only thirty-eight short items, many of which do not record actual differences of choice of readings. Moreover, it is reassuring to read that Winterbottom has assisted the editor in several ways. The Latin text may safely be said to follow the highest standards.
The main qualities of a successful Loeb edition are, of course, its translation and accompanying notes. In this case, not much comment is needed: both the translation and the notes are excellent. To give an impression of the lucid, fluid style of the English, I quote the opening lines of 1.1:
'As soon as his son is born, the father should form the highest expectations of him. He will then be more careful about him from the start. There is no foundation for the complaint that only a small minority of human beings have been given the power to understand what is taught them, the majority being so slow-witted that they waste time and labour. On the contrary, you will find the greater number quick to reason and prompt to learn. This is natural to man: as birds are born for flying, horses for speed, beasts of prey for ferocity, so we are for mental activity and resourcefulness. This is why the soul is believed to have its origin in heaven.' (Vol. I, p.65)
This short passage has been given two footnotes, one on the common 'complaint' referring to the opening sentence Sallust's Iugurtha (falso queritur de natura sua genus humanum), and one on the last sentence, a cross-reference to 12.2.28. Generally, footnotes are succinct and informative, numerous enough to provide substantial help to the reader (on average three to five notes for two facing pages of Latin and English), but without adding so many comments as to make it a running commentary.
To facilitate comparison I add the same passage in the translation by Butler:
'I would, therefore, have a father conceive the highest hopes of his son from the moment of his birth. If he does so, he will be more careful about the groundwork of his education. For there is absolutely no foundation for the complaint that but few men have the power to take in the knowledge that is imparted to them, and that the majority are so slow of understanding that education is a waste of time and labour. On the contrary you will find that most are quick to reason and ready to learn. Reasoning comes as naturally to man as flying to birds, speed to horses and ferocity to beasts of prey: our minds are endowed by nature with such activity and sagacity that the soul is believed to proceed from heaven.'
The difference in style is obvious. Although Butler's rendering may still be of some use for those who look for help to understand the Latin, Russell's version is no doubt better suited to the needs of most readers nowadays.
In the new translation, chapters of the English text are provided with convenient and helpful titles (1.1 being, inevitably, 'Elementary Education') and wherever the structure requires so, chapters are subdivided by means of additional titles. Each book, moreover, is preceded by a brief introduction (some five pages), that sketches its contents and refers to the most important relevant studies. The first volume of the set also contains an general introduction of forty-nine pages. It has sections on Quintilian's life, the sources and general structure of the work, a convenient analysis of chapters in the form of a brief list (which is rather more elaborate than the actual titles added in the translation), and the constitution of the text, followed by an interesting paragraph (nine pages) on Quintilian's influence and a useful bibliography. Volume 5 closes, as may be expected, with several indices (amounting to nearly one hundred pages).
To end on a material note, the typography in this new edition is according to recent Loeb standards, which are definitely a great improvement in comparison with older editions. No longer are pages crammed with badly printed letters, but everything is easy and pleasant to read. For books that deserve to be read in their entirety, this is a feature that should not be underestimated. The subdivision into five rather than four volumes will, no doubt, also please the Loeb sales department, but it is a benefit to readers in the first place.
The conclusion may be short: the new Loeb Quintilian a most welcome contribution to the series. The publishers and the editor deserve full credits for their services to Quintilian and his readers. Let us hope their number will increase in the years to come.
[] Piet Gerbrandy (ed. & tr.), Quintilianus: De opleiding tot redenaar (Groningen 2001).