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Bonaventura Vulcanius Renaissance Philologist

Bonaventura Vulcanius, Works and Networks: Bruges 1538-Leiden 1614 by Helene Cazes (Brill's Studies in Intellectual History: Brill Academic) One of the last Renaissance humanists, Bonaventura Vulcanius, is still a mysterious figure, even though he left a correspondence, at least two Alba amicorum, and a collection of books and manuscripts. Born in Bruges in 1538, the son of a disciple of Erasmus, he spent the troubled decades of the 1560s and 1570s wandering Europe (Burgos, Toledo, Cologne, Frankfort, Geneva, Basel, Antwerp). In 1581 Vulcanius was appointed professor of Greek and Latin Letters at the University of Leiden. He edited and translated many rare texts, composed dictionaries, wrote laudatory poems, and compiled the first chapters of a history of the Germanic languages. This volume gathers recent research on this versatile philologist, and includes the first editions of many unpublished works and documents.

Contributors are Karel Bostoen, Helene Cazes, Thomas M. Conley, Harm Jan van Dam, Hugues Daussy, Kees Dekker, Jeanine de Landtsheer, Alfons Dewitte, Toon van Hal, Chris L. Heesakkers, Wilhelmina G. Heesakkers-Kamerbeek, Jeltine Ledegang-Keegstra, G.A.C. van der Lem, Kees Meerhoff, Dirk van Miert, Kasper van Ommen, Paul J. Smith and Gilbert Tournoy.

Helene Cazes (Ph.D. 1998, Paris X-Nanterre, Renaissance Literature) teaches at the University of Victoria, Canada. She studies the history of texts, books, and scholars, and has published extensively on the Estienne dynasty and on the fortune of classical texts. She was the recipient of a Brill Fellowship in 2007 for her research on Bonaventura Vulcanius.

In 1910, as an introduction to Codices Vulcaniani, P.C. Molhuysen could summarize in one and half page what was known about Vulcanius: birth and death dates (1538-1614), family (the son of the Bruges humanist Petrus Vulcanius), studies (in Leuven and Ghent, then with Cassander in Germany), employment held (secretary to Francisco da Mendoza and his brother in Spain, preceptor in the Sudermanns' house, editor and translator in Geneva, secretary to Marnix, professor in Leiden), and collections (manuscripts, essentially). From there, it is possible to gaze both at the plethora of information waiting to be studied; and, at the same time, at the insuperable lacunae, that seem to be inherent in the story of Bonaventura Vulcanius.

By the humanist himself, much had been passed on to the library or to common store of knowledge: books written, editions provided, commentaries published or ready for publication, classes taught and remembered, manuscripts collected, papers, and even two portraits. Moreover, he had been given the opportunity to write not only a poetic epitaph for himself but also to compose, or at least supervise, his own first biography. Though he left behind a considerable number of documents and testimonies, Bonaventura Vulcanius also left a cloud of mystery around his name, his activities and his beliefs. In this case, too, much information, volunteered by various interested parties has maintained and even thickened the mysteries raised by his silences, his departures, or his allegiances.

One explanation for this paradox—information muddling the outlines of portraits and biographies—may well reside in the part played by Bonaventura Vulcanius himself in the composition of his legend. Another explanation may be found in the very nature of his scholarship and writing: devoting most of his life to editions and translations, Vulcanius is always defining his writing as an epigone, an inferior imitation. The position of second seems to please him, for that is precisely the position of the mediator, who passes on, reconciles, and transmits the legacy of the Ancients. His own poetry, Alexandrian in its inspiration, in its forms, and even in its languages, plays with echoes and reminiscences. Furthermore, the collections of books and manuscripts, that are now part of the Leiden University Library,' can be understood as yet another kind of mediation. The position of intermediary makes for an uncomfortable journey for posterity: middle men seem to lack glamour, and modesty is one of their major qualities. Studying the legacy, the works, and also the networks of Bonaventura Vulcanius amounts, then, to a series of group portraits, here assembled as in a gallery: the subject is seldom at the centre of the image, and, when he is, the portrait is seldom true.

As an attempt to give fair recognition to a complex figure, this volume does not pretend to give answers when questions are still in the asking. Moreover, it aims to restore the aura of discretion and silence in which Vulcanius wrapped his private life and opinions. In this perspective, we have gathered different perspectives, without excluding any of them, and propose various takes on the same question. The editor encouraged the inclusion and edition of much unedited material, with the hope that this very volume will, in turn, encourage new research and fruitful connections.

The organization of the papers follows the constitution of an imaginary biography, starting with the first testimonies left about Vulcanius: the early biographical accounts—for instance, the funeral oration delivered by Petrus Cunaeus—but also all the clues found in the papers and unedited works left by Vulcanius. The introduction, edition and English translation of Vulcanius' eulogy by Chris Heesakkers and Wil Heesakkers-Kamerbeek provide a provisional biographical setting where to place the overview on a writing career given by Harm-Jan van Dam. The frame is thereby set, and so are the driving and problematic questions surrounding Bonaventura Vulcanius' biography. The following papers examines the sets of elusive legacies, found in documents and testimonies provided by the portraits of Vulcanius and by book sales catalogues. Kasper van Ommen draws up the first inventory of Vulcanius' portraits and, after replacing their production within the humanist context of author's portraits, locates, describes and analyses them. Paul Smith emphasizes the necessary caution to be used when looking at an inventory where titles and owners of the books are not described in a standardized manner. Nonetheless, he derives from the two extant lists of books we possess a profile of reader and collector for Vulcanius.

The next group of papers on "Routes of exile and convictions" follows the discontinuous traces of Vulcanius after his Spanish years: Elly Ledegang-Keegstra shows a not so young but very humble Vulcanius in Geneva, welcomed by Beza and eager to declare his allegiance to the master. Hugues Daussy underlines the role of Vulcanius in passing out information about the status of Protestants and the Civil Wars in France. Kees Meerhoff examines the entries of the Album Amicorum pertaining to Heidelberg: he introduces the little society of Dutch exiles, rocked by religious dissent and changes in dynastic confessions, but always true to the values of scholarship and humanism. The study of Anton van der Lem shows us the manuscripts known as parts of Cod. Vulc. 104 and their crucial importance for the history of the Dutch Revolt.

In "Looking Back", Karel Bostoen and Alfons Dewitte return to the beginnings: family, first masters, training years in Bruges. What is left of these loyalties when Vulcanius has settled in Leiden? Manuscripts, letters, trips, and common friends give partial answers; poems give some other ones—different, often contradictory ones. The picture is being muddled, by its own subject, it seems.

Chris Heesakkers and Jeanine De Landtsheer give a portrait of another tonality in the chapter on "Homes: Professor in Leiden". Exploring the networks established by Vulcanius during his professorship, they unveil a perpetual second place-holder, who was bright, productive, faithful to his University, well deserving, but never made "Rector Magnificus". Chris Heesakkers tells of the friendship with the Dousa family and presents an edition of some laudatory poems it inspired. Jeanine De Landtsheer explores the relationship with Lipsius and finds a close complicity between the two colleagues when, living in the same town, they seem determined not to write about it! Unearthing many unedited poems, she draws a vivid picture of the intellectual life around the first year of Leiden University.

The works of Vulcanius, edited and unedited during his lifetime, are far from exhaustively described in the last chapters. Two sets of works, innovative and representative at their time, are there summarized: the editions of Patristic and Byzantine texts, so often remarked on by his early biographers, and the passion for the first appearances of Dutch, but also Germanic and Celtic languages. Thomas Conley brings together a critical bibliography of all the editions of Greek authors, which highlights the immense and hitherto unfairly appraised philological work of Vulcanius. Gilbert Tournoy follows with minute exactitude the brief collaboration of Henri Estienne and Bonaventura Vulcanius in 1575 for the translation of Arrian's works. Dirk Van Miert, working on the same titles, vividly presents the impatience of Scaliger and of Heidelberg scholars towards the aging Vulcanius, which reminds the reader of the letter of Abraham Schultetus quoted by Bayle: at the end of his life, the professor, blind and ill, would still conceive of ambitious philological projects. The last part of the volume examines other Vulcanius' researches on ancient European non Latin languages and scripts, including runes, Celtic scripts, northern ancient alphabets, Gipsy language etc. Toon van Hal tracks the informants of Vulcanius from Leiden to Denmark, Norway, and England for the book on runes and Celtic scripts. In the same perspective, Thomas Conley adds a note and query: he restores to Vulcanius a 1595 edition of De Gestis Lombardicis. The interest of Vulcanius for Germanic and Celtic languages is then analyzed by Kees Dekker and put into the larger context of the earliest European Germanic Studies. In a broad paper that replaces the work of Vulcanius within the history of philology, he shows, once more, the audacious and foundational intuitions of Vulcanius.

The conclusion is left open, perhaps for a future volume—the aim of this collection of papers being not to propose yet another Vulcanius but to explore, with some sense of marvel, the many portraits, lives, figures, temperaments, and works attributed to a formidably industrious and productive humanist.


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