The title continues with Universita degli Studi di Salerno. It translates as 'Seminar on Richard Porson at the University of Salerno'. The book is a paperback book with a dust jacket in a stiff paper. The cream dust jacket is slightly bent at the top of the back and has a small mark on the back which appears to be a small blot of pink ink. The tan paper cover is in very good condition. Internally the book is clean, bright and tightly bound. Most of the text is in Italian but there is one chapter in English, all of it has Greek quotations in the Greek alphabet.
In most histories of the discipline Richard Porson (1759-1808) is considered to be one of the major British classical scholars, whose work bridges the gap in classical textual studies between Richard Bentley and the Kantian new philology of Gottfried Hermann of Leipzig. In England too, Porson was a bridge between generations: James Henry Monk, Bentley’s biographer, was Porson’s successor as Regius Greek professor in Cambridge and he published part of the latter’s miscellaneous notes.
Porson, who evidently wanted to be remembered in the first place as an editor of Euripides (“I am quite satisfied, if, three hundred years hence, it shall be said that one Porson lived towards the close of the eighteenth century, who did a good deal for the text of Euripides”), might be gratified to learn that some of his contributions to textual studies survive into the twenty-first century.
The present book demonstrates that Porson’s stature has been recognized in Italy too. In the wake of the “national edition” of the tragedies of Aeschylus (sponsored by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome), the University of Salerno organized a conference in recognition of the importance of Porson’s 1806 edition of the Greek tragedian’s work. This interest in Porson is part of a larger European project about the history of classical scholarship in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in which Porson and Hermann play a significant role.
Paola Volpe Cacciatore has edited a volume with a number of revised papers from the conference on Porson’s work, mostly by Italian scholars, a fitting tribute from abroad to an editor whose work was, as Cacciatore writes in her brief “premessa”, “il fondamentale trait d’union tra il proprio Maestro, Richard Bentley, e il grande filologo di Lipsia”. Guido Avezzù opens the volume with a general assessment of the man and his work that can function as a general introduction.
In the first essay, Alexander F. Garvie reconsiders Porson’s Law, which he here defines as “that there cannot be word-division between the two longs of a spondee in the so-called fifth foot of iambic trimeter, or at the end of a trochaic tetrameter”. Garvie looks in particular at instances in a number of Greek plays where the law is broken, concluding that we should grant the great Aeschylus the right to break the famous law at least once.
Enrico Medda then looks at Porson’s work on Aeschylus. He is not the first and not the last contributor in the volume to discuss the English classicist’s famous quarrel with Gottfried Hermann, which Medda has discussed elsewhere in greater detail. Here he goes through the discussion , showing e.g. the different kinds of interventions in the text of Agamemnon or the exact timing of some of the emendations in Hecuba, the obscure wording of one of which then led Hermann to the first formulation of what would only later become known as Porson’s Law. He concludes that Porson played a decisive role in the edition of the plays of Aeschylus, with to his credit a number of lasting conjectures on textual details.