Polybius and the Pre-digital Brain

Today we are featuring a manuscript draft made by Friedrich Otto Hultsch as he was editing Polybius’s Historiae. Hultsch (1833-1906) was a philologist of classical languages who published numerous critical editions throughout his career. He made the works of ancient mathematicians available to the scholarly world for the first time. He also wrote a monograph on ancient metrology that focused on Babylonian and Egyptian systems of weights and measures.

Hultsch-stackPolybius was a Greek historian who wrote in the second century B.C.E. His work was lost in the west until the fifteenth century. His work has continued to be of interest ever since as a witness of of Hellenistic Greek history and political theory and of the koine dialect of Greek.

To make the draft, Hultsch unbound the signatures of the previous edition of made by Emmanuel Bekker in 1844. He interleaved his own research notes, which included text from manuscripts not previously consulted. The draft is a monument to the resources of the human brain before computers.


The published edition came out in 1867 and is available in the open stacks. We are still researching the provenance of the draft. Perhaps one of his students or descendants immigrated to the United States and had some connection with the University of Missouri.



Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Special Collections

Aldus Manutius Romanus, 1449-1515

We do not know the exact place and time of Aldus’s birth. Most scholars agree that he was born around 1449 near Rome, and died on February 6, 1515, apparently after a long illness in Venice.


At about 1501 Aldus adopted his famous printer’s device of dolphin and anchor. According to the popular legend, Cardinal Pietro Bembo gave Aldus a denarius of Vespasian, on the reverse of which was the image of a dolphin entwined with the anchor.

Aldus’s motto σπεῦδε βραδέως (make haste slowly), or festina lente in Latin, is attributed to Augustus by Suetonius.

“The Prince of Humanists”, Erasmus, made a cheeky compliment to the “Prince of Printers” in his Adages: “Aldus, making haste slowly, has acquired as much gold as he has reputation, and richly deserves both.” The more delicate Bembo thought that the image was to symbolize Aldus’s aim to “produce much by slow action”.

It would became the most famous printer’s device of Aldus’s time, pirated by the contemporary publishers and just crooked printers, coveted by book collectors of all times.  Demand for Aldine texts was high. Aldus once remarked that the pace of work in his shop was such that “with both hands occupied and surrounded by pressmen who are clamorous for work, there is scarcely even time to blow my nose.”

Between 1494 and 1515 he produced some 134 editions: 68 in Latin, 58 in Greek, and 8 in Italian. A typical edition ran to 1000 to 2000 copies.

Aldus Manutius Romanus, 1449-1515 will be on exhibit in the Ellis Library Colonnade through February 2015.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Exhibits

Happy Birthday, Gesenius

Today is the birthday of Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius (1786-1842). He was a Hebraist and later a professor of theology at Halle, where his lectures were popular among students because of his irreverent tone toward more traditional approaches to Scriptural problems. He pursued a purely philological approach to Hebrew Scriptures at a time when Biblicists were sharply divided between rationalists and the neo-orthodox.

Gesenius published numerous works on Semitic languages, among which is the two-volume work we are featuring today.tab-210001

Scripturae linguaeque phoeniciae, was published in 1837 in Leipzig by F.C.G Vogel. It treats the Punic and Phoenician languages and includes tracings of inscriptions and coins, the two sources of evidence for these languages. It also included tables that collated the letter forms several other languages, as well as a very learned-looking discussion in Latin.

Now, who wants to join me in “Happy Birthday”? Anyone know it in Punic?

binding front-pastedown









Title litterae0001









Fold out binders-ticket

Scripturae linguaeque phoeniciae..,
by  Wilhelm Gesenius.
Published in  Leipzig,  1837, by F.C.G. Vogel

Rare  PJ419 .G5

Posted in Special Collections

Special Collections and Rare Books

Find Us on Facebook