Presidential Address

in Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Vindobonensis

Sehr geehrte Frau Vizerektorin,

sehr geehrter Herr Dekan,

sehr geehrte Frau Vizepräsidentin des Universitätsrats,

sehr geehrter Herr Institutsvorstand,

liebe Kolleginnen und Kollegen, Freundinnen und Freunde,

meine sehr geehrten Damen und Herren, hochansehnliche Festversammlung!

Als Präsident der IANLS ist es mir eine große Freude und Ehre, Sie alle anlässlich der Eröffnung des 16. Internationalen Kongresses der IANLS herzlich zu begrüßen und in diesem prachtvollen, wunderschönen und mit Geschichte erfüllten Raum zu Ihnen sprechen zu dürfen.

Es en muchos sentidos muy apropiado para nosotros tener un congreso en Viena porque Viena – histórica y geográficamente – ha sido el centro de estudios neo-latinos por siglos ya. Recordemos que en la época de Carlos Quinto, por ejemplo, un imperio de cuatro millones de kilómetros cuadrados, incluyendo a personas que hablaban todos los cinco idiomas oficiales de la IANLS, estaba conectado política y culturalmente a Viena.

Cependant, la langue des sciences et du savoir était le latin – souvent, d’ailleurs, c’était la seule langue qu’un tel creuset de peuples eût en commun. Ce n’était pas à vrai dire le latin de Cicéron ou de Virgile, mais le néo-latin, dont nous nous empressons à étudier le riche héritage cette semaine-ci, lors de nos séminaires et conférences. Quelle meilleure terre d’accueil alors pour le congrès de notre Association Internationale d’Études Néo-Latines?

Siamo particolarmente riconoscenti all’Università di Vienna, al suo personale amministrativo e al Professore Dottore Franz Römer, ex-preside di facoltà di questa università, per averci invitati in occasione del suo seicentocinquantesimo anniversario. Per un Americano in visita, la cui università non ha ancora celebrato il suo centocinquantesimo anniversario, una tale ricorrenza è qualcosa che è impossibile anche solo immaginare, così come lo sono i risultati straordinari conseguiti da coloro che hanno lavorato e studiato in questa università. Il corpo docente include quindici vincitori del Premio Nobel, un papa (Enea Silvio Piccolomini, che prese il nome di Pio secondo), e ben noti luminari del calibro di Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno, Anton Bruckner, Conrad Celtis e Sigmund Freud.

And wouldn’t all of us like to be able to say that our institution produced graduates like Ernst Gombrich, Edmund Husserl, Gustav Mahler, Gregor Mendel, and Stefan Zweig? Not all of them wrote in Latin, of course, but those of you who listened carefully to my little list will recall that Piccolomini and Celtis did, and they were not the only ones. So we feel very much at home here already.

IANLS does not have a 650-year-long history, but as you all know, it does have a history, one that goes back to 1971, when a group of scholars gathered in Leuven to discuss the Latin writings of the early modern and modern eras. Their host was Jozef IJsewijn, whom we remember with gratitude as the founder of the modern discipline of Neo-Latin studies. To honor his memory, the Executive Committee has established The Jozef IJsewijn Prize to recognize the best first book on a Neo-Latin topic.1 I wish we had the resources to endow this prize so that it would be worth as much as the Nobel Prizes that were won by those who have sat before us in this room. Alas, we do not, but we do offer to the winner something of great value: a lifetime membership in IANLS.

But you do not want to hear this; you want to know who won. So I will tell you, in the only medium that is appropriate for this prize, the sonorous Latin composed by one of our long-term members, Karl August Neuhausen:

Singularis igitur huius viri recordatione memoriaque servata Societas ipsa se praemium pro optimo declarat eorum offerre librorum, qui singulis inter triennales conventus rite peragendos intervallis in orbe Neolatino primi sunt ab auctoribus publicati. Iam vero, cum de tali certamine praeteritum complexo triennium disceptare deberet, Exsecutoria Commissio doctoribus arbitris Dirk Sacré Lovaniensi et Marianne Pade Hafnensi suadentibus denique statuit libris esse ceteris omnibus dignius, cui palma deferretur, id opus existimandum quod inscribitur “Commenter la Thébaïde (16e–19e s.). Caspar von Barth et la tradition exégétique de Stace,” Lugduni Bataviae 2013.2

For those of you who do not know this monument of erudition that our colleague Valéry Berlincourt has produced, please listen for a minute to what one of the judges had to say about it:

This book gives a complete survey of the tradition of commentaries upon Statius’ Thebaid, focusing on the period from the invention of printing until 1850 (when Altertumswissenschaft took over), and more particularly on the huge and almost unknown seventeenth-century commentary produced by Caspar von Barth. It does not, however, omit the commentaries in Latin and in the vernacular written by such famous, and less famous, men as Jan Bernaerts, John Barclay, Émeric Crucé, Johann Friedrich Gronovius, Michel de Marolles, Johannes Veenhusen, and Claude Berault. It highlights the modest tradition of commenting upon Statius and studies that tradition in depth as a constant building upon the works of one’s predecessors, reacting against them, laying one’s own stress in accordance with, or even reacting against, the mentality of the age and the contiguous trends in various disciplines, or more generally, in cultural life. […]

This book is a scholarly masterpiece. It comes to almost 800 pages but presents no annoying overlaps or repetitions. It is not the tough, arid reservoir of erudition one might have expected: it gives proof of a remarkable erudition, but is stuffed with penetrating remarks and interpretation. It is well written and reads like a novel, combining in-depth analysis with accessibility to a general readership. It is the work of a very intelligent, clever, sagacious philologist who approaches his subject very methodically and who penetrates into the workshops, almost into the minds, of his early modern predecessors. In a solid, scholarly, well-balanced, and always convincing and honest way, he goes into detailed analysis, deciphering and commenting on, e.g., von Barth’s abstruse Latin and reading between the lines of the latter’s huge commentary, then sketches in, very concisely, the relevant historical contexts, thus arriving at an admirable synthesis. He enters into a variety of fields, but is never at a loss; he is perfectly acquainted with Latin and a considerable number of modern languages, with the ancient commentary tradition, and with modern scholarship on classical literature, with the history of ideas, of pedagogy, literary and philosophical movements and trends, etc. […] It is hard to believe that this is Berlincourt’s first book in Neo-Latin studies, as it displays a maturity one would have expected from a scholar who has spent a large part of his career studying commentaries.

Congratulations for this magnificent scholarly achievement!

Because the IJsewijn Prize is awarded in memory of the scholar who founded the modern discipline of Neo-Latin studies, this moment invites us to reflect briefly on how Neo-Latin as a discipline has evolved between 1971 and now. Let us begin with the obvious: size. The Acta of that first meeting contains sixty-five papers, at least two of which were delivered by members who are here today.3 For the fifteenth congress three years ago in Münster, the Executive Committee accepted 200 papers, and for this meeting, 285. In fact, at some point over the next few months, the membership of IANLS will surpass a thousand. There are Neo-Latin chairs in Bonn, Münster, and – of course – Vienna; a research institute, the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies, in Innsbruck; a course of study at both the undergraduate and graduate levels at Cambridge; and new doctoral programs being planned at the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University. There are several journals devoted exclusively or primarily to Neo-Latin (Humanistica Lovaniensia, Neulateinisches Jahrbuch, Neo-Latin News, Studi Umanistici Piceni, and Archivum Mentis). There are also a number of presses that publish regularly in the field (Leo S. Olschki, Librairie Droz, Leuven University Press, Brill Academic Publishers, and the Centro interdipartimentale di studi umanistici at the Università degli Studi di Messina), along with several series devoted to Neo-Latin work (Noctes Neolatinae, Europa Humanistica, Bibliotheca Latinitatis Novae, Supplementa Humanistica Lovaniensia, Officina Latina: Selected Writings from the Neo-Latin World, Singularia Vindobonensia, and the I Tatti Renaissance Library). I may be wrong, but I suspect that if Professor IJsewijn were alive today, he would say that this is an explosion of interest in the field that he had never imagined.

If we look at the program for this congress, we see many sessions that could have been on the program in Leuven forty-four years ago.4 We have sessions on the various genres of Neo-Latin literature, for example: letter-writing, epic, and the novel, but also “Oratoria nuziale e poesia epitalamica nell’Italia del pieno e tardo Rinascimento,” elegy and decadence, even a titillating special session on poetic genres involved in “Sakralerotik.” The sixty-five papers delivered at the Leuven meeting are striking in their geographical breadth – I counted four papers on Neo-Latin in Croatia alone – and the program for this congress continues to remind us of how widely Latin was diffused in the post-medieval period: I note that the Croatians are still here in force, and that there is also an entire session on “Neo-Latin in Bratislava and Trnava”, another that links the old world to the new, and a third with the wonderful title “Neo-Latin on All Continents.” There are a number of papers on Neo-Latinists famous (Petrarch, Erasmus, and more Pontano than I have ever seen in one place) and not so famous (Jan Kochanowski, David Hilchen, and Jacob van Zevecote). These kinds of presentations are the customary work of scholarship in Neo-Latin, and it is reassuring to see such continuity over time in the way we conduct our business.

Many of the papers we shall hear during the coming week will also rely on what I see as the traditional methodology of Neo-Latin studies. From the beginning, there has been a strong emphasis on intertextuality, on demonstrating how Neo-Latin authors anchored their writings into the classical Latin with which they were positing a continuity. This approach continues to flourish and has resulted in a good number of editions that have been accompanied by an extensive apparatus of loci similes and/or a commentary that exceeds the length of the text, as with the recent editions of Marco Girolamo Vida’s Christias, a well known epic poem on the life of Christ,5 and Rococciolo, FrancescoFrancesco Rococciolo’s Mutineis, an almost-forgotten Neo-Latin epic on the history of Rococciolo’s home town, Modena.6 These editions also reflect a longstanding interest in the language itself. Scholars are continuing to study how the humanists consolidated their control of Latin, from dictionaries like Niccolò Perotti’s Cornucopia7 to the commentaries to core classical texts that elucidated norms of proper usage, as we see in Valéry Berlincourt’s magnificent new study of the Neo-Latin commentaries on Statius. In the end, of course, Latin lost out to the vernaculars, which is a traditional subject of inquiry that has produced several sessions at our congress here in Vienna.

But the winds of change are beginning to blow, and they are shaking even the foundations of how our field is defined. As all of you know, for forty years the Neo-Latinist’s Bible has been IJsewijn and Sacré’s Companion to Neo-Latin Studies.8 We are now, however, in the middle of a remarkable eighteen-month period in which we are seeing the publication of not one, not two, but three new encyclopedias, handbooks, and companions to Neo-Latin. The Executive Committee felt that this is important enough to merit a special session, and I feel that it also invites us to ask what kind of changes have taken place in our field that have stimulated such activity.

IJsewijn and Sacré’s companion was – and still is – a marvel, surveying the historical development and geographical diffusion of Neo-Latin, followed by a study of the various genres of Neo-Latin literature and of various problems that arise for those working in the field, all with full, accurate bibliographical information. The revised version was a substantial undertaking, coming to some 425,000 words. Brill’s Encyclopedia of the Neo-Latin World, however, weighs in at almost twice the size, and I use the word ‘weighs’ deliberately – if you have carried one home with you, you know what I mean.9 Amazingly, the revised companion was the work of only two individuals, but the Brill encyclopedia required seventy-eight contributors and three editors. One might argue that this reflects the diminished capacities of the current generation of Neo-Latin scholars, and perhaps this is partly true, but the real issue, I think, is that the field has expanded to such an extent that no one can be expected to master all of it now. The table of contents confirms that the field surveyed in IJsewijn and Sacré’s companion was a predominantly literary one. To be sure, one finds sections on chemistry, zoology, and medicine there, but the discussions devoted to scholarly and scientific prose average less than five pages each and come to less than 25 percent of Part ii, the volume on literary, linguistic, philological, and editorial questions. In Brill’s Encyclopaedia of the Neo-Latin World, by contrast, the proportions are reversed, with less than 25 percent of the longer sections being devoted to literary genres. Now there are enormous groups of essays on “Latin and the Sciences,” “Latin and the Arts,” and “Latin in the New World,” sections that provide guidance to areas that have moved from the margins to the center of Neo-Latin studies. This is reflected in our program, where we see sessions on “Cosmography and Astronomy,” “Neo-Latin and the Visual Arts,” and “Technical Literature.”

The structure of The Oxford Handbook of Neo-Latin reflects another shift in emphasis over the last forty years.10 Students of Neo-Latin literature, like those who work in the vernacular literatures of the same periods, have always spent some time placing the works they study into the social, cultural, and political contexts in which they were created. But when I began my career thirty years ago, most of us spent at least as much time, if not more, looking backward, trying to show that our Neo-Latin writers knew the classics and that this knowledge was the key to appreciating their works. As I mentioned earlier, we still do this, and should, but the Oxford handbook is divided into thirds, with a full third of the entries falling under the rubric “Cultural Contexts.” This was a point of special emphasis at the Münster congress, and while this work can go on in any paper in any session, I note five sessions here whose title, “History and Politics,” leads me to think that the horizontal approach to chronology will continue to gain ground at the expense of the traditional vertical emphasis.

The publication of The Cambridge Guide to Reading Neo-Latin Literature has unfortunately been delayed, but the editor was kind enough to send me a copy of the table of contents.11 This volume, like Brill’s encyclopedia, has extended sections on manuscripts and early printed books, and this, too, I believe, marks a shift in emphasis. To be sure, Neo-Latinists have always spent some time learning to deal with the artifacts from the period being studied, but I think we are seeing evidence of a ‘material turn’ in Neo-Latin scholarship, one that parallels work being done in the modern languages. A few years ago, the Radboud University in Nijmegen hosted a conference on how the material presentation of a text, in either manuscript or print, might affect the interpretation of that text.12 This suggests that Neo-Latinists are beginning to see manuscripts and early printed books not merely as an annoyance that has to be dealt with in the preparation of a modern critical text, but as something that might help us better understand the works we study. Books like Alexandre Vanautgaerden’s Érasme typographe, for example, show how Erasmus manipulated the printing process to craft his public persona, suggesting the kind of results that can be obtained by thinking more deeply about books and manuscripts as physical objects.13 And once we begin thinking in this way, new resources appear. Many antiquarian book dealers, for example, know their books as well as the university professors who buy them (or would like to buy them), so that it can repay our efforts to seek out and study their catalogues. We will be able to follow this line of reasoning here in sessions like the ones entitled “Book Collections and Book Transfer” and “Neo-Latin Literature in Manuscript: Challenges in Editing and Interpretation.”

As we head toward the intellectual feast that our organizers have laid out before us, I would like to challenge us to leave our comfort zones and push our scholarship forward in two emerging areas. The first has to do with methodology. At the fourteenth congress in Uppsala, Hans Helander took up a challenge from an important article by Toon Van Hal that urges us to think more about what he called “Meta-Neo-Latin”:14 How do we define the object of our studies? What methods are suitable? How have scholars acted until now, and how should we act in the future? Most of us were trained at some point in traditional philology, and this often engenders a certain resistance to theory. But not always. Christoph Pieper, for example, has produced a fine study of Cristoforo Landino’s Xandra that draws on the principles of the so-called ‘new historicism,’ which approaches literature not simply as a reflection of culture, but as an agent that helps create that culture.15 And his Leiden colleague Susanna de Beer has published a book about the occasional poetry of Giannantonio Campano that approaches the text not as flattery or a potential biographical source, but as a pursuit of patronage, an approach that anchors her work into a tradition of scholarship that Neo-Latinists have not generally drawn upon.16 In both these cases, the kinds of questions being asked were imported from other fields, but they have led to interesting insights within Neo-Latin studies that can be profitably extended to other authors and texts. In a similar way, an essay collection edited by Yasmin Haskell and Juanita Feros Ruys entitled Latin and Alterity begins with the idea that Latin was used as a means of creating a group identity among the ruling classes but looks at those who were defined as the ‘other’ against this group: speakers of the vernacular only, women who were excluded from a humanist education, and the non-Europeans who became constructs in humanist Latin.17 These three examples all suggest that if we are to take up the methodological challenge, then people my age may have to turn for leadership to people a generation, or even two generations, younger than us, but there is nothing wrong with that. And I am pleased to see that the organizers of the session entitled “Metodologia para el estudio de los textos medicos latinos humanisticos” have taken up Van Hal’s challenge to think about how and why we do what we do.

The other area in which I would like to challenge us has to do with our relationship to our computers. I was one of the last people to have prepared a dissertation on a typewriter, and I suspect that no one would want to go back to those days, or to give up access to WorldCat, the Universal Short Title Catalogue, or Google Search. But if we only use our computers to do the same things we have always done, but to do them a little more efficiently, then we are looking backwards, not forwards. Johann Ramminger’s Neulateinische Wortliste is a perfect example of a project that only makes sense in a digital format, which allows constant expansion, updating, and correction.18 The Munich Digitalization Center at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek has digitalized over one million early printed books,19 while Early English Books Online (eebo) offers digital facsimiles of over 125,000 English items.20 This is useful, but the material is not machine-readable. What we need are more projects like the Early Modern ocr Project at my university, which is developing the technology that will have almost twenty-four million digitally searchable pages available within the next few years.21 And sometimes the new technology that allows us to work more efficiently also forces us to ask questions that make us wonder about the way we have traditionally proceeded. For example, if the object of our interest is an obscure Neo-Latin author who is worth rescuing from oblivion but will probably never interest more than a handful of scholars, is a critical edition in print format the best option? And if the text we are working on has gone through several redactions, with authorial revisions, editorial interventions, and adjustments from the censor, and if all of these redactions survive, is it really a good idea to present just one of them as a base text on a printed page when all of them could be linked together electronically via hypertext? I suspect that our session on “Digital approaches” may touch on some of these points, although there is still a great deal more work to be done here.

But I want you to enjoy our congress, not to be made uncomfortable by a president who speaks too long and asks too many awkward questions. So I will stop, and do what the organizers have asked me to do, which is to declare, with great pleasure, that this, the Sixteenth Congress of the International Association for Neo-Latin Studies, is officially open.

Information on the IJsewijn Prize is available on the IANLS website,, as part of the second circular for each upcoming congress.

Valéry Berlincourt, Commenter la Thébaïde (16e–19e s.). Caspar von Barth et la tradition exégétique de Stace (Leiden, 2013).

Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Lovaniensis. Proceedings of the First International Congress of Neo-Latin Studies, Louvain 23–28 August 1971, edd. Jozef IJsewijn, Eckhard Kessler (Munich, 1973).

The conference program is available at the website of the 2015 IANLS Vienna congress (

Marcus Hieronymus Vida, Christias, edd. Eva von Contzen, Reinhold F. Glei, Wolfgang Polleichtner, Michael Schulze Roberg, 2 vols. (Trier, 2013).

Thomas Haye (ed.), Die Mutineis des Francesco Rococciolo: Ein lateinisches Epos der Renaissance (Hildesheim, 2006); and Thomas Haye, Francesco Rococciolos Mutineis: Interpretation und Kommentar (Hildesheim, 2009).

Niccolò Perotti, Cornu copiae seu linguae Latinae commentarii, edd. Jean-Louis Charlet et al., 8 vols. (Sassoferrato, 1989–98).

Jozef IJsewijn, Dirk Sacré, edd., Companion to Neo-Latin Studies, 2 vols. (Leuven, 1990–98).

Philip Ford, Jan Bloemendal, Charles Fantazzi (edd.), Brill’s Encyclopaedia of the Neo-Latin World, 2 vols. (Leiden, 2014).

Sarah Knight, Stefan Tilg (edd.), The Oxford Handbook of Neo-Latin (Oxford, 2015).

Victoria Moul (ed.), A Guide to Neo-Latin Literature (Cambridge, 2017).

Marc van der Poel (ed.), Neo-Latin Philology: Old Traditions, New Approaches. Proceedings of a Conference Held at the Radboud University, Nijmegen, 26–27 October 2010 (Leuven, 2014).

Alexandre Vanautgaerden, Érasme typographe: humanisme et imprimerie au début du XVI siècle (Brussels, 2012).

Toon Van Hal, “Towards Meta-Neo-Latin Studies: Impetus to Debate on the Field of Neo-Latin Studies and Its Methodology,” Humanistica Lovaniensia 56 (2007), 349–65.

Christoph Pieper, Elogos redolere Vergiliosque sapere: Cristoforo Landinos ‘Xandra’ zwischen Liebe und Gesellschaft (Hildesheim, 2008).

Susanna de Beer, The Poetics of Patronage: Poetry as Self-Advancement in Giannantonio Campano (Turnhout, 2013).

Yasmin Haskell, Juanita Feros Ruys (edd.), Latin and Alterity in the Early Modern Period (Tempe, az, 2010).

Neulateinische Wortliste: Ein Wörterbuch des Lateinischen von Petrarca bis 1700, dir. Johann Ramminger:

Digitale Bibliothek – Münchener Digitalisierungszentrum (MDZ), Bayerische Staatsbibliothek:

Early English Books Online (EEBO):

The Early Modern OCR Project:

Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Vindobonensis

Proceedings of the Sixteenth International Congress of Neo-Latin Studies (Vienna 2015)


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