No better introduction could be desired to the life and works of the marvelous Joseph Justus Scaliger than Mr. Warren Blake's fine study,1 nor is any theme more timely than the story of the man who demonstrated as none other how great are the staying powers of scholarship in a world fallen upon evil times. To all existing Scaligerana, however, there remain yet a few notes to be added, from hitherto neglected sources, to correct some common misconceptions.
It is well in holding up the image of Scaliger as a guide and inspiration to the studiosa iuventus (zealous youth) to establish the proper pronunciation of his celebrated name. There is an endearing quality to "Scaliger" with a hard g; something catchy—almost rakish—that is missing from the universally recommended "Scalijer." The novice guilty of "Scaligger" is sure to be corrected if not rebuked by the polite insistence of his betters on the French or Italian form of the name—as colorless to our ears as the other is lively. It is with considerable satisfaction that we are able to propose to those who pedantically insist on the soft g a no less pedantic and quite crushing argument for the other.
Mr. Robinson's useful collection of materials on Scaligger includes a portrait of the great man "from the engraving by J. de Leeuw, made from a water-color portrait of Scaliger which was painted shortly before his death,"2 in which he holds in his left hand a missive addressed "to Joseph Scaliger," while with his right he pens a reply headed Is. Casaubono Iosephus Scaliger S. P. (cf. fig. 18). Now the note which he holds from Casaubon is addressed to Scaliger in Arabic, the name being written with exaggerated attention to phonetic values: "Yusuf Sqaligh-r."3 The g of the name is here rendered by Arabic ghain, and we are fortunate in knowing the exact sound of that letter when used by our two learned correspondents, for Scaliger explains with great exactness in a letter to his friend4 that ghain is always to be pronounced as a hard g, never like the soft French or Italian j or g, which must be represented, he insists, by Arabic jim ("Gimel"):
Quia pronunciatio Gimel apud Arabas in omni syllaba est, ut apud Gallos in Ge, & Gi, hoc est, mollis. Quando autem Arabes Ga volunt usurpare, utuntur 'ain cum puncto (i.e., ghain, as it appears in the portrait), quod est illorum g Germanicum . . . hoc est, durum.
Since the Arabs always pronounce gimel soft, like the "ge" and "gi" in French. But when the Arabs wish to pronounce ga [i.e., hard g] they make use of the dotted cain which is the German g.
In the portrait from the Senate Hall in the University of Leyden (the frontispiece of Robinson's book) Scaliger is shown solemnly penning an Arabic missive upside down! But this is a slip that could not possibly have occurred where it was a case not of copying any Arabic writing at hand but of actually composing the text, and we may be sure that whoever it was who advised the artist or supplied him with the writing—and it may have been Scaliger himself—knew what he was doing when he wrote the name to be pronounced in the classical Latin, or English, manner with a hard, guttural g.
Scaliger as Autodidactus
It is more than a matter of idle curiosity to inquire by what procedure the most learned of mortals acquired his education. After 1555, when he was fifteen, Scaliger "never returned to school; nor did he get any regular instruction at home." At nineteen he went to Paris to study with the great Turnebus, but of that study he reports "non diu viva voce, sed potius mutis magistris usus sum" (I made use of silent masters rather than living ones), and he applies to himself Casaubon's own protestations of being "opsimathes et autodidactus" (late in learning and self-taught).5 "Of the four years Scaliger spent at the University of Paris," writes Pattison after long searching, "nothing is known."6 We only just glimpse the young student for a brief moment as the door of his solitary study closes upon him, and are left with the picture—drawn by both Bernays and Pattison—of the baffled beginner, failing to comprehend the advanced lectures of Turnebus, locking himself in a garret to seize in time the crown of learning "aus eigener, autodidaktischer Machtvollkommenheit" (by his own, self-taught perfection of power), as Bernays says.7 Bayle, in his Dictionary, suggests a different motive for Scaliger's retirement, namely that he found Turnebus's class not too advanced but too slow and backward, and so "he shut himself up in his closet, resolving to use no master but himself." Bayle then goes on to note that after mastering Greek, Scaliger "turned his thoughts to the Hebrew tongue, which he learned by himself with great facility."8
Now it is definitely known that Scaliger did not learn Hebrew "by himself with great facility,"9 and yet in making the claim Bayle is taking no greater liberties than when he and others state that Scaliger was autodidactus (self-taught) in Greek, the authority for both claims being the same, namely the important "First Epistle." It is only a complete lack of documents that forces one to assume that he pursued a course of self-education with brilliant success in the more difficult field and total failure in the other. Scaliger's self-education rests simply on the argument of silence.
The silence is now broken by a few welcome words, scribbled beneath the frontispiece portrait in a book of Scaliger's Epistolae Omnes, now in the University of California Library, published in Frankfurt in 1628 and acquired in the same year by one who signs himself Andreas Lucius, possibly of the famous Swiss family of philologists. Throughout the book Lucius has jotted down marginal notes, among them the above mentioned, which reads:
Solu(s) hic est sapiens, alii volitant velut umbrae. Hic ille est, quem in prima adhuc aetate tantopere admiratus est vir in literis maximus, Hadrianus Turnebus, ut portentosi ingenii juvenem appellare non dubitaret. Ut in epistola quadam ad Meursium scripta Jacobus Gillosus Consiliarius Gallicus instatur (sic).
He alone is wise, while the others flit about like shades. This is the one who even at an early age was regarded with such admiration by the outstanding literary figure of the time, Turnebus, that he did not hesitate to call him a youth of marvelous character. Thus Jacques Gillot states in a letter written to van Meurs.
The Meursius in question is the celebrated Jan van Meurs, in whose youthful studies Scaliger had taken a lively interest.10 Jacques Gillot, who here reports on Scaliger, was one of those whose chief delight is to search out and cultivate the genius of others, in which generous zeal he made his home the intellectual clearinghouse of the age.11 His keen interest in the studies of others, as well as the fact that he and Scaliger were studying the same things in Paris at the same time (they were of about the same age, Gillot perhaps somewhat older), makes him the man most likely to know the facts about Scaliger's Paris dates. Certainly the picture of the young student commanding the admiration of the great professor of Greek from the first agrees far better with what is known of the man's character and accomplishments, of his policy of always taking fullest advantage of whatever instruction was available, of the zeal with which he would throw himself into the thick of any important discussion, than does the strange picture of the abashed and retiring youth which Scaliger only suggests and which his biographers have filled out. Scaliger was anything but a self-taught recluse.
One of the most engaging aspects of Scaliger study is the variety of epithets which have always been attached to his name. From the hand of the enthusiastic Lucius, we have a witness of how even in Scaliger's own day men were intrigued by these gorgeous epithets; for that student collects them as one would stamps and fills the flyleaf of the book mentioned with lists of Nomina Scaligero a doctissimis hominibus data (names given to Scaliger by learned men), much as Robinson has chosen a number of such epithets as the opening words of his book. Lucius's collection, which includes where possible the names of the inventors of the various "blurbs" is worth citing:
Abyssus eruditionis, Scientiarum mare, sol doctorum, patris divini divina suboles, genus Deorum, Perpetuus literarum dictator, Hercules Musarum (Casaub.), Unicum saeculi decus (Cas.), Daemonium hominis (Lips.), Literatorum Rex (Lips.), Illustrissimum ingenium huius aevi (Lips.), Magnus filiarum Mnemosynes Antipes (Lips.), Divini ingenii vir (Florens Christianus), Maximum naturae opus o miraculum, Extremus naturae conatus, Aquila in nubibus (Lips.), Unus, cui tota Musarum sacris operatorum cohors assurgit, cui principes Musici coetus fasces submittunt (Casaub.), Sol unicus doctrinarum & eruditionis (Cas.), Mirincus vir, & quem Homeri verbis iure appelles: daiphrona poikilometen (Lips.).
Bottomless pit of learning, a sea of knowledge, a sun among the learned, divine offspring of a divine father, race of the Gods, universal lord of letters, Hercules of the Muses, sole splendor of the age, a little spirit of a man, king of literati, the most distinguished spirit of this age, the great offspring of the daughters of Mnemosyne, a man of heavenly character, oh miracle, the greatest work of nature, the final effort of nature, an eagle among the clouds, one to whom the whole host of Muses gives preference because of the sacred things of the workers, single sun of erudition and learning, a remarkable man and one whom you would rightly name with words from Homer: skilled, much devising.
*This article, written in response to Warren E. Blake's "Joseph Justus Scaliger," Classical Journal 36 (1940): 83-91, was published in Classical Journal 37 (1942): 291-95.
1. Warren E. Blake, "Joseph Justus Scaliger," Classical Journal 36 (1940): 83-91.
2. George W. Robinson, Autobiography of Joseph Scaliger (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1927), 21.
3. Written with long alif where a short one (on which the accent would fall naturally) would have done as well, and with emphatic qaf instead of kaf; the transliteration does not give the name its Arabic form, which would be Iskalliji(i)r, but attempts only to preserve its current pronunciation.
4. Joseph Justus Scaliger, Epistolae Omnes Quae Reperiri Potuerunt (Frankfurt: Aubriorum & Schleichii, 1628), LXII (1606).
5. Ibid., Epistola XXXV (1594).
6. Henry Nettleship, ed., Essays by the Late Mark Pattison, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1889), 1:139.
7. Jakob Bernays, Joseph Justus Scaliger (Berlin: Hertz, 1855), 5; cf. Blake, "Joseph Justus Scaliger," 85.
8. Pierre Bayle, An Historical and Critical Dictionary, 4 vols. (London: Harper, 1710), s.v. "Scaliger."
9. Nettleship, ed., Essays by the Late Mark Pattison, 138; Bernays, Joseph Justus Scaliger, 36. We find Scaliger, very shortly after taking up the language, seeking instruction from various experts, ibid., 122-24; Nettleship, ed., Essays by the Late Mark Pattison, 1:202-5.
10. Scaliger was greatly angered that one of Meursius's early promises should have been spoiled by too much success, Joseph J. Scaliger, Prima Scaligerana (Utrecht: Petrus Elzevirius, 1670), s.v. "Meursius"; Bayle, Dictionary, s.v. "Meursius," writes: "We learn from Vossius's 114th Letter that Scaliger had many strokes in them (i.e., his epistolae) against Meursius, whose name was suppressed in the impression by substituting an asterisc [sic]." Cf. Eyssenhardt, "Meursius," in R. v. Lilieneron, ed., Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, 56 vols. (Leipzig: Duncker & Homblot, 1885), 21:538; and Weiss, "Mersius (Jean Ier)," in Joseph F. Michaud, Biographie universelle ancienne et moderne, 45 vols. (Paris: Desplaces, 1854-65), 28:155-57.
11. Weiss, "Gillot (Jacques)," in Michaud, Biographie universelle, 16:464-65. It was at Gillot's house that the authors of the Satyre Menippee "were united in a veritable cult of the absent Scaliger," Mark Pattison, Isaac Casaubon, 1559-1614, 2d ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1892), 115.