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Introduction
to Cato's
de Agricultura

This webpage reproduces part of the
Loeb Classical Library edition of the
Cato's De Agricultura

and
Varro's de Re Rustica
(1934).

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Introduction
to Varro's
de Re Rustica

Cato and Varro
On Agriculture

Manuscripts and Important Editions

The manuscript text of Cato and Varro on agriculture has survived in very imperfect condition. The Cato text, in particular, is full of additions and repetitions, and its Latinity has been considerably modernized in the process of transmission. In the case of both authors textual corruptions have been multiplied by the tampering of unscientific Renaissance scholars.

Our knowledge of the manuscript tradition of these writers goes back only as far as a long-lost codex, the so‑called Marcianus, once in the Library of St. Mark in Florence, last seen and used by Petrus Victorius (1499‑1585) and described by him as "liber antiquissimus et fidelissimus." The readings of this ancient codex have been preserved by Angelo Politian (1454‑94), who collated the manuscript in 1482 with a copy of the editio princeps, now in the National Library in Paris. The same codex was used by Victorius in his edition of the Roman writers on agriculture which appeared in 1541; and many of its variant readings are discussed by him in his "Explicationes suarum in Catonem, Varronem, Columellam castigationum" of the following year. It has been demonstrated by the German scholars J. G. Schneider (1750‑1822) and Heinrich Keil (1822‑94) that all existing manuscripts of the agricultural works of Cato and Varro are directly or indirectly descended from the lost Marcian.

Of the small group of extant codices used by Keil and described in the Introduction to his edition, the two following are universally regarded as most trustworthy in preserving the readings of the lost archetype:

Cod. Parisinus 6842A (= A), 12th/13th cents. The oldest of the extant manuscripts. It contains the agricultural writings of Cato and Varro in complete form, with corrections by different hands.

Cod. Laurentianus 51, 4 (= B), 15th cent. Contains the three books of Varro, mutilated at the end of the third book in the same way as the ancient codex collated by Politian and used by Victorius.

Other existing manuscripts, also employed and described by Keil, are:

Cod. Mediceus-Laurentianus 30, 10 (= m), 14th cent. It contains Cato, de Agri Cultura, and the three books of Varro appended to Vitruvius, de Architectura. It was used by Politian and Victorius, and often agrees with the Parisinus in emended passages where others differ.

Cod. Laurentianus 51, 1 (= f), 14th/15th cents. Contains Cato and Varro, with many corrections by a later hand.

Cod. Caesenas Malatestianus 24, 2 (= c), 15th cent. Three books of Varro written after the works of Cato and Columella, with theº same gap in the text as in the Marcian codex. The missing portion was added apparently at a later date.

Cod. Laurentianus 51, 2 (= b), 15th cent.

The efforts of scholars to emend the faulty manuscript text of Cato and Varro have received no little aid from the works of other writers of like interests, both Greek and Roman, from whom our authors borrowed or by whom they were quoted. In this way the text has been illuminated here and there by accounts of various agricultural operations contained in the works of Xenophon, Theophrastus, or Aristotle. The text and interpretation of Varro, especially, are clarified at times by the testimony of such successors as Virgil, Verrius Flaccus through Festus and Paulus, Columella, the elder Pliny, Nonius Marcellus, Palladius and Vegetius through Columella, Aulus Gellius, and Macrobius.

The agricultural works of Cato and Varro have usually appeared together, in printed edition as in the manuscripts, or in company with Columella and Palladius. The editio princeps was published at Venice in 1472, in the shop of Nicolaus Jenson and under the editorship of George Merula. The edition of Beroaldus at Bologna in 1494 improved a number of readings. The press of Aldus Manutius at Venice produced in 1514 the edition of Iucundus, the Veronese architect, which far surpassed its predecessors in learning and ingenuity of textual emendation. The edition of Victorius, in 1541, helped to preserve the readings of the lost Marcian codex and exerted a vast influence on later editors. Gesner brought out in 1735 his great edition of Scriptores rei Rusticae, with critical apparatus and valuable commentary, taking into account all earlier works of importance. This was reprinted by Ernesti in 1773. The most valuable of the older works and still the best of the annotated editions is the Scriptores rei Rusticae of J. G. Schneider, published at Leipzig in 1794‑96. The text was first put on a definite scientific basis by Heinrich Keil in his editio maior of 1884‑94, with adequate critical apparatus and commentary. This was followed by his minor edition of Varro in 1889, and of Cato in 1895. Since the death of Keil, his text of both authors has undergone a complete and very careful revision at the hands of George Goetz, who has restored the text more nearly to that of the archetype. A second edition of Cato was published by Goetz, in the Teubner series, in 1922, and a second edition of Varro in 1929.

The difficulties of text and interpretation presented by Cato and Varro have attracted the attention of a large number of editors and commentators in addition to those already mentioned. Names of outstanding importance in this connection are, for the earlier scholars, those of Adrian Turnebus at the beginning of the sixteenth century, Joseph Scaliger in 1569, Fulvius Ursinus in 1587, J. F. Gronovius in the seventeenth century, and Julius Pontedera in 1740. Contributions to the study of one or both writers have been made in more recent or modern times by a large number of scholars, among whom may be named Theodor Mommsen, F. W. Ritschl, Hugo Reiter, Ernst Samter, O. Schöndorffer, H. Jordan, F. Zahlfeldt, W. Weise, Richard Krumbiegel, Walter Kohlschmidt, V. Lundström, Theodor Birt, A. Kappelmacher, C. Howe, A. W. Van Buren, Josef Hörle, and Tenney Frank.

The text accompanying the present translation is based on that of the second Teubner editions of Goetz (Cato, de Agri Cultura, 1922; Varro, Rerum Rusticarum libri tres, 1929) as the latest and in every way the most trustworthy. Some slight changes have been made in punctuation and capitalization to conform more nearly with English and American usage. Occasional important divergences of reading are noted. The critical notes, drawn from the editions of Keil and Goetz and from independent investigation of other sources, aim to give, as far as the limited space permits, the source of the more important corrections together with the probable reading of the archetype.

Since the above was put in print, and while the volume was undergoing final revision, there has appeared Cato the Censor on Farming, with translation and commentary, by Ernest Brehaut (Columbia University Press, 1933). Dr. Brehaut's work, now inserted in the Bibliography of this volume, has been of service in the final reading of the proofs.

May 2, 1934.


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