Review by: David Konstan, Brown University - April 19, 2013
At a reasonable price, students may own an elementary edition of a Terentian play together with a reproduction of an ancient manuscript that will convey something of the history of classical texts and invite interest in paleography.
Review by: Roy Pinkerton, JACT - September 27, 2005
The advance publicity sounded too good to be true: an edition of the Phormio, accompanied by a complete reproduction of one of its principal manuscripts. Professor Coury’s book, however, turns out to be precisely that, and both she and her publishers are to be warmly congratulated on this imaginative and innovative production.
The fourth/fifth century Codex Bembinus is the earliest extant manuscript of Terence and is generally regarded as the most trustworthy. The Phormio is to be found on folios 53r to 76r, and on the left-hand pages of chapter 1 all 47 leaves are photographically reproduced. The reproduction is actual size, one side of a folio to a page, and its quality is astonishingly good: even the scribe’s faint preliminary rulings on the parchment are visible. The method of photography employed has unfortunately not been such as to surmount the problems caused by the transparency of the parchment, and ink showing through from the other side of the folio can sometimes make reading difficult (63v is particularly blurred): but in this respect, as in all others, we are simply experiencing the very difficulties we would encounter if we were face to face with the actual manuscript. On the facing pages of chapter 1 is an exact transcription of the codex, haplographies, dittographies, misspellings, lacunae, and all. In order to make this a more readily understood key to the manuscript, the words of the text are spaced and abbreviations expanded, but otherwise nothing is changed.
Having, thus assisted us towards an initial decipherment of the codex, Professor Coury proceeds in chapter 2 to edit the play. She provides in this section a normalized text, with obvious mis-spellings corrected, missing lines inserted, and so on, all such alterations from the actual reading of the manuscript being clearly indicated by the use of italics and parentheses. In this process of normalization, it is curious that she has retained the confusion in the codex between t and d (e.g. quit for quid, 245, or quod for quot, 454), a feature of early Latin spelling usually edited out. On each facing page are explanatory notes of a fairly basic nature, elucidating grammatical and linguistic difficulties and translating where necessary. Palaeographic information also appears in the notes, with a recommendation to the reader to ‘refer to the manuscript while you are translating the edited version, so that you will become more and more aware of the source of the text, its problems, and its wonder’. In providing this combination of codes, transcription, and edited text, Professor Coury is ‘aiming for a more integrated experience’, and the opportunity of studying a classical text in this way is surely something which senior school pupils as well as undergraduates will find exciting and illuminating. The attractiveness of this volume for school use is enhanced both by a vocabulary and by a particularly useful and readable introduction which includes a clear and informative beginner’s guide’ to Latin palaeography.
With so much to praise, it is churlish to find even the slightest of faults, especially if it be one of omission. The decipherment of a manuscript is a perfectly valid scholarly exercise in itself, but those for whom this edition is intended may need to be persuaded that the game is worth the candle. The ultimate aim of any study of a Latin text must surely be to increase not merely our awareness of the mechanics of its transmission, but our understanding and appreciation of what the text actually says. When the text in question is the script of a play, the reader will generally require some guidance on the dramatic context, on current theatrical conventions, and on a variety of other background issues which enable the play to come to life. It is a pity that Professor Coury has not stressed these more: an analysis of the complex plot, a character study of Phormio, a brief assessment of the plays dramatic impact - topics such as these would have ensured a better appreciation of the playwright whose words she has been helping us to spell out.
Professor Coury’s main aim, however, is so satisfactorily achieved that it is unfair to criticize: when we are given the whole of an original manuscript, dare we ask for more? The book is a delightful addition to Terentian scholarship: US Graphics have made a splendid job of its production and Marie Cummings’ charming little illustrations of scenes from the play are an added bonus. It is to be hoped that similar volumes will follow: those whose palaeographic appetites are whetted by this one may like to know that Professor Coury has also produced for the specialist a fuller and more scholarly study of the Codex Bembinus under the title Terence’s Bembine Phormio: A Palaeographic Examination (also published by Bolchazy-Carducci).
Review by: Niall Slater, The Classical Outlook - September 27, 2005
The idea behind this student edition of Phormio and its companion volume is immediately attractive: it places in the hands of undergraduates not only an annotated text but also photographs (of excellent quality) of the oldest manuscript of Terence, the Bembine Codex, along with a transcription thereof, in order to introduce the student not only to one of the liveliest of Terrence’s plays but also the study of paleography. The charms of the Phormio are obvious: indeed a third incarnation of the story (via Moliere) was a hit in both London and New York in the 1970s as the Young Vic’s Scapino!
Review: The APA Newsletter - September 27, 2005
Dr. Elaine M. Coury, Associate Professor of Classics at Newman College, St. Louis, MO (1982), has produced a new textbook, Phormio: A Comedy by Terrence. This textbook is unique in that in it is reproduced the Phormio of the Bembinus Manuscript (Codex Vat. Lat. 3226, folios 53-76). Each of the 50 pages of the Codex is faced with a transcription to enable students to experience the pleasure and the novelty of reading a fourth-century A.D. manuscript. The text also contains an edited version of Phormio, notes, and vocabulary. This text has the potential to revitalize interest in Latin and paleography.