Sunday, 17 July 2011

Quis castigabit ipsum castigatorem?

In his handbook chapter on ‘Mathematics in Fourteenth-Century Theology’ (2009), which introduces historians of mathematics to the surprising relevance of Sentences commentaries, Mark Thakkar focusses on a stand-off between the positions of Thomas Bradwardine and Gregory of Rimini on infinite multitudes.  ‘Unfortunately,’ he writes, ‘[Bradwardine's] 'Sentences' commentary, which would have been written in around 1332, has not come down to us.’

Now, anyone familiar with the literature on Bradwardine will know that Jean-François Genest and Katherine Tachau claimed to have identified part of his Sentences commentary as long ago as 1990.  Still, in some contexts Thakkar's remark might have been seen as an excusable simplification.  What is embarrassing is the appearance in a collection that he himself cites of a chapter by Genest, ‘Les premiers écrits théologiques de Bradwardine: textes inédits et découvertes récentes’ (2002), that includes a 2½-page discussion of a question on infinity (c.1333) that is probably from Bradwardine's Sentences commentary and would have served his purposes admirably.

What he chooses to look at instead is De causa Dei, Bradwardine's ‘sprawling magnum opus’ of 1344.  Readers may be interested to learn that, almost four hundred years after Henry Savile's lavish editio princeps (1618), the Austrian Science Fund has approved a project led by Edit Anna Lukács to study the manuscript tradition in Vienna (home to 11 of the 50-odd extant MSS) and to establish a ‘reception-specific’ critical edition.  Hopefully this will pave the way for the full edition that John Marenbon recently highlighted as a desideratum for the British Academy's Auctores Britannici Medii Aevi series.

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