LEWES.- Aristotle towers over Western philosophy and science as no other single person does. As they have come down to us, Aristotles works comprise a veritable encyclopaedia of philosophy and logic, the physical and natural sciences, ethics and politics. Aristotles astonishing range and depth made him indisputably the most important intellectual figure in the Western tradition before the modern age. Although he has been studied continuously for more than two-thousand years, his individual works were dispersed, lost, recovered, and very gradually reunited. The physical transmission of the Aristotelian corpus was a long, complicated, uncoordinated process -- not one chain of transmission but many. From the Roman Empire, through the mediation of Arab and Jewish scholars, to the western Middle Ages and scholasticism and up to the cusp of modernity in the late 15th century, Aristotles works were copied and recopied by scribes in Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin before finally becoming available again in their original Greek.
The extraordinary books and manuscripts in Aristotle: From Antiquity to the Modern Era are all selected from the important collection held by the Martin J.Gross Foundation to illustrate the ways in which the Aristotelian corpus has been transmitted over time. In particular, the volume focuses on one crucial, extended moment: the moment when, thanks to the invention of printing, Aristotles works became widely available in Latin, Greek, and even in vernacular languages in the late 15th and 16th centuries. At that moment, Aristotles authority comes under increasing scrutiny as the new science and philosophy of early modern Europe chart different courses for the future. However, Aristotle is not only an obstacle to be overcome; he also serves as a bridge to the new age especially in the work of Jesuit philosophers and scientists. One way or the other, Aristotle had to be dealt with. He could not be avoided.
Through commentaries, treatises, lecture courses in schools, and above all in the written marginalia of books, the volume reveals the extent of the ages engagement with Aristotle, and demonstrates just how intellectuals of the time received and wrestled with his works. It includes essays by leading scholars as well as a beautifully illustrated catalogue section featuring the covers and pages of works on Aristotelian texts from the 13th to the late 17th century, many of which show the annotations of contemporary readers and teachers.
An accompanying exhibition is scheduled to open September 10, 2021 through January, 2, 2022, in the Schafler Gallery, New-York Historical Society, New York.
Martin J. Gross is the president of the Martin J. Gross Family Foundation whose purpose is the publication of scholarly works for the benefit of the general public. He has an MA in Philosophy and Politics from Oxford University, and a JD from the University of Chicago.
Benjamin Morison is Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University. He has a DPhil in Philosophy from Oxford University and is the author of On Location: Aristotles Concept of Place (2002).
Barbara Scalvini has worked as senior specialist, Department of Books and Manuscripts, Christies, London and at rare books dealer Bernard Quaritch Ltd. She has a PhD in Eighteenth Century European History from the University of Turin, and is an authority on the transmission of the classical tradition in the west.