Plato's Oldest Surviving Manuscript Dates to 895 AD, No Originals Survive

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Gwen Parker:
Plato's Oldest Surviving Manuscript Dates to 895 AD, No Originals Survive

Hi all,  there is an indiscrepancy going around Atlantis forums, mainly perpetuated by the Spaniards, that Plato's originals have survived into present day. That is untrue. Back at Atlantis Rising, I traced the path of Plato's writings, the last of which were probably destroyed back when the Christians closed Plato's Academy in 529 AD.
The oldest surviving manuscripts date to 895AD, are in Latin, and reside at Oxford.

Gwen Parker:

Manuscripts and Rare Books
Medieval Manuscript Sources and Incunabula

No single collection of medieval manuscripts at the Bodleian is devoted exclusively to philosophy. Although numerous, the manuscripts of philosophical texts are dispersed across many collections, and are best retrieved by a search for authors’ names in the general indexes. Searches by first words can be made in an unpublished source by G.E. Mohan (see Select Bibliography). The general range of authors and texts is surveyed in Repertorium edierter Texte… (see Select Bibliography). Besides those texts recognisable as philosophy in today’s terms, manuscripts in the fields of natural philosophy and grammar are also fruitful sources for the understanding of medieval thought.
Oxford’s most important manuscript of classical philosophy is the Clarke Plato (MS. E. D. Clarke 39), the oldest surviving manuscript for about half of Plato’s dialogues, which was acquired by the University in 1809: it was written in Constantinople in A.D. 895. Philosophical texts from ancient Greece and Byzantium are naturally represented by copies amongst the Bodleian’s Greek manuscripts, though scarcely any of these had reached Britain before the seventeenth century. The Bodleian also holds the oldest surviving manuscript of the Discourses of Epictetus (MS. Auct. T. 4. 13), a twelfth-century text acquired in 1820.
In the early Latin West, echoes of Greek philosophy were available through encyclopaedists such as Martianus Capella, from whom the Bodleian owns two important manuscripts from ninth-century France: a copy of the text itself with gloss (MS. Laud Lat. 118), and a manuscript of the commentary by Johannes Scotus Erigena (MS. Auct. T. 2. 19). Manuscripts of Latin classical and Late Antique philosophers remained accessible, some texts more common than others. Boethius’ De consolatione philosophiae was transcribed with its Carolingian gloss in a superb manuscript made at Canterbury in the late tenth century (MS. Auct. F. 1. 15, part 1). In the twelfth century, William of Malmesbury searched successfully for the works of Cicero; the Library has his copy of the De officiis (MS. Rawl. G. 139). Philosophical study in twelfth-century Ireland is witnessed by a manuscript which includes Calcidius’ Latin translation of Plato's Timaeus and extensive excerpts from Erigena's Periphyseon (MS. Auct. F. 3. 15).
Latin translations of Aristotle, made either directly from the Greek or via the Arabic, were becoming available from the twelfth century. A collection of early Aristotelian translations, including parts of the Metaphysics and Ethics, was at St. Albans Abbey by the thirteenth century (MS. Selden Supra 24). At the universities from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, Aristotle’s texts and the many commentaries on them provided both the content and the logical tools for philosophical study to progress. The patterns of university exercises and debate have left their mark in the many surviving manuscripts of Quaestiones, Quodlibetica and the like from Oxford and other universities. Oxford itself was producing philosophers of European stature, such as Roger Bacon, Walter Burley and William of Ockham.
In Renaissance Italy, scholars could regain access to ancient philosophical texts in the original Greek. Duke Humfrey of Gloucester was the dedicatee of new Latin translations of both Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics. Whilst his own copies of these texts no longer survive in Oxford, the influence of his books and of his encouragement of humanistic scholarship is perceptible, for example in a manuscript of Leonardo Bruni’s translation of Aristotle's Ethics and Politics written by an English scribe in 1452 (New College MS. 228). Manuscripts of Aristotelian translations and commentaries are listed in Lacombe, Lohr and Kristeller (see Select Bibliography). Later Bodleian accessions of Italian manuscripts include a copy of Marsilio Ficino’s commentary on Plato’s Symposium with Ficino’s own autograph corrections (MS. Canon. Class. Lat. 156), one of the many humanistic manuscripts bought in 1817 from the Canonici collection of Venice.
Ancient and medieval philosophy is well represented among the incunable collections. Of the ancients the Library has, for example, approaching 50 incunable editions of the works of Aristotle, and copies of nearly half the pre-1500 printed editions of the works of Plato. Medieval scholastic philosophy is represented by authors such as Duns Scotus and William of Ockham.
Post-Medieval and Modern Collections
In the field of early modern philosophy, the Library’s outstanding collection is that of John Locke (1632-1704). The manuscripts (for the most part bought from the Earl of Lovelace in 1947) include journals, notebooks, correspondence and early drafts of An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding. In 1978 Paul Mellon presented his Locke collection which consists of a large part of the ‘King moiety’ of Locke’s library and other books and manuscripts, with the result that the Bodleian now holds over 800 volumes owned by Locke, including all those with the location ‘Oak Spring’ in Harrison and Laslett’s The Library of John Locke (see Select Bibliography).
The Bodleian’s modern philosophy holdings reflect the development of the study of philosophy in the University. Until the foundation of the School of Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) in 1920, philosophy was only studied as part of the Literae Humaniores School, with a syllabus that was, until the early nineteenth century, focussed on ancient philosophy and logic, as were Bodleian acquisitions. In the 1830s modern philosophy began to be studied, initially only as a means of illuminating the ancient texts, but gradually, under the influence of Oxford philosophers like F.H. Bradley and T.H. Green, as a subject in its own right.

From the nineteenth century the library of Thomas Fowler (1832-1904), Wykeham Professor of Logic, is now held in the Philosophy Library in Merton Street. The collection combines rare and antiquarian material with the standard journals and textbooks of the period. Fowler was a noted authority on Sir Francis Bacon and on the history of logic, and these books were the tools of his trade. There are a number of late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century volumes from the Aldine Press. The texts of Bacon’s writings include first editions of Sylva Sylvarum and Opuscula varia posthuma. Other rare books of interest include John Milton’s Artis logicae plenior institutio of 1672, and The Game of Logic by Lewis Carroll (1887), with the original counters and an inscription to Fowler by the author.
The chief significance of the Fowler Collection, however, is as a surviving working library, ancient and modern, of one of the major figures of Victorian Oxford. Beyond Fowler’s own research interests, the only modern philosophical texts included are those which were finding reluctant acceptance in the Oxford teaching syllabus of the later nineteenth century as adjuncts to the ancient philosophy course. The Fowler Collection is complemented by another turn-of-the-century collection of philosophy books, those of Shadworth Hollway Hodgson, a friend of Fowler and first President of the Aristotelian Society. Bequeathed to Corpus Christi College, the majority are on loan to the Philosophy Library. The collection is strong in nineteenth-century Continental philosophy, and demonstrates the extent to which new ideas were transforming the Oxford philosophy scene.
The Bodleian’s acquisitions responded to these developments throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, with an increase both in purchases of philosophical works published abroad and of British philosophy acquired through legal deposit. The Library also houses papers of the Positivist Richard Congreve (1818-99); of H.H. Joachim (1868-1938), Wykeham Professor of Logic; of the moral philosopher H.A. Prichard (1871-1947); In 1967 it acquired by gift the typescript of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus logico-philosophicus from which the German text was probably published in 1921 (MS. German d. 6), and in 1969 purchased an early manuscript of the Tractatus (MS. German d. 7). The Library holds the papers of R. G. Collingwood (1889-1943), Waynflete Professor of Metaphysics, which are on deposit from the family. There is a typescript catalogue of these available in Duke Humfrey and in the Modern Papers Reading Room; the papers can be read in Modern Papers, though researchers are asked to consult them on microfilm in the first instance.
The period following the Second World War was one in which Oxford philosophers, and even a branch of philosophy known as ‘Oxford Philosophy’, or ordinary-language philosophy, were pre-eminent. From this period, the library holds some papers of the analytical philosopher J.L. Austin, (1911-1960), including his notes for his Lecture Series “Words and Deeds” and “Sense and Sensibilia” (MS. Eng. misc. c. 377; MSS. Eng. misc. c. 394-5).
Also, some papers of the logician A.N. Prior (1914-69). Further insights into this period may be found in the Jowett Society minute-books for 1920-59 ( MSS. Top. Oxon. d.359/1-3; printed papers at G.A. Oxon 4o 603)and in the minute-books, 1898-1971 and 1971-80, of the Oxford University Philosophical Society (MSS. Top. Oxon. e. 369/1-2, Eng. misc. d. 937; MS. Eng.
d. 3402), and the minute-books of the Origen Society, 1904-29, 1933-59 (MSS. Top. Oxon. d.374/1-4, 6-10). The extensive archive of Sir Isaiah Berlin was given to the Library by the Isaiah Berlin Literary Trust in 1999. It includes a wide range of correspondence, academic, literary and personal papers. A detailed catalogue, due to be completed in 2004, is being made available online (see Select Bibliography). The study of the philosophy of science also expanded greatly in the post-war period, and holdings were built up at the Radcliffe Science Library.
In recent years the scope of acquisitions has widened to include electronic journals and databases, a video collection of contemporary philosophers and the digitisation of primary resources with, for example, the inclusion of the Wittgenstein manuscripts in the Bergen electronic edition. Philosophy Library modern manuscripts include unpublished papers relating to JL Austin , Saul Kripke , HH Price, WV Quine, and Gilbert Ryle (although the majority of Ryle’s papers are held at Linacre College).
Select Bibliography
G.E. Mohan, Incipits of Philosophical Writings in Latin of the XIIIth-XVth Centuries [enlargement from microfilm of the original at St Bonaventure University, N.Y., n.d., bound in 4 vols]. Held in Duke Humfrey’s Library at R.5.497/1-4.
G. Lacombe et al., Aristoteles Latinus, Corpus Philosophorum Medii Aevi (vol.I, Rome, 1939; vol.II, incl. Suppl., Cambridge, 1955; Suppl. Altera, ed. L. Minio-Paluello, Bruges & Paris, 1961).

Philip Long, A Summary Catalogue of the Lovelace Collection of the Papers of John Locke in the Bodleian Library (Oxford Bibliographical Society Publications, n.s.8; Oxford, 1959).
P.O. Kristeller et al., Catalogus translationum et commentariorum: Medieval and Renaissance Latin Translations and Commentaries: Annotated Lists and Guides (Washington, D.C., 1960- ).
Philip Long, ‘The Mellon Donation of Additional Manuscripts of John Locke from the Lovelace Collection’, Bodleian Library Record, 7/4 (1964), 185-93.
C.H. Lohr, Medieval Latin Aristotle Commentaries (successive articles in Traditio, 23-30 (1967-1974)), and Latin Aristotle Commentaries II, Renaissance Authors (Corpus Philosophorum Medii Aevi, Subsidia 6; Florence, 1988), with III, Index Initiorum – Index Finium (Subsidia 10; Florence, 1995).
Duke Humfrey and English Humanism in the Fifteenth Century [exhibition catalogue] (Oxford: Bodleian Library, 1970).
John Harrison and Peter Laslett, The Library of John Locke (2nd ed., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971).
H.A.S. Schankula, ‘A Summary Catalogue of the Philosophical Manuscript Papers of John Locke’, Bodleian Library Record, 9/1 (1973), 24-35; and ‘Additions and Corrections’, BLR, 9/2 (1974), 81-2.
Alfredo Sammut, Unfredo duca di Gloucester e gli umanisti italiani (Medioevo e Umanesimo, 41; Padova: Antenore, 1980).
Repertorium edierter Texte des Mittelalters aus dem Bereich der Philosophie und angrenzender Gebiete, eds. R. Schönberger & B. Kible (Berlin, 1994).
Information on the Berlin papers

Quo Vadis:

there is an indiscrepancy going around Atlantis forums, mainly perpetuated by the Spaniards, that Plato's originals have survived into present day.

Amazing what fantasies people will craft to justify their own theories.  Facts play no role.

What difference does it make how old the oldest surviving copy of the Timaeus is?

If every copy of the Timaeus were burnt you would still have Antarctica, the Hindu's Atala ("White Island"), Homer's island of Atlas, Hellanicus of Lesbos, Herodotus, and the Aztec Aztlan or "White Island."

Gwen Parker:
Well, it makes a difference because none of those other manuscripts specifically mention Atlantis. Herodotius, for instance, mentions "the Atlantes," a people that lived by the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, presumably in Morocco, but not in it. Hellanicus' story "Atlantis" only exists in fragments, who knows what he was writing about?  What survives doesn't really resemble Plato.  As for the Hindu and Aztec references, well, they seem to describe the homelands of their ancient gods. They could be related to Atlantis, they could also be part of the myths that all ancient cultures come from related to their origins.

They all have one thing in common:  they have only a superficial relationship towards Atlantis.

Plato's Atlantis is the oldest verifiable reference to Atlantis,  it is detailed and specific.  It describes in clear terms what this society looked like, what the people were like , where is was, and what they did (made war on the people of the Med before being wiped out in an earthquake and tsunami).

The reason why it is important to trace the history of the dialogues is because they were translated to Arabic and to Latin and certain key words might have been mistranslated in the process. All the various English translations, for instance, Lee, Jowett and Bury, vary in key points. Some Greek translations also don't believe that Plato meant to say that Atlantis was "larger than Libya and Asia combined" but "in between Libya and Asia," (the basis for the Minoan/Santorini hypothesis).  Some translators also think that Plato screwed up and didn't mean to say that Atlantis was 9000 years before Plato, but 900 years, this would put it in the time frame of the Thera explosion that supposedly wiped out the Minoans.

It is important to point out that the 9000 years before Plato date exists in all the oldest translations, as does the immense size and location of Atlantis, I could go on, but I guess you get the point.



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