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Cambridge (UK), Trinity College Library, O.5.35


Additional Information

  • Appr. Date: 17th c. (17th c.)
  • Genres: Philosophical
  • Illustrations: Yes


James no. 1306 (vol. 3, p. 337).

A notebook, a fascinating collection of excerpts from various authors, by Thomas Gale (1635?—1702), sometime Regius Professor of Greek at Cambridge, coiner of the term Neoplatonism and father of Roger and Samuel Gale. Thomas produced the editiones principes, with parallel Latin translations, of a number of important post-classical authors, most notably of Iamblichus, and these publications directly and indirectly influenced a number of English and German writers, most prominently Goethe. He was also active in studies of Anglo-Saxon.

The notebook is in Gale’s own hand, one that is fine, if inconsistent (and far exceeding those of today), but clearly not that of a Greek (or an Italian humanist) and often with an outsider’s awkwardness. Despite it chaotic nature, filled with cross-outs and revisions, it is organized, or at least presented, as numbered entries. Notes are mostly in Latin, some in Greek, and at least one in English (see below). Page 5r has a partial table of contents, labeled (by Gale), “Hæ sunt Lemmata sive capitula in Margine Damascii scripta eâdem manu quâ totus liber descriptus fuit” (circumflexes his). There follow references to twenty-three of the over 300 entries, a few of them being:
— Ὅτι οὔκ ἐστι[ν] ἡ μία τῶν πάντων ἀρχὴ τὸ αὐτοκίνητον…p. 16β [nothing to do with cars]
— Ὅτι πρὸ τούτου τοῦ κόσμου ἔστι κόσμος ἀκίνητος…18.
—Ἀρχαὶ δύο πρὸς τῆς νοητῆς ἁγίας τριάδος…40.
—Περτὶ τοῦ ἡνωμένου…53.
—Περὶ μονῆς καὶ προόδου καὶ ἐπιστροφῆς ἀπορίαι…85β.
—Περὶ αἰῶνος, ὅλου, ζωῆς…168.
—Περὶ τῆς ἐσχάτης διακοσμήσεως τῶν θεῶν…276.
—Περὶ ὑποθέσεων παρὰ Παρμενίδου…304.
And so forth.

A hodgepodge ranging from Parmenides to Aristotle, to Porphyry, to Orpheus and the Chaldæan Oracles, to the Gospel of St. John, with Chaos and the Trinity juxtaposed (24v), all in an attempt to understand the god(s), the ms. is less interesting for what it might say about Neoplatonists themselves, Gale’s editions have been superceded, as for its significance to the history of classical scholarship, the history of Cambridge University and the era’s Cambridge intellectual circle, and to 17th- and 18th-century thought in general.

If it has received anything approaching the attention it deserves, we are unaware of the fact. For a start, see the bibliography and online resources. In Koller see esp. p. 313; in Haugen, pp. 39sqq. (“Thomas Gale: Iamblichus (1678) and Apollodorus (1671)”); in Mehler (Batavice), 127. Gale is referred to passim in the app. crit. of the Iamblichus edition of Des Places (orig. in Belles Lettres, 1966; there are many references to him in Taylor’s translation, itself influential on Percy & Mary Shelley, among others, and the online document is searchable.)

45v (§195), marginal note (ἀγγλιστί):  
1. God
2. The power of G.
3. Know thy mind of God.
The third item is so spelled, but should we perhaps take it as “Know the mind of God” (even if the ms. reading might be more appealing to gnostic Christians)? There is a small squiggle over the “y” unfamiliar to us and resembling an Indian numeral “2”.

The above is just one example, noteworthy to us because of the language, from the many pages, brimming with interesting material, which must be seen in full.

For the notebooks of his Cantabrigian contemporary, John Covel, cf. Brit. Mus. Add. 22912-22914 (our LON.1.3, LON.1.4 and LON.1.5)