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The edition of Plato's complete works published in Geneva in 1578 by printer Henri Estienne (1528-1598), better known under his latin name Stephanus, who was also a famous scholar of the time and who had himself established the Greek text of Plato he was publishing, was not the first printed edition of Plato's dialogues. It had been preceded by that of Aldus Manucius, published in Venice in 1513 in two volumes, and by the one published in 1534 in Basel by Valder, with the help of Simon Grynaeus and John Oporinus. If it deserves special attention, it is because it remained for several centuries the reference edition and because it still provides today the basis of the universally accepted way of quoting Plato. It included, in three volumes, all the then extant works attributeds to Plato, that is 42 titles, distributed as follows:
It included, spread over two columns per page, the Greek text established by Henri Estienne himself and a Latin translation by Jean de Serre (Serranus in Latin).
The picture below shows the cover page of this edition.
The picture below shows the title page of volume two of this edition.
The pictures below show pages 514 to 518 of volume two, which include the beginning of book VII of the Republic, that is, the allegory of the cave. It can be seen that the Greek text is in the second column of odd pages (column on the right of the page) and the first column of even pages (column on the left of the page), that is, always in the inner column, closer to the binding: it is the text that makes up the main body of the book and can be read continuously from page to page.The Latin translation wraps it from the outside, itself supplemented by notes in the margins. One may notice on each page, between the column with the Greek text and that with the Latin translation, letters A, B, C, D and E located at regular intervals, every tenth line or so of the Greek text (intervals between lines of the Greek text are not the same as those between lines of the Latin translation, the later being more compact), starting with A on the first line of the page and dividing the page into five sections of about ten lines of Greek text each; but it can be seen that the letters don't always fall exactly in front of a line of the Greek text and so, for instance, the E on page 515 falls between two lines of the Greek text, section D of that page includes 11 lines and section E only 8. It can also be seen that, in order to provide on the same page both a portion of Greek text and its translation in Latin, not only the intervals between lines of the Latin translation had to be shorter than the one between lines of the Greek text, as has already been said, but on top of that, on some pages, tha Latin text at the bottom of the page spreads over the two columns below the end of the Greek text on that page, reducing the number of lines of Greek text in section E to the point where, in some cases, it may end up with only one or two lines (two lines for instance on page 517). Besides, additional numbered notes can be found at the end of each dialogue or book (in the case of Republic and Laws, what we now call "books" in those works is being called "dialogues" by Henri Estienne, as can be seen on page 514 from the heading Politeiôn dialogos hebdomos, meaning "seventh dialogue of the Republic"), which may spread over several pages or sections of pages, so that the ensuing dialogue or book doesn't always start on top of a new page and may, as a result, end up with a reduced number of sections, not ending with section E. Such a situation can be seen on page 514, whose top is occupied by the end of the notes relating to the previous "dialogue", in that case, book VI of the Republic. Beside, section A of the first page of a dialogue, even though it includes ten lines, holds less text than normal sections because of the space occupied by the larger adorned initial letter of the dialogue. Finally, as can be expected, even though no exemple of it is provided here, the end of a dialogue or book doesn't usually fall exactly at the end of a page, so that, here again, the last page doesn't always include all five sections A to E.
Those remarks are important because, as I said at the beginning of this page, this edition still serves today as the basis for the universally agreed upon way of quoting Plato, using the page number in the Stephanus edition, followed by the letter identifying the section in the page and the line number within that section from that letter. They help explain some specific features of this numbering (discontinuity within page numbers between dialogues or books within dialogues, missing letters on certain pages, varying size of sections in number of lines, etc.) A complete description of this way of quoting Plato along with a more detailed description of the contents of each volume, includint the start and end page number of each dialogue and book (for Republicand Laws) can be found in the page of this site answering question 7 of the frequently asked questions, "Quoting Plato".
Plato and his dialogues : Home - Biography - Works and links to them - History of interpretation - New hypotheses - Map of dialogues : table version or non tabular version. Tools : Index of persons and locations - Detailed and synoptic chronologies - Maps of Ancient Greek World. Site information : About the author.
First published March 8, 2009 - Last
updated March 8, 2009
© 2009 Bernard SUZANNE) (click on name to send your comments via e-mail)
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