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2005-2006 Visiting Fellows

How Gabriel Harvey Read his Livy through Augustine’s Eyes

Arnoud Visser (University of Leiden), 1-30 September 2009

The aim of my visit to Princeton was to investigate manuscript marginalia by the English scholar and controversialist Gabriel Harvey (1550-1631). Princeton University Library keeps several copies from Harvey’s library, but my research focused in particular on Harvey’s copy of the Roman historiographer Livy (Ex. PA6452 .A2 1555q). Harvey’s marginalia in this book formed the subject of an important article about scholarly reading practices by Anthony Grafton and Lisa Jardine (‘Studied for Action: How Gabriel Harvey Read his Livy’ (Past and Present 129 (1990), 3-51). In this article the authors argued that Harvey’s reading was oriented at political action. As a reader with expert knowledge of the classics, the scholar Harvey could serve several Elizabethan courtiers as a ‘facilitator’ of political ideas, which were especially useful in diplomatic and military contexts. Yet, as Grafton and Jardine also noted, some of Harvey’s notes seemed to contradict this pragmatic reading strategy, such as a large number of references to the Latin Church Father Augustine of Hippo. How could Harvey in the same book pragmatically exploit Livy’s stories of war and pagan virtues, and then support Augustine’s rejection of pagan heroism?

My FPUL fellowship has enabled me not just to answer this question with the help of new evidence, but also to reassess more generally the forms and functions of Harvey’s reading notes. During my stay I have made a full transcription of Harvey’s reading notes on Augustine (approximately sixty in total). A source analysis revealed that almost all of these notes were references to chapter titles of the City of God (only in three cases Harvey paraphrased Augustine’s own text directly). This reading of Augustine probably took place in 1590. Harvey’s notes further reveal three interesting characteristics. First, Harvey describes his reading of Augustine as a systematic ‘collation’ of the City of God. This type of reading suggests that the main aim was to enrich the interpretation of Livy with additional material from Augustine. Secondly, the references to Augustine mostly concern the first ten books of the City of God, which was more concerned with historical than theological thought. Thirdly, and related to the second point, Harvey repeatedly indicates he respected Augustine’s authority as a historian, he is clearly less knowledgeable about Augustine’s status in the field of theology. This historical orientation throws another light on the supposedly ‘paradoxical’ relationship between Livy’s pagan heroism, and Augustine’s Christian evaluation of antiquity. Apart from the Livy edition, I have been able to work on other copies from Harvey’s library, which allowed me to put the readings of Livy in a broader perspective. Finally, I have studied sixteenth-century editions of Augustine’s collected works, the type of sources Harvey used in his marginalia.

Apart from offering an important, stimulating research opportunity, the FPUL fellowship has been extremely rewarding in other respects as well. I profited from the opportunity to share some first outcomes with Professors Grafton and Jardine, which helped me to formulate new questions and further develop my research. I greatly enjoyed, furthermore, the inspiring discussions with several other colleagues in early modern studies. Finally, I am very grateful for the friendly and professional service with which I was received at the Rare Books and Special Collections Department.

Expected outcomes

Professors Grafton and Jardine have invited me to contribute an article to a book on Gabriel Harvey’s reading practices (scheduled to appear in 2011). Apart from this, the research results will have a central place in one chapter of my monograph project Reading Augustine in the Reformation, about the varied appropriation of Augustine in the sixteenth century (to be submitted in Feb. 2010).


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