Page 127 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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121
S
chwarz
— H
arry
A. W
olfson
To an extraordinary degree these literary qualities can be
found not only in the twelve stout volumes (all either in print
or in manuscript ready for publication) of his
Structure and
Growth of Philosophic Systems From Plato to Spinoza,
but also
in eighty-five papers in learned journals.* One would hardly
expect to find anything but technical prose in his gargantuan
brainchild,
Crescas’ Critique of Aristotle
(1929). But even in
that desert of 759 closely printed pages of philological and textual
studies, there are oases of literature. One needs only to read for
a few minutes to arrive at refreshment of this sort: “The study of
a text is always an adventure, the adventure of prying into un-
known recesses of the mind of another. There is sleuthing in
scholarship as there is in crime, and it is as full of mystery,
danger, intrigue, suspense and thrills—if only the story were told.
In works of this kind, however, the story is not the thing.” Or,
to take a recent example, here is an excerpt from a paper called
“The Twice-Revealed Averroes” which appeared in the July
1961 issue of
Speculum.
“For we of the [Mediaeval] Academy
[of America] know that there is a story, a human story, behind
the volumes, so splendidly published in our
Corpus [Commen-
tarorium Averrois In Aristotelem]—
the story of scholars who,
without the patronage of a Frederick, voluntarily gave up their
evenings and week-ends, year after year, for the preparation of
the thousands of minute items that make up the elaborate and
complicated apparatuses and glossaries of their editions; the story
of a provost and a dean of a university who allowed us the use
of a certain fund under their care for the publication of certain
volumes; the story of the president of a foundation who always
came to our assistance when we had to meet the printer’s bill;
and the story of a mere business man who at a luncheon, after
consulting with one of our editors on a matter on which he needed
some advice, said: Now that you have done something for me,
what can I do for you? And he did. He came just in the nick of
time to enable us to publish one of our most expensive volumes.
I hope that some future speaker at a future meeting of the
Academy, perhaps at the celebration of the completion of the
Corpus
fifty years, or a hundred years, hence, in reporting the
achievement and the reception of this third revelation to Aver-
roes, will also tell the story, the human story, behind the achieve-
ment.”
The Master of Style
Last year the Harvard University Press published under the
title
Religious Philosophy
the first of a series of volumes of
*“A Bibliography of H. A. Wolfson,” by Leo W. Schwarz, will appear in
Jubilee
Volume in Honor of Harry Austryn Wolfson,
American Academy of Jewish
Research, New York (to be published in 1962).—Editor.