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Nonii Marcelli, De compendiosa doctrina libri XX, ed. W.M. Lindsay, 3 voll., Leipzig 1903 (Leipzig 2003) (Bibliotheca Scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana).
The sole surviving work of Nonius Marcellus is the De conpendiosa doctrina ad filium, a lexicographical collection arranged in twenty books of very different lengths. Its title makes clear that its two programmatic goals were brevity and instruction. Each book treats a different aspect of lexicography: Books 1-12 consider linguistic phenomena (chiefly concerning morphology and polysemy), while Books 13-20 offer lists of words grouped according to their semantic range (viz. sailing, clothing, containers, shoes, dyes, food and drink, weapons, and family relationships).
The interpretations that Nonius offers after each lemma vary greatly in length and in carefulness, and are followed by quotations of one or more authors on whose auctoritas the proposed explanations rely. The majority of these auctores are poets of the Republican period, many of whose works do not survive intact. Nonius, who apparently had access to a well-stocked library, thus serves as an indispensable witness — albeit an indirect one — to numerous authors whose works are no longer or only partially extant (e.g. Pomponius, Novius, Lucilius, Accius, Varro Reatinus).
Wallace M. Lindsay has accurately and convincingly reconstructed a list of the forty core sources — auctores and groups of works — from whom Nonius drew while drafting the De conpendiosa doctrina. Moreover, he has postulated an order in which these sources were utilized, which was subsequently called the lex Lindsay.
As noted above, the twenty books are of varying lengths; in Lindsay’s edition these range from the 336 pages of Book 4 (De varia significatione sermonum) to the 4 pages of Book 18 (De colore vestimentorum) to the single page of Book 20 (De propinquitate). This inconsistency derives in part from the nature of the contents: words related to family relations, for example, are simply less numerous than those that have anomalous usages. At the same time, it is clear that some pages have been lost in the text’s transmission: in particular, the shortest books often display lemmata that immediately offer a citation without any formal explanation or, more rarely, offer an explanation without any citation as proof of its auctoritas.
The manuscript tradition of the De conpendiosa doctrina comprises fifteen codices produced in the Carolingian period, all of them derived from a single archetype — probably of Anglo-Saxon provenance — that is characterized by many errors. This appears to have been present at Tours at the end of the 8th c. Testimonia from the humanistic period number over 130.
Nonius has always enjoyed a remarkable editorial fortune, even if this has only occurred because his work is a treasure-trove of fragments from authors who do not survive to us directly. We possess twelve different incunabula, but the three editions we can properly call “critical” are those produced by Lucian Mueller (Leipzig 1888), John Henry Onions (Oxford 1895, containing only Books 1-3), and Wallace Martin Lindsay (Leipzig 1903).
The last of these is actually the edition of reference, though it is now outdated; very recently, however, Paolo Gatti, Rosanna Mazzacane, and Emanuela Salvadori have been working on a new edition: the first and third volumes (Books 1-3; Books 5-20) have already been published; the second and fourth volumes (Book 4; Indices) are currently in preparation. [P. Gatti; tr. C. L. Caterine].