The Scaligerana (‘Table talk’) are an exceptional and much-quoted source in the historiography of the late humanist republic of letters. In using them, however, one should be aware of three pitfalls.
The first is that the Secunda Scaligerana were in fact the first to be published, but they were called Secunda as their contents belonged to a later period (1604-1606): it was published in 1666 and saw several reprints before the Prima Scaligerana came out. The Prima Scaligerana quotes Scaliger in the period 1574-1593.
A second warning concerns the reliability of the Scaligerana. Both collections contain words from the mouth of Scaliger as written down by his friends: Jean de Vassan (and, to a lesser extent, his brother Nicolas) in the case of the Secunda Scaligerana; Franciscus Vertunianus (or François de La Vau de Saint-Vertunien) in the Prima Scaligerana. One can only hope that these friends set down Scaliger’s words accurately. Vassan seems to have written down the words after conversations with Scaliger, so he quoted from memory. Did Scaliger really switch back and forth between French and Latin within the space of one sentence or is the macaronic language due to the poor Latinity of Vassan himself? One might wonder whether the Vassan brothers and Vertunien added any additional or circumstantial information. The ms. of Secunda Scaligerana shows that Pierre Dupuy, who acquired it, corrected some of Vassan’s mistakes (especially in quoting names). On the other hand, Scaliger in his Scaligerana is even more frank and harsh than in his letters. If Vassan moderated his language at all, why would he not have got removed so many passages harmful for the reputation of so many scholars? Vertunianus’ Scaligerana is less controversial, both because it dated from an earlier period, in which Scaliger was not as yet so self-confident, and because Vertunianus himself, older and wiser than Vassan, had reorganised his notes and made selections from them.
A third problem is the complicated history of the transmission of the texts. The first edition of 1666 claims that Scaliger’s words were noted down by the Dupuy brothers, but this is not true. It was published with many mistakes, anonymously, by Isaac Vossius, not in Geneva (as the title page has it) but in The Hague . It was also published without the consent of the owner of the Vassani-ms., who felt obliged to quickly bring a better edition on the market (1667). Two further editions followed rapidly in 1668 and 1669: the booklet was obviously an enormous success. This explains the first edition of the Prima Scaligerana of Vertunianus, printed in the same year 1669, giving Groningen as place of publication but in fact printed in Saumur. Further editions show the enthusiasm with which the public read Scaliger’s frank opinions. Although the two collections had been printed together, the edition of 1695 was the first to actually integrate them and restructure the entries of both collections into one alphabetical order. The entries of first and second Scaligerana are distinguished by an asterisk, often misplaced. When using the Scaligeranaas a source, the best edition to use is that of 1740, which respects the original status of both Scaligerana by keeping them separate. For quoting the Secunda Scaligerana, it would be best to return to the manuscript still extant in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris (amongst other papers containing table talk not edited in either of the two Scaligerana). It would be extremely useful to have a critical edition of this unique source, which began a whole tradition of –ana, as the title of the 1740 makes clear. A table may serve to clarify the editorial history of theScaligerana:
Scaligeriana editio secunda auctior, Hagae Comitis (Vlacq) 1669.
Scaligeriana editio secunda auctior, Lugduni Batavorum (Driehuysen) 1668
Scaligerana editio altera Coloniae Agrippinae (Gerbrandus Scagen) 1667; ed. Dallaeus (contra editionem 1666)