Union Académique Internationale

Avicenna Latinus (Corpus Philosophorum Medii Aevi)

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Project nº9-3, adopted in 1972.

The Avicenna latinus project was conceived by Simone Van Riet under the inspiration of Gérard Verbeke, historian of medieval philosophy. Its mission, as part of the Corpus Philosophorum Medii Aevi, is to publish in the form of critical editions the medieval Latin translations of Avicenna (Ibn Sīnā)’s philosophical treatises contained in the Shifā. As is already well-known, the four parts of the Shifā include : Logic, Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Metaphysics.

In the Avicenna Latinus series, created in 1968, Simone Van Riet published the Latin translations of the Metaphysics, (Liber de Philosophia prima sive Scientia divina, in 1977, 1980, and 1983), as well as those of several books of the Natural Sciences (_Naturalia°): book VI (Liber de anima seu sextus de naturalibus, in 1968 and 1972), book III (De generatione et corruptione, in 1987), book IV (De actionibus et passionibus qualitatum primarum, in 1989) as well as the first treatise of Book I, dedicated to physics (De causis et principiis naturalium, in 1992).

As it had not been translated in the Middle Ages, Simone Van Riet did not concern herself with the Mathematics, nor did she plan to edit the Latin translation of the Logic. When she passed away suddenly on 28 November 1993, the philologist was preparing an expanded edition of the Codices as described by Marie-Thérèse d’Alverny (published posthumously by Pierre Jodogne in 1994) . She was also in the process of editing the Tractatus secundus (De motu et de consimilibus) of the Liber primus naturalium (dedicated to physics).

After the death of S. Van Riet, the classical philologist and historian of the sciences, André Allard, was named by the Royal Academy of Belgium to see to the completion of the opus. He approached M. Jules Janssens, specialist in medieval philosophy and philologist of Arabic, who accepted the task of continuing this great interrupted work, in the footsteps of Simone Van Riet.

The combined efforts of André Allard and M. Jules Janssens came to fruition in 2006, with the edition of the Tractatus secundus of the Liber primus naturalium. This work scrupulously respects the structure chosen by Simone Van Riet for the l’Avicenna Latinus series: the Latin text, which is the object of the edition, is shown face-to-face with the original Arabic text. The results of this comparison are presented in the Latin-Arabic apparatus and in the notes which accompany the Latin text.

The work of the two philologists next focused on the translation of the Tractatus tertius, when the untimely passing of André Allard, 16 May 2014, left M. Jules Janssens to navigate alone the many difficulties presented by the Latin text. The partial translation of the Treatise III, written in two phases in twelfth and thirteenth century Spain, is for the most part conserved in one sole manuscript. Its Latin text contains countless errors and the Arabic text that it translates is not yet accessible in a critical edition. With the help of Marc Geoffroy (CNRS, Paris) (†), M. Janssens can be credited with completing this arduous task. His edition of the Latin translation of the Tractatus tertius, published in 2017, finishes the ambitious philological work undertaken by Simone Van Riet. This work will be nevertheless completed by the edition of the lexical indices of the books of the Natural Sciences.

The Avicenna latinus project was sponsored by the UAI in 1972 and is supported by the Royal Academy of Belgium.