Being the most elegant of writers in the Greek, he will not wish to appear lacking in taste in Latin

I’m reading last year’s updated reissue of N.G. Wilson’s From Byzantium to Italy: Greek Studies in the Italian Renaissance.  In a slight digression into early approaches to translation – important since using bilingual Latin/Greek texts was a valid learning method for many scholars – Wilson quotes a letter of Leonardo Bruni’s on his approach to rendering Plato’s Phaedo into Latin:

I am keeping close to Plato.  I call up a vision of him, one that speaks Latin, so that he may judge, and I will ask him to bear witness to the translation of his own work.  I translated him in a way that I understand will give him most pleasure.  So first of all I preserve every statement without the least deviation from its meaning; then if a word-for-word rendering is possible without oddity or absurdity, this is most welcome; when it is not possible, I am not so timid as to fear accusation of lese-majeste if I depart a little from the working while preserving the sense, always avoiding absurdity.  This is what Plato by his speeches obliges me to do; being the most elegant of writers in the Greek, he will not wish to appear lacking in taste in Latin.

While Wilson doesn’t give the Latin text he does cite a 1741 Florentine edition of Bruni’s letters edited by L. Mehus (Epistle 1.6).  This edition has conveniently been digitized by Google but I couldn’t manage to match the citations.  Fortunately I have a book buying fund to hand and there’s a 2007 facsimile edition (edited and with a new preface by James Hankins) available.  Likely no one will ever use it again but it will satisfy a morning’s whim.

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