ANA, a Latin neuter plural termination appropriated to various collections of the observations and criticisms of eminent men, delivered in conversation and recorded by their friends, or discovered among their papers after their decease.  Though the term Ana is of comparatively modern origin, the introduction of this species of composition is not of recent date.  It appears, from d’Herbelot’s Bibliotheque Orientale, that from the earliest periods the Eastern nations were in the habit of preserving the maxims of their sages.  From them the practice passed to the Greeks and Romans.  Plato and Xenophon treasured up and recorded the sayings of their master Socrates; and Arrian, in the concluding books of his Enchiridion, now lost, collected the casual observations of Epictetus.  The numerous apophthegms scattered in Plutarch, Diogenes Laertius and other writers, show that it was customary in Greece to preserve the colloquially expressed ideas of illustrious men.  It appears that Julius Caesar compiled a book of apophthegms, in which he related the bons mots of Cicero; and Quintilian informs us that a freedman of that celebrated wit and orator composed three books of a work entitled De Jocis Ciceronis. We are told by Suetonius that Caius Melissus, originally the slave but afterwards the freedman and librarian of Maecenas, collected the sayings of his master; and Aulus Gellius has filled his Noctes Atticae with anecdotes which he heard from the eminent scholars and critics whose society he frequented in Rome.

But though vestiges of Ana may be traced in the classical ages, it is only in modern times that they have come to be regarded as constituting a distinct species of composition, comprising literary anecdotes, critical reflections, and historical incidents, mingled with the detail of bons mots and ludicrous tales.  The term Ana seems to have been applied to such collections as far back as the beginning of the 15th century.  Francesco Barbaro, in a letter to Poggio, says that the information and anecdotes which Poggio and Bartolommeo of Montepulciano had picked up during a literary excursion through Germany will be called Ana:

“Quemadmodum mala ab Appio e Claudia gente Appiana, et pira a Mallio Malliana cognominata sunt, sic haec literarum quae vestra ope et opera Germania in Italiam deferentur, aliquando et Poggiana et Montepolitiana vocabuntur.”

Poggio Bracciolini, to whom this letter is addressed, and to whom the world is indebted for the preservation of so many classical remains, is the first eminent person of modern times whose jests and opinions have been transmitted to posterity.  Poggio was secretary to five successive popes.  During the pontificate of Martin V., who was chosen in 1417, Poggio and other members of the Roman chancery were in the habit of assembling in a common hall adjoining the Vatican, in order to converse freely on all subjects.  Being more studious of wit than of truth, they termed this apartment Buggiale, a word which Poggio himself interprets Mendaciorum Officina.  Here Poggio and his friends discussed the news and scandal of the day; communicated entertaining anecdotes; attacked what they did not approve (and they approved of little); and indulged in the utmost latitude of satiric remark, not sparing even the pope and cardinals.  The jests and stories which occurred in these unrestrained conversations were collected by Poggio, and formed the chief materials of his Facetiae, first printed, according to de Bure, in 1470.  This collection, which forms a principal part of the Poggiana, is chiefly valuable as recording interesting anecdotes of eminent men of the 14th and 15th centuries.  It also contains a number of quibbles or jeux de mots, and a still greater number of facetiae, idle and licentious stories.  These Facetiae form, upon the whole, the most amusing and interesting part of the Poggiana printed at Amsterdam in 1720; but this collection also comprehends additional anecdotes of Poggio’s life, and a few extracts from his graver compositions.

Though Poggio was the first person whose remarks and bons mots were collected under the name of Ana, the Scaligerana, which contains the opinions of Joseph Scaliger, was the first worked published under that appellation, and accordingly may be regarded as having led the way to that class of publications.  There are two collections of Scaligerana—the Prima and Secunda. The first was compiled by a physician named Francois Vertunien, sieur de Lavau, who attended a family with whom Joseph Scaliger resided.  He, in consequence, had frequent opportunities of meeting the celebrated critic, and was in the custom of committing to writing the observations which dropped from him in the course of conversation, to which he occasionally added remarks of his own.  This collection, which was chiefly Latin, remained in manuscript many years after the death of the compiler.  It was at length purchased by M. de Sigogne, who published it in 1669, under the title of Prima Scaligerana, nusquam antehac edita, calling it prima in order to preserve its claim of priority over another Scaligerana, which, though published three years before, had been more recently compiled.  This second work, known as Secunda Scaligerana, was collected by two brothers of the name of Vassan, students of the university of Leiden, of which Scaliger was one of the professors.  Being particularly recommended to Scaliger, they were received in his house, and enjoyed his conversation.  Writing down what they had heard, particularly on historical and critical subjects, they soon made up a large manuscript volume, in which, however, there was neither connection nor arrangement of any description.  After passing through various hands this manuscript came into the possession of M.  Daille, who for his own use arranged in alphabetical order the articles which it contained.  Isaac Vossius, obtaining the manuscript in loan from M. Daille, transcribed it, and afterwards published it at the Hague, under the title of Scaligerana, sive Excerpta ex Ore Josephi Scaligeri. This edition was full of inaccuracies and blunders, and a more correct impression was afterwards published by M. Daille, with a preface complaining of the use that Vossius had made of the manuscript, which he declares was never intended for publication, and was not of a nature to be given to the world.  Indeed, most literary men in that age conceived that the Scaligerana, particularly the second, detracted considerably from the reputation of the great scholar.  Joseph Scaliger, with more extensive erudition, but, as some think, less genius than his father Julius Caesar Scaliger, had inherited his vanity and dogmatical spirit.  Conversing with two young students, he would probably be but little cautious in the opinions he expressed, as his literary errors could not be detected or exposed.  Unfortunately the blind admiration of his pupils led them to regard his opinions as the responses of an oracle, and his most unmerited censures as just condemnations.  The Scaligerana, accordingly, contains many falsehoods, with much unworthy personal abuse of the most distinguished characters of the age.

In imitation of the Scaligerana, a prodigious number of similar works appeared in France towards the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century.  At first these collections were confined to what had fallen from eminent men in conversation; but they were afterwards made to embrace fragments found among their papers, and even passages extracted from their works and correspondence.  Of those which merely record the conversations of eminent men, the best known and most valuable is the Menagiana. Gilles Menage was a person of good sense, of various and extensive information and of a most communicative disposition.  A collection of his oral opinions was published in 1693, soon after his death; and this collection, which was entitled Menagiana, was afterwards corrected and enlarged by Bernard de la Monnoye, in an edition published by him in 1715.

The Perroniana, which exhibits the opinions of Cardinal du Perron, was compiled from his conversation by C. Dupuy, and published by Vossius in 1666, by the same contrivance which put him in possession of the Scaligerana. The Thuana, or observations of the president de Thou, have usually been published along with the Perroniana, but first appeared in 1669.

The Valesiana is a collection of the literary opinions of the historiographer Adrien de Valois, published by his son.  M. de Valois was a great student of history, and the Valesiana accordingly comprehends many valuable historical observations, particularly on the works of du Cange.

The Fureteriana (1696) contains the bone mots of Antoine Furetiere, the Academician, the stories which he was in the habit of telling, and a number of anecdotes and remarks found in his papers after his decease.

The chevraeana (1697), so called from Urbain Chevreau, is more scholarly than most works of a similar description, and probably more accurate, as it differs from the Ana proper, of which the works described above are instances, in having been published during the life of the author and revised by himself.

Parrhasiana (1699-1701) is the work of Jean le Clerc, a professor of Amsterdam, who bestowed this appellation on his miscellaneous productions with the view of discussing various topics of philosophy and politics with more freedom than he could have employed under his own name.

The Huetiana contains the detached thoughts and criticisms of P. D. Huet. bishop of Avranches, which he himself committed to writing when he was far advanced in life.  Huet was born in 1630, and in 1712 he was attacked by a malady which impaired his memory, and rendered him incapable of the sustained attention necessary for the completion of a long or laborious work.  In this situation he employed himself in putting his detached observations on paper.  These were published by the Abbe d’Olivet the year after his death (1722).

The Casauboniana presents us with the miscellaneous observations, chiefly philological, of the celebrated Isaac Casaubon.  During the course of a long life that eminent commentator was in the daily practice of committing to paper anything remarkable which he heard in conversation with his friends, especially if it bore on the studies in which he was engaged.  He also made annotations from day to day on the works he read, with which he connected his judgments concerning the authors and their writings.  This compilation was styled Ephemerides. His Adversaria, and materials amassed for a refutation of the Ecclesiastical Annals of Baronius, were bequeathed by his son Meric Casaubon to the Bodleian Library at Oxford.  These were shown to J. C. Wolf during a visit which he paid to that university; and having been transcribed by him, were published in 1710 under the title of Casauboniana.

Besides the above a great many works under the title of Ana appeared in France about the same period.  Thus, the opinions and conversation of Charpentier, Colomesius and St Evremond were recorded in the Carpenteriana, Colomesiana and St Evremoniana; and those of Segrais in the Segraisiana,--a collection formed by a person stationed behind the tapestry in a house where Segrais was accustomed to visit, of which Voltaire declared, “que de tous les Ana c’est celui qui merite le plus d’etre mis au rang des mensonges imprimes, et surtout des mensonges insipides.” The Ana, indeed, from the popularity which they now enjoyed, were compiled in such numbers and with so little care that they became almost proverbial for inaccuracy.

In 1743 the Abbe d’Olivet spoke indignantly of “ces ana, dont le nombre se multiple impunement tous les jours a la honte de notre siecle.” About the middle of the 18th century, too, they were sometimes made the vehicles of revolutionary and heretical opinions.  Thus the evil naturally began to cure itself, and by a reaction the French Ana sank in public esteem as much below their intrinsic value as they had formerly been exalted above it.

Of the examples England has produced of this species of composition, perhaps the most interesting is the Walpoliana, a transcript of the literary conversation of Horace Walpole, earl of Orford.  Most other works which in England have been published under the name of Ana, as Baconiana, Atterburyana, &c., are rather extracts from the writings and correspondence of eminent men than memorials of their conversation.

There are some works which, though they do not bear the title, belong more strictly to the class of Ana than many of the collections which are known under that appellation. 

Such are the Melanges d’histoire et de litterature, published under the name of Vigneul Marville, though the work of a Benedictine, d’Argonne; and the Locorum Communium Collectanea, ex Lectionibus Philippi Melanchthonis,--a work of considerable reputation on account of its theological learning, and the information it communicates concerning the early state of the Reformed Church.  But of those productions which belong to the class, though they do not bear the name, of Ana, the most celebrated are the Colloquia Mensalia of Luther and Selden’s Table-Talk. The former, which comprehends the conversation of Luther with his friends and coadjutors in the great work of the Reformation, was first published in 1566.  Captain H. Bell, who translated it into English in the time of the Commonwealth, informs us that, an edict having been promulgated commanding the works of Luther to be destroyed, it was for some time supposed that all the copies of the Colloquia Mensalia had been burned; but in 1626, on the foundation of a house being removed, a printed copy was found lying in a deep hole and wrapped up in a linen cloth.  The book, translated by Bell, and again by the younger Hazlitt in 1847, was originally collected by Dr Anton Lauterbach (1502-1569) “out of the holy mouth of Luther.” It consists chiefly of observations and discussions on idolatry, auricular confession, the mass, excommunication, clerical jurisdiction, general councils, and all the points agitated by the reformed church in those early periods.  The Table-Talk of Selden contains a more genuine and undisguised expression of the sentiments of that eminent man than we find in his more studied productions.  It was published after his death by Richard Milward, his amanuensis, who affirms that for twenty years he enjoyed the opportunity of daily hearing his discourse, and made it his practice faithfully to commit to writing “the excellent things that usually fell from him.”

The most remarkable collection of Ana in the English language—and, indeed, in any language—is to be found in a work which does not correspond to the normal type either in name or in form.  In his Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., Boswell relates that to his remark, a propos of French literature, “Their Ana are good,” Johnson replied, “A few of them are good; but we have one book of that kind better than any of them—Selden’s Table-Talk.” Boswell’s own work, however, is incomparably superior to all.

J. C. Wolf has given a history of the Ana in a preliminary discourse to his edition of the Casauboniana, published in 1710.  In the Repertoire de bibliographies speciales, curieuses, et instructives, by Peignot, there is a Notice bibliographique of these collections; but many of the books there enumerated consist of mere extracts from the writings of popular authors.


Source: 1911 Encyclopedia





Copyright © D. J. McAdam· All Rights Reserved