During the last decades of the sixteenth century, Christopher Plantin and his successors in Antwerp and Leiden published a remarkable number of commentary editions of Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesars, containing notes by Theodorus Pulmannus (1574), Laevinus Torrentius (1578, revised and enlarged in 1592), Fulvius Ursinus (1595) and a certain ‘S.P.’ (1596). Except for this last publication, which has been attributed sometimes to Petrus Scriverius and sometimes instead to Stephanus Pighius, these editions have been extensively studied from a bibliographic perspective. However, as yet no attention has been paid to their place within Suetonius’ textual transmission and, above all, his Early Modern exegetical tradition.
In order to find out how the Suetonius editions ex Officina Plantiniana relate to one another, and to earlier (but also later) commentary editions of the same work published both in- and outside of the Netherlands, this article offers a comparative study of the notes of Pulmannus, Torrentius, Ursinus and ‘S.P.’, examining their genesis, contents, methods, sources and Nachleben. Additionally, their works are compared to that of another scholar closely associated with the Plantin Press: Justus Lipsius, whose own commentary on Suetonius would be published four years later by the Offenbach printer Conradus Nebenius, avidly collected Plantin’s editions and also interacted with his friends’ and colleagues works.
This study demonstrates that even though these editors and commentators on Suetonius showed considerable interest in the historical-antiquarian aspects of his work, their main concern was textual criticism. Relying on literary as well as material sources, they recorded variant readings, indicated their preference among them and proposed emendations of their own. In conclusion, Pulmannus, Torrentius, Ursinus and S.P. were all exceptionally well acquainted with Suetonius’ manuscript tradition and the earlier printed editions, knowing not only the previous commentaries but also the textual corrections made by other contemporary scholars. Each, however, dealt with these materials in his own way.