Butchering the Corpus Hermeticum: Breaking News on Ficino's Pimander
What then about the other editions, absent from the list above? The 2nd edition (Ferrara, 8th of January 1472: just a few weeks after the 1st) was based upon a separate manuscript of Ficino’s translation; but although it is much more reliable than the princeps, it seems to have remained a “stand-alone” edition without much further influence. The 9th edition (Florence 1513), edited by Mariano Tucci, was again based upon a separate manuscript of Ficino’s translation and became the basis for two later editions: the 11th (Basle 1532, edited by Michael Isengrin) and the 16th (Cracow 1585, edited by Annibale Rosselli, with huge commentaries). And finally (not counting vernacular versions such as du Preau's), we have three editions independent of Ficino’s text: the 13th Corpus Hermeticum edition in succession consists of the first publication of the Greek original by Adrien Turnèbe (Paris 1554); the 15th was a new Latin translation by François Foix de Candale (Bordeaux 1574); and finally, the 17th was yet another new Latin translation by Francesco Patrizi (Ferrara 1591). This certainly suggests that interest in the Hermetica was growing during the second half of the sixteenth century, especially its last three decades; but Campanelli claims that, in fact, none of these three new editions had any success at all, leaving Ficino’s Pimander as ‘almost the only vehicle of the Corpus Hermeticum in Europe’ in this period (p. LXXXIII). One might want to question that point, but it seems clear that van der Leye and Rolandello (and of course their printers) created a mess that would continue to create enormous confusion about the Hermetic message throughout the sixteenth century.
In conclusion, even the most reliable version of Ficino's Pimander turns out to have been quite different from what we find in the Greek manuscript that had been brought to Florence by Leonardo da Pistoia (p. CCL). But what really messed up things for the thrice-greatest was the famous 1471 edition. In the wake of that disaster, and as the number of editions increased, the original meaning of the Corpus Hermeticum was bound to get buried under an ever-expanding number of mistranslations, misinterpretations, and well-meaning but counterproductive emendations. Hence, what we have is a lively Renaissance discourse about Hermes, but no Hermetic Tradition.