Recensions et comptes rendus

Philippe Despoix and Jillian Tomm (eds. with the collaboration of Eric Méchoulan and Georges Leroux), Raymond Klibansky and the Warburg Library Network: Intellectual Peregrinations from Hamburg to London and Montreal. Montreal & Kingston, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2018, 15,8 × 23,5 cm, xiv-346 p., ISBN 978-0-7735-5463-4 (cloth)

  • Francis K. Peddle

…plus d’informations

  • Francis K. Peddle
    Faculty of Philosophy, Dominican University College, Ottawa

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Couverture de Aristotle and the Peripatetic Tradition, Volume 72, numéro 1-2, janvier–août 2020, p. 1-276, Science et Esprit

Raymond Klibansky (1905-2005) is well known in the interdisciplinary world of twentieth century cultural history, philosophy, art, myth, iconography, and religion. For those familiar with this particular genre, Klibansky’s Saturn and Melancholy and the Corpus Platonicum Medii Aevi series are classics in the field. The Warburg Institute, associated with the Courtauld Institute of Art after its move to London, especially through the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, was Klibansky’s intellectual home ever since its beginnings in the 1920s in Hamburg. Klibansky was also one of the founders of the Warburg Institute periodical Medieval and Renaissance Studies, which sporadically produced six issues between April, 1941 and November, 1968. The Warburg Institute and Library moved to London in 1933 to escape Nazi persecution, eventually becoming a part of the University of London. It is noteworthy that a legal wrangle between the Institute and the University of London was decided in favour of the Warburg Trust Deed at about the same time as the anniversary conference on Klibansky which eventually spawned this volume. It seems that the Warburg Institute will now live on as will the legacy of Raymond Klibansky. There is also a significant Canadian connection for Klibansky made McGill University and the Institut d’études médiévales de l’Université de Montréal (1947-1968) his professional redoubt immediately after the Second World War until his retirement in 1975. This volume grew out of a conference in 2015 on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Klibansky’s death. The volume, drawing extensively on previously unpublished and uncited sources, is as much a tribute to Klibansky as it is a celebration of the history of the Warburg Library as an interdisciplinary cultural institution and his formative influence on its development. One of the more revealing historical facts in this volume is the role Klibansky played as a key instigator of the idea to move the Warburg Library to England at the outset of the Nazi rise to power. Gertrud Bing and the enigmatic Walter Solmitz are unsung heroes in this effort. Warburg confidant Fritz Saxl did the financial heavy lifting, but the whole transition was originally Klibansky’s intellectual offspring. Part One covers the early years and exile to London of Klibansky and the Warburg Library. Part Two deals with Klibansky’s unique contributions to the continuity of the Platonic tradition in the Middle Ages, while Part Three is devoted to the somewhat tortuous foibles of the Saturn and Melancholy Project, with its intrigues of authorship and missed publication deadlines. The range of writers mentioned by the various contributors to the volume under review, from Aby Warburg, Ernst Cassirer, Edgar Wind, and Fritz Saxl in the early days of the formation of the Library Network to Erwin Panofsky, Frances Yates, Lotte Labowsky, and Ernst Gombrich in the later years, is panoramic to say the least. If one ever wanted to know how the iconic, the image, the symbolic, and the “engram” became such formidable forces in our culture, this is the book for you. If you are a devotee of the arcane science of creative library cataloguing, then Aby Warburg’s fourfold classification of books into “image, word, orientation, and action” can only agitate your curiosity. For those uninitiated into the Warburg library culture, the Introduction by the editors and Georges Leroux gives a good chronology of events and a serviceable gallery of scholars and library hanger-ons. Part One has contributions ranging from the worthy survey of the Warburg Library Network by Elizabeth Sears to Jillian Tomm’s meticulous analysis of Klibansky’s personal library now archived at McGill University. There is an emphasis in this Part on …