the wonderful discoveries of used books: Platonist Gregory Vlastos and Classicist G. B. Kerferd

I’m quite a fan of used books, as most friends know, and books in general. But used books are almost always wonderful. I really like it when I encounter a book that somebody has marked up. What did they find interesting? That’s one of the few nice things about reading on the iPad: you can see what becomes a popular mark.

Yesterday, I got a very nice surprise in the mail. I ordered an older book–one I would normally take out from USC’s library–but it was only a few dollars used on Amazon. It was G.B. Kerford’s The Sophistic Movement. It will be a pretty familiar among readers of ancient philosophy because it’s an important book by a distinguished scholar, George Kerford, who passed in 1998.

Here’s a picture of the cover:
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I leafed through it and saw, comrade! A prior owner had scribbled some notes in Greek to annotate the key citations. Here, the reader has filled in a line from Plato’s Lysis (216a).

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I think it’s:

καὶ ἡμῖν εὐθὺς ἄσμενοι ἐπιπηδήσονται οὗτοι οἱ πάσσοφοι ἄνδρες, οἱ ἀντιλογικοί, καὶ ἐρήσονται εἰ οὐκ ἐναντιώτατον ἔχθρα φιλίᾳ;

It’s a bit where Socrates is being particularly irritating and speaking of things through anti-logic: Why, at once these all-accomplished logic-choppers will delightedly pounce on us and ask whether hatred is not the most opposite thing to friendship.

How wonderful, I thought. But then I looked at the front page and found this wonderful inscription.

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It’s an author’s copy that he presented to a friend–in this case, Gregory Vlastos. Now, Vlastos will be a familiar name to classicists and those interested in ancient philosophy, and he wrote some key pieces. One, Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher, is a key work in modern study. He also wrote one of the seminal pieces on Plato’s justice: Vlastos, G. 1977. The theory of social justice in the polis of plato’s republic . In Vlastos, Interpretations of Plato: A Swarthmore Symposium.

I don’t know for certain that the cribbing in Greek in the margins of my little book, which came to me at random from a small Amazon vendor, came from Vlastos himself–he might have passed along the book to a keen student–but the inscription was enough for me catch my breath and make me smile. I shall treasure my little book and continue thinking about it, written by a scholar in Durham (Kerford) and then inscribed and sent to his colleague, Vlastos, then at Princeton, with his “very kindest regards.”