Hi, new here, but I do have some working knowledge of Bruno.
De Umbris idearum: I think you’d be wasting your money to do a translation this way. The text is very complex and dense, and Bruno’s Latin is not the most graceful. It’s not always clear what he’s talking about in even the most basic senses, much less at a more technical level. If someone is ever going to translate this well, it’s going to be someone more like yourselves than a normal Latinist, which is to say, it’s going to be someone with actual working knowledge of memory arts. I’ve skimmed the text a few times, and as far as I can see, Bruno assumes that everyone already knows the “basics” of the richly developed methods (loci, signatures and characters, etc.) used within the Dominican order. He also assumes, I think, that his readers are aware of certain theological concerns about the limits of appropriate memory usage and image construction. If these things aren’t true of a translator, you’re not going to get any kind of accuracy.
On the Composition: Doria and Higgins did a terrific job with this difficult book, and I’m delighted to see it available for $40 (plus shipping) at Lulu – since if you buy it already bound somewhere, it’s going to run you at least $200! I haven’t made any attempt to put this into practice, but I got interested in the whole problem when I read this thing carefully. I can’t see how you could use this without ending up in a kind of infinite hyperlink situation from which you could never escape.
In this book, Bruno seems (in my understanding, as someone who has not as yet tried hard to practice memory-arts) to condense a number of different things into one, and I don’t see how that can possibly work. Let me draw an analogy to systems that top memory athletes use, OK?
Start with a PAO system. Now for each of these combinations, use a preexisting image from classical mythology. Now set up a memory palace, but instead of using a place (even an imaginary one), have your sequence of loci use those same classical images you used for the PAO system. In other words, if your first PAO image (#00, let’s say) was Atlas–supporting–the globe, the first locus in your memory palace would also be Atlas Supporting the Globe as an image. Now you decide you’re going to compose a declamation about the ethics of capital punishment, to take an arbitrary example. For the first, introductory section of the declamation, you’re going to key it to Atlas Supporting the Globe, and begin each of the three sub-headings of that introduction with the letters A–S--G. So it seems as though if you have memorized a single dense system very thoroughly, and that system is not totally arbitrary but in fact contains a great deal of the highest knowledge and wisdom (i.e. classical Greek thought), you can reduce all memory to that single system.
But the problem, as I see it, is that when faced with Atlas and his Globe, what does it mean? Is it 00? A place? A sequence of letters A-S-G? Something about capital punishment? So far as I can tell, Bruno never really explains how you’re supposed to distinguish among these things.
To sum up, my bet is:
- Bruno does explain himself, but not very clearly, because he doesn’t care if some average slob understands him or otherwise; AND
- Bruno does explain himself, but I don’t have enough concrete experience with memory arts to understand what he’s getting at; AND
- Bruno could actually make this work, but at least in part this is because he was an exceptional master with a huge range of memory arts; AND
- There are important details missing because Bruno forgot (!!) to put them in; AND
- Bruno is not only talking about memory but also about a symbolic analysis system that he deems fundamentally superior to mathematics because of its ability to handle infinitude, and as such it is at least as important to him that the system be able to reduce anything to anything else arbitrarily as it is that one be able to memorize anything with it.
Hope that’s of some value to you all.