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Havet, Pierre Antoine Louis (6 January 1849, Paris – 26 January 1925, Rochecorbon) was a professor at the Collège de France where he held the chair in Latin philology from 1885-1925. In 1893, he was elected as a member of the Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, one of the five academies that comprise the Institut de France. In 1917, he became vice-president of the newly established Association Guillaume-Budé dedicated to the promotion of the Humanities and engaged in publishing critical editions of Greek and Latin texts (that could compete with German editions). Louis Havet was the son of Ernest Havet, who served as professor of rhetoric at the Collège de France. Havet was also a vocal supporter of Alfred Dreyfus (1859.1935), a Jewish captain charged with treason, and a played an important role in founding the Ligue des droits de l’homme which defended Dreyfus.

In addition to a number of philological studies and a coursebook on Greek and Latin meter, Havet edited Plautus's Amphitryon (1895). He is perhaps best known for his Manuel de critique verbale appliquée aux textes latins (1911), an exhaustive examination of types of errors in Latin texts and how they arise during the course of historical transmission. Havet argued that earlier explanations favouring graphical misapprehension were perhaps over simple and did not fully account for the range of variation found in witnesses. His work is also known for distinguishing true variants (leçons vraies), and authentic variants (leçons authentiques). For textual criticism, the distinction is important in that it acknowledges readings that may be true without authenticity. For example, after a text has been altered in the distant past, the error is replaced by a felicitous correction, which appears to have restored the same word that the author had written, but is rather a conjecture from antiquity or the middle ages.

Concerned overwhelmingly with the genesis of variation, Havet has been criticised because his conjectures endeavoured to explain how the variation was produced, but did not take adequately into account the interpretive context for the conjecture (Timpanaro 2005, 130).

Nevertheless, Havet’s influence can be seen in the many tributes to his work, especially within France. In 1909, friends and former students honoured Havet with a volume of metrical, historical and linguistic studies offered to him on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday. After his death, his work received two encomia, fourteen years apart, in the yearbook of the Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres.

Works by Havet

– Havet, Louis. 1866. Cours élémentaire de métrique grecque et latine. Paris: Delagrave.
– ———. 1911. Manuel de critique verbale appliquée aux textes latins. Paris: Hachette.
– ———, ed. 1895. Plauti Amphitruo. [Titus Maccius Plautus]. Paris: Bouillon.

Works on Havet

– Langlois, Charles-Victor. 1925. “Éloge funèbre de M. Louis Havet, membre de l'Académie.” Comptes rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 69 (1): 17–22.
– Holleaux, Maurice. 1939. “Notice sur la vie et les travaux de M. Louis Havet, membre de l'Académie.” Comptes rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 83 (5): 527–546.
– Timpanaro, Sebastiano. 1981. La genesi del metodo del Lachmann. 2nd ed. Padova: Liviana. – 1st ed., Firenze: Le Monnier, 1963.
– ———. 2005. The Genesis of Lachmann’s Method. Translated by Glenn W. Most. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. – Translated from Timpanaro 1981.


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