How the lost “Peri Alupias” by Galen was found

I have received an email from Veronique Boudon-Millot telling the story of how this lost work was found.  I have made an English translation of what she says, and, by permission, give the relevant portion here.


Thank you for your email, your encouragement and enthusiasm, which Greek studies need now more than ever.

Since you ask me about the circumstances of the discovery, I can tell you that it was one of my PhD students, Antoine Pietrobelli (now a lecturer at the university of Reims) who started it.  In January 2005 I sent him, in preparation for his thesis — an edition of the commentary of Galen on Hippocrates’  Treatment for acute illnesses — to the library of the monastery of the Vlatades at Thessalonica to consult the microfilms of the manuscripts of Mount Athos which are kept there, and which concern his text.

While waiting for the microfilms to be brought to him, he had the idea of consulting the catalogue of the manuscripts of Vlatadon published by Eustratiades in 1918, which had a very limited circulation.  This catalogue only contains a single medical manuscript (our Vlatadon 14 of Galen) and the remainder are exclusively patristic manuscripts.  The catalogue of Eustratiades has thus remained unknown to medical specialists.  In this catalogue, the Vlatadon 14 is very rapidly described: none of the treatises of Galen present in the manuscript are described, and in particular the Do not be grieved has been omitted.

After locating the Vlatadon 14 in the catalogue, my student Antione Pietrobelli sent me an email the same evening asking whether this manuscript was known, or whether he had made a discovery.  But as the manuscript did not contain his treatise, the Commentary of Galen on the treatment of acute illnesses, and as he had to return soon to France, he did not have time to see it.

On this news I went myself to Thessalonica to see the manuscript.  Unfortunately I was only allowed to see the microfilm, and, so far, despite much effort, several requests, and two visits to the site, I have not been permitted to examine the manuscript directly … <snip>

So I began to read the microfilm, and noted that the catalogue of Eustratiades is very incomplete, and that manuscript contains many more treatises than are indicated by Eustratiades in his catalogue.  And above all, I discovered the entirely new treatise Do not be grieved, the title of which was already well known to me thanks to Galen’s treatise On his own books, which I was editing at that time and where the physician of Pergamum mentions it.

I should add that the Vlatadon 14 likewise preserves for us the complete text of the two bibliographic treatises by Galen, On the order of his own books, and On his own books, of which I have since also prepared an edition in the CUF series (2007), because the only Greek manuscript available hitherto (the Ambrosianus Q 3 sup.) is very seriously lacunose for those treatises.  The Vlatadon 14 also contains the complete Greek text of Galen’s On his own opinions (De propriis placitis) which Nutton edited in the CMG series from the Arab-Latin translation, all that was known hitherto.  The Vlatadon 14 is thus a new and very important witness for 4 texts of Galen which were either thought lost, or known only in a very lacunose form.

There!  You know everything!

Thank you for your interest and your attention.

Very cordially,

Véronique Boudon-Millot

That is very interesting indeed, and I am grateful to Dr. Boudon-Millot for permission to give that information here.

It is a reminder that, when we are in any little-known library, we must always see if there is anything we can find in the catalogue that might be interesting.  There are treasures to be had, it seems.  We have only to look!

UPDATE: Dr Boudon-Millot added a postscript which clarifies a couple of things:

There is one thing to correct, and the error is mine.  The Vlatadon 14, contrary to what I wrote, does indeed contain the Treatment of serious illnesses by Galen.  But it isn’t an important witness for the edition of the text, and wasn’t significant for A. Pietrobelli for his thesis.  In fact Pietrobelli’s stay at Thessalonica was complete, he was obliged to leave the next day, and didn’t have the time to examine the manuscript in detail.

Thank you again!

6 thoughts on “How the lost “Peri Alupias” by Galen was found”

  1. It is marvellous, isn’t it? And all those editions of Galen, all the critical ingenuity of the editors, matters nothing. The important factor was a PhD student delayed for half an hour waiting for a microfilm.

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