Not obtaining the catalogue of the manuscripts of Vlatadon in Thessalonika

Back in early June, I ordered, from the French National Library in Paris, by email, a photocopy of the hard-to-find catalogue of the manuscripts of the monastery of Vlatadon in Thessalonika.  It was published in 1918.   This is the library, remember, that had a manuscript of the works of Galen, containing his Peri Alupias (On grief) in which he describes the burning of the libraries of Rome in 194 AD, and also containing complete texts of two other works important for bibliography.  What else might be there?

Today I had a letter — yes, on paper — from that institution.  It only took them 6 weeks.  I presumed that it was a bill. 

Far from it.  It was a letter declining to make a copy, because the work is “in copyright” and demanding that I produce evidence of permission to copy from the publisher or author.

I don’t believe that Greece in 1918 had copyright laws.  At least, it probably did not.  I’m quite sure that the author is dead, and so unable to give me permission.  Probably the printer has long since gone out of business.  In the USA all books before 1923 are out of copyright anyway.  And they don’t say how they “know” that it is in copyright.  I don’t know that, and it seems rather unlikely to me that an author publishing in the 19th century died after 1941, which is the limit even under euro-copyright.

All this the BNF must have known.  So … this is just a jobsworth being difficult.  I imagine that I am the first person in a century to ask to see this obscure item, and instead of supplying it they have waited 6 weeks to make difficulties.  Shame on them.

This, dear readers, is what we all had to go through to get the tools of scholarship, before Google Books.  Let us all give thanks that, for English books at least, the power of the petty bureaucrat and jobsworth to obstruct research has been drastically reduced!

10 Responses to “Not obtaining the catalogue of the manuscripts of Vlatadon in Thessalonika”

  1. Walter Dunphy

    Odd!!! I’ve always found BNF prompt and helpful. The ‘snail-mail’ route of reply makes me suspect an incompetent part-timer. Did you use their on-line request-form?

  2. Roger Pearse

    Yes I did.

    I found them helpful when I was physically over there a few years ago, which is one reason why I tried to use them. Oh well.

  3. Roberto Labanti

    Disappointedly indeed.

    But French copyright law stated that proprietary rights of the author last for 70 years after his/her death. Sophronios Eustratiadès died 14 November 1947 [1, p. 338], so the reply seemly based upon facts.


  4. Roger Pearse

    Useful to know when he died — I didn’t. That is unfortunate, in a way, because I suspect it means that all the libraries will refuse to supply a copy.

  5. stephan

    I have a fairly good chance of getting any document related to the monasteries of the Greek Orthodox Church. The only difficulty is predicting when my contact will get around to doing it. He’s at a monastery right now. Let’s see if he has access to that document already.

  6. Roger Pearse

    If you can get access to it, Stephan, I’d be rather grateful. It’s 136 pages, tho. I’d be willing to pay any reasonable photocopying costs.

  7. Roberto Labanti
  8. Roger Pearse

    Gosh – thank you! Persee is something that I don’t look at nearly enough, yet has wonderful things there.

  9. Basil

    Eustratiades’ book is found in Harvard Library. I’ll be in Boston (I live there) by 24 of August. I may find somebody to borrow it and I’ll copy it, if you want. Only if you can remind me, please, (not before that date).
    Also I have stored (from Google books) Spyridon Lambros, Greek Manuscripts on Mount Athos, 2 volumes (1895, 1900), if anyone is interested.

  10. Roger Pearse


    I will pop you an email closer to the time, then.