Today I managed to get a look at R. Forster’s De antiquitatibus et libris manuscriptis Constantinopolitanis, 1877. This, if you remember, contains a catalogue of Greek manuscripts said to exist in the 16th century at Rodosto / Raidestos, a town just outside Constantinople.
Well, it does contain such a list. The list covers two and a bit pages, no less. The publication is rather rubbishy, and I wasn’t easily able to work out just where the data came from — the article text was in Latin, and badly structured. But I laboured through the list of Greek works. (It was in a rare books room, so I could get no photocopies)
And … I think it’s a hoax.
A lot of books look reasonable to me. But I don’t believe, or not very much, that the library contained a copy of the lost comedies of Menander. That is quite unlikely, and appears close to the top of the first page, shortly after some works of Aristotle.
On the second page, close to the bottom, are two entries, one above the other. These were in Greek, but they read:
History of Hegesippus
Eusebius Pamphilus against Porphyry
This is highly suspicious. The first of these probably wasn’t extant much after the fall of the Western empire. But it does appear as bait in various lists of books supposedly extant during the 16th and 17th century, published by Theodor Zahn (my translation here) and Ph. Meyer (ditto). If it existed, such a book would be beyond price; and that, probably, is precisely why it is listed in book lists designed to tempt western collectors. Its very presence suggests fraud.
But for this improbability to be followed by yet another lost work primarily of interest to westerners is beyond probability, in my opinion.
I would imagine that the list is a hoax. It doesn’t look real to me. Normal medieval catalogues start with biblical works, patristic works, and add other material towards the end. This one is a mixture of stuff, much of it clearly far more interesting in the west than to any Greek monastic collection. Close to the top, where the eye will fall on it almost immediately, is something a westerner would want — Menander. And the two other items? Well, doubtless there were all sorts of people hunting around Greece in the 16th century, asking after this, asking after that. What easier than to make up such a list, include a few of the items, inveigle someone to come out with a belt of gold, make the long journey, and then say (with straight face) “Sorry, we’ve lost those; but look what we can sell you!”
Was there ever a collection of books at Rodosto? Perhaps there was. It should be investigated, certainly.
But, alas, I can no longer feel any confidence that the Eusebius against Porphyry was ever there.