Galen: what the Arab knew and we only discovered in 2006

I’m still OCR-ing the English translation of Ibn Abi Usaibia’s dictionary of medical writers.  But I have just come across the following line, in a list of Galen’s books:

In his book “The Negation of Grief” he says that many of his books and much of his valuable furniture were burnt in the royal storehouses in Rome.

Some of the books that were destroyed were manuscripts of Aristotle; others were manuscripts of Anaxagoras and Andromachus which he had corrected under the guidance of his teachers and of people who had studied them with Plato (he had traveled to a distant city for this purpose). He mentions many other things lost in that fire, but they are too numerous to be indicated here.

Al-Mubashshir ibn Fātik says: “Among Galen’s books that were burnt were Rufus’ on theriacs and poisons, the treatment of poisoned people and the composition of drugs (according to disease and time) and — dearest to him — the books written on white silk, with black covers, for which he had paid a high price.”

 This is a reference to the previously unknown Peri Alupias, (On grief) only rediscovered quite by accident very recently in the monastery of Vlatadon in Thessalonica in 2006.  Yet clearly in the 13th century Ibn Abi Usaibia knew the work.  It’s a good summary, too, as these extracts make plain.

Where there is one lost work, of course, there might be more.  But my efforts to get a copy of the catalogue of Vlatadon — from 1918, if I remember rightly — were all in vain.  Librarians blithered about possible copyright, drat them.  These people are paid from money exacted from the poor to make stuff accessible, but do they do it?  Do they heck!


2 thoughts on “Galen: what the Arab knew and we only discovered in 2006

  1. “Books written on white silk, with black covers” — those were lookers! Thanks for your continuing work on OCR’ing Ibn Abi Usaibia. That will be a boon to studying his work.

  2. Luxury items indeed — it shows that Galen was making real money.

    I went past page 195 last night — I think I completed 215 — and thank you again for all your help on this, without which… No reply from the man I queried about quality yet, but I have found a couple of places where Lothar Kopf said “[lexicographical note on the meaning of a couple of words]” and so must have omitted some text.

Leave a Reply