Ancient writers often composed their works in many books. Often, we find that not all of these books have reached us. Some have; some have not.
This evening I had an illuminating experience.
Like many people, I have a directory on my hard disk, full of PDF’s of old Loeb editions. Among these are nine volumes of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, obtained from Archive.org long ago and seldom looked at.
This evening I wanted to consult a passage, referenced as being in book 36. I looked for my Loeb PDF’s, and was troubled to discover that volume 9, in PDF, apparently ended with book 35. Was it possible…?
Indeed it was. It turned out that the Loeb edition was in TEN volumes; and the tenth volume is not to be met with online.
I had never noticed. As far as I knew – until the pinch came – I had all of Pliny the Elder.
Why this should be is hard to say. Possibly copyright, that bugbear of scholarship, is to blame. But it doesn’t matter, for our purposes, just why the volume is absent.
The point is that Pliny is now circulating, and circulating very widely, in a mutilated form. If some disaster intervened, and my hard disk was the sole transmitter of his work, those last book(s) would be gone for good.
It’s very like the situation that must have happened many times in antiquity. A busy owner, a mass of books, seldom consulted, and one or more volumes quietly absent and unnoticed.
It is no surprise that we have missing volumes of ancient multi-volume works. The marvel is that so much has survived!
In the mean time … does by chance anyone have a PDF of the 10th volume of the Loeb edition?