British Library to digitise all its Greek manuscripts

An announcement on the British Library manuscripts blog here tells us:

Phase two of the British Library’s project to digitise all of its ca. 1,000 Greek manuscripts is now well under way. This phase — also generously funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation) — will digitise and make publicly available a further 250 manuscripts, adding to the 284 manuscripts digitised in phase one. We are currently about half way through this second phase and plan to publish the digitised manuscripts in batches during the rest of this year on our Digitised Manuscripts viewer.

A new batch of manuscripts has now been published online, and contains 24 manuscripts ranging in date from the tenth to the nineteenth centuries.

Most of us would rather have PDF’s, of course, than this awkward “viewer”.

But it is excellent news indeed that the BL has decided to digitise all its Greek manuscripts, and SNF deserve considerable thanks for making it possible.

There doesn’t seem to be a list of the new mss available, tho.

Another interesting announcement of the same kind is that medieval and early modern “scientific” mss will be digitised:

… the British Library has embarked on a project to digitise some of its most prestigious medieval and early modern scientific manuscripts. Funded by a generous private donation, the project will supply complete coverage of selected items from the Harley collection, augmented by revised catalogue records for the books in question.

Medieval and early modern manuscripts are vital for transmitting ancient scientific thought to the modern world.

Evidently not by the same donor, but this too is welcome.  For many ancient technical works remain unpublished and inaccessible.  This may help quite a bit.


The Vlatadon library in Thessalonika

I have had an email back from Veronique Boudon-Millot today, giving the story of how the lost text by Galen, Peri Alupias (On consolation for grief) was found.  It’s very interesting, and I have asked for permission to translate it and place it here. 

She also mentions that Vlatadon 14, the manuscript that contained the new work, also contains the first complete copies of Galen’s On my own books and On the order of my own books, the two works most interesting to non-medical specialists, as evidence for the transmission of texts in the 2nd century AD.  The only previously known copy of the Greek was the Ambrosianus Q 3 sup. in Milan, which has many gaps in the text.  Those gaps previously had, perforce, to be filled from Hunain ibn Ishaq’s Arabic translation, itself extant only in a single forgotten manuscript in the obscure library of Mashhad in Iran.

A key factor in the discovery is that the Vlatadon collection catalogue is itself very obscure and little known.  It was published by S. Eustratiades in 1918.  There is no copy in the United Kingdom, but there is a copy in the French National Library in Paris.  It’s about 136 pages, but ms. 14 is the only medical text.  The remainder are patristic.  And that is exciting!  For if the collection is that little known, who knows what it might contain?!


The library at Meshed / Mashhad in Iran — unknown classical texts!

Let me direct you all to the comments on my earlier post about the discovery of some lost portions of Galen’s On my own books here.  The material is in Arabic translation, and found in a manuscript in Iran, at the library of Meshed.  I’d never heard of it!

A commenter has dug into the question and produced gold!  It seems that there are other unpublished texts there, including a mathematical commentary by Hypatia on Diophantus.  The library is now in a brand new building as well and has a website.

If you know Arabic and want to discover new classical texts, you need to visit Meshed / Mashhad.


Bar Hebraeus, Chronicon Ecclesiasticum vol. 2 now on

I’ve just created and uploaded a PDF of the Chronicon Ecclesiasticum of Bar Hebraeus, vol.2, to  The url is here:

Many blessings on Glasgow University Library who kindly photocopied this 19th century volume for me.  It arrived this evening, so I have spent the time since productively!  It cost about 25GBP to get the copies, or around $40 (the invoice has yet to reach me, but will probably include a charge for postage).

For those not familiar with the work, the Chronicon Ecclesiasticum of Bar Hebraeus is a history of the church in a series of chapters, each covering an ecclesiastical figure.  Usually the figure is a patriarch.  The work is in two parts.  It runs up to his own time, in the 13th century.  He wrote in Syriac; the editors Abbeloos and Lamy include a simple Latin translation alongside it.

I uploaded volume 1 some years ago.  Now only volume 3 remains.  As far as I know, this 1872 edition is the only one that the work has ever received.  Yet it is the fundamental source for all Syriac studies.

I will obtain and scan volume 3 as well.  It’s too important a text to be inaccessible.  Any errors, do let me know.


Brill’s Encyclopedia of Islam (2nd Ed) online at

An amazing report at AWOL from Charles Jones:

Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition (1986-2004) Leiden, E.J.Brill

at the Internet Archive

Vol. 1
Vol. 2
Vol. 3
Vol. 4
Vol. 5
Vol. 6
Vol. 7
Vol. 8
Vol. 9
Vol. 10
Vol. 11
Vol. 12

Wow.  And I say again, wow!

I don’t know why this is up there, but I am glad it is.

UPDATE: I discover that Brill are now marketing the 3rd edition as an “entirely new” work.  This means that the 2nd is now obsolete, although the historical content will, of course, be pretty much as good as ever.

I wonder … are Brill being fiendishly clever here?

Think about it.  Take a sample online person.  Take me, for instance.  I’ve never read a page of the Encyclopedia of Islam.  I’ve never opened a copy.  I doubt I’ve ever seen a copy.  Yet here I am, tonight, at 00:34 hrs, downloading the PDF’s.  I’m pretty much certain to at least look at a couple of articles.

The Encyclopedia Iranica gets read, precisely because its articles are online.  Is this the idea?  To build market share by making an old version freely available?  To get people who would never pick up a copy interested?  To get students, who have no money, but will become academics and librarians with budgets, accustomed to  using it, to treating it as the last word, as the authoritative resource?

Let’s face it — if they are intending this, it’s working!  It’s working on me right now, drat them.

UPDATE (29th April): A commenter notes that most of the links now don’t work, and bring up a message that there are “issues with content”.  I believe this is their phrase for “may be in copyright”.  Sadly it wasn’t the dawn of a new day — just an uploader who didn’t check the copyright status properly.  Pity.


Preisendanz’ edition of the Papyri Graecae Magicae

An email this evening asks where the Greek text of the Greek Magical Papyri might be found.  The wikipedia article tells me that Karl Preisendanz published them between 1928-31, and that a revised edition came out in the 70’s.

Interestingly someone has placed the first edition online here.  I wonder whether they are indeed out of copyright?


Bibliotheca Orientalis online!

An email from a correspondant brings great news: Assemani’s Bibliotheca Orientalis is online!

You have here the list of the 4 volumes from Bonn’s University :
And the pdf for each volume is here (I had no time to download them):

Vol. 1 = 
Vol. 2 =
Vol. 3 =
Vol. 4 =
The Goussen’s Library is very rich in Oriental Texts. Look here:


A forgotten poet and the limits of the internet

This evening I was reading an atheist forum.  Most of them were insane, chattering how Jesus never existed, never walked on earth, and — so often had they told themselves the lie — that there was no evidence whatever that he had.  One, however, much reviled by the rest, continued to protest that this was nonsense, that no sensible person doubted that Jesus had walked the earth, and that to affirm otherwise was to bring atheism into disrepute.  His reward was a hail of mockery.  Today he stands — but for how long?

I found myself murmuring an adage from somewhere:

Bad company is a disease;
He who lies with dogs, shall rise with fleas.

And then naturally I wondered who said it.  It was obviously old, but I was not sure that I had remembered it correctly. 

A Google search promptly attributed it to someone called Benjamin Franklin, some early American.  But this could not right, I felt sure.  It had a Restoration tang to it, I thought.

And so it does.  It turns out to be the work of a poet named Rowland Watkyns, who in 1662 published a volume of verse under the title Flamma sine fumo.   After much difficulty I found a copy here, in strange format.  I had not misremembered too badly:

Bad Company is a disease;
Who lies with Dogs,  shall rise with fleas .

Watkyns, I think, was a Welsh clergyman (1616-1664), dispossessed under Cromwell but restored by Charles II.  It is remarkably hard to discover much about him using Google.  It is a reminder, perhaps, of what is NOT online.  Eventually I found this brief biography.


Still more on the collectio avellana

I have just become aware via this site that quite a number of the letters in the Collectio Avellana, a mass of 243 papal and imperial letters of the 5-6th centuries, may exist in English.  There is a three volume collection by P. R. Coleman-Norton, Roman State and Christian Church, 3 volumes (London: SPCK, 1966), which lists a good many of the first 50 as translated (in the rightmost column of the table).

Of course the question is whether letter 100, on the Lupercalia, is one of them!  If it is, I may need to get some of these Latin translation people at work on something else.  Maybe some letters of St. Jerome or something.

I was intending to go to Oxford tomorrow, but perhaps a trip to Cambridge and some library time might be a better option.


Angelo Mai’s Nova Patrum Bibliothecae now online complete at

I learn from this link that the whole series is now online for the first time with the arrival of volume 4.  Excellent news!

Volume 2  =>

Volume 3 =>

Volume 4 =>

Volume 5 =>

Volume 6 =>

Volume 7 =>

Volume 8 =>