A system of invisible punctuation in papyri and medieval Greek codices

How faithfully do medieval Greek manuscripts reproduce their ancient ancestors?  It’s a question that all of us ask ourselves, from time to time, and it can be hard to answer other than subjectively.  In some cases, however, we can compare ancient papyrus copies with much later medieval versions.  The accuracy can be uncanny.

Origen’s Contra Celsum is known to us from Vaticanus gr. 386 (=A), of the 13th century, plus some extracts in the Philocalia, an anthology of Origen’s thought by Basil of Caesarea and Gregory Nazianzen (=P).  A century ago there was a bitter argument among philologists as to which preserved the text better.  The GCS editor, Kotschau, believed that A was to be preferred, while his critics preferred P.  Which was right?

In 1941 a bunch of papyrus codices were discovered by Egyptian workmen in a gallery in the ancient quarries of Tura.  At the time thoughts were on Rommel and the Afrikakorps, and the workmen stole the lot, broke them up and sold them to dealers.  Among them was a papyrus codex of long extracts from books 1 and 2 of Contra Celsum, made by a learned monk who clearly had before him a complete text.  In the papyrus these are followed by extracts from Origen’s Commentary on Romans, and his Homilies on 1 Samuel.  The papyrus can be dated by paleography to the early 7th century.

This meant that the texts could now be compared with an ancient copy of the text.  Quickly it became clear that the papyrus was from a related but not identical family to A.

Now I would like to share with you a passage in the truly excellent volume by Jean Scherer which published the text of the Contra Celsum extracts.1  I will add a comment or two at the end.  As we pick up the discussion, Scherer is talking about the presence of mysterious blanks or gaps between letters in the otherwise continuously written text.  Note that the papyrus has no word division.  

Clearer still: on pages 30-34 and 56-59, the copyist reproduces in full some long passages of Contra Celsum without selection or omission: however, there are many blanks.

These remarks may appear futile, and we ourselves have been inclined to impute these variations to the whim of the copyist, until the day when we examined the Vaticanus gr. 386, which as we said earlier (p.6) belongs to the same family as our papyrus.  Here — a detail which P. Koetschau signalled in a rapid note in his description — the “blanks”, longer or shorter, are an important element of a system of punctuation in use in this manuscript.  They mark the articulations of the thought, separating and distinguishing the different steps in the argumentation.  Short gaps play a role analogous to that which is observed in the Dialektos.  And if one compares, from this point of view, the manuscript and the papyrus, we can say that, if the manuscript has blanks sometimes which do not appear in the papyrus, nevertheless all the blanks in the papyrus which do not mark an interruption are found in the manuscript. 

Sometimes the correspondance is so perfect as to be uncanny.  Thus in p.33, l.20, before μεμνημαι δε (which introduces a new development) the blank, in the papyrus, is extra long.  In the Vaticanus ms. it is is also extra long. 

Such coincidences cannot be accidental.  They show that, in both the Cairo papyrus and the Vatican manuscript, the use of blanks is not down to the initiative of the copyists.  These have done no more than follow their model here, or, better, beyond their model, the archetype, and beyond that, the editio princeps of the library of Caesarea.2 

This peculiarity is transmitted intact down to the 13th century.  But it was fragile all the same: the second copyist 3 of the Vaticanus did not retain it, and in the ms. Parisinus suppl. gr. 616, which is a careful copy of the Vaticanus gr. 386, the blanks have disappeared.

Thus the variations of the papyrus explain themselves quite naturally.  To separate the extracts, the copyist on his own initiative started by using a double oblique stroke //.  But, under the influence of his model, he gradually started using the blanks, which in the complete text before him had the purpose of separating the parts of the discourse.  And finally he used only blanks, for economy of effort, because it was easier to copy the text mechanically than to substitute systematically one sign for another.

Finally let us note that in the extracts of the Commentary on the letter to the Romans we find numerous blanks and no “//” sign.  This is a clear indication that these extracts were copied, by the same scribe, after the extracts of Contra Celsum.

This is quite something, and also new to me.  I wonder how many editors would have recognised that these apparently random gaps in the text had a meaning, and would have tracked them down into the medieval copy?  Not many, I would guess.

But if this was a normal way to write a 7th century papyrus copy of a literary work, I do wonder what other texts, unrecognised, may have contained it.  It looks like a fingerprint feature to me — a way to detect relationships between manuscripts and papyri.  If so, perhaps editors and those working with papyri should be on the lookout for it.

1. Jean Scherer, Extraits des Livres I et II du Contre Celse d’Origène, d’après le papyrus no. 88747 du Musée du Caire, IFAO 18, Cairo, 1956.  See p.12-13.
2. A note in the papyrus indicates that the text was revised by Pamphilus at Caesarea.
3.  The Vaticanus gr. 386 was written by two copyists, who took turns.  The first was both  more elegant and more accurate than the second.


The Leimonos Monastery manuscripts — online in PDF form!

This is very, very exciting!  A Greek monastery at Leimonos, on the island of Lesbos, has put 108 of its manuscript collection online!  And … better yet … it has done so in PDF form.  You can download the things, which is what we all want to do.  To access it, go to its Digital Library and click on ‘manuscripts’ and then on ‘Patristic’. 

This is wonderful!  I am so excited!  It makes the fussy, over-complicated, under-usuable projects of places like the British Library look sick.  I guarantee that the Leimonos manuscripts will get studied more than any other manuscripts in history, over the next few years!  Because access is all.  If you’re teaching people about mss, what are you going to use?  You’ll use the Leimonos mss.

I saw the announcement at Evangelical Textual Criticism, where they list some of the bible manuscripts online.  But of course we’re interested in much more exciting things!  And if you click on “more…” under each ms., you get a catalogue of contents for each volume.

The patristic manuscripts include homilies by Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzen, Ephraem the Syrian, the Ladder of John Climacus, and much more.  There’s a catena on psalms 1-71, for instance.

The various manuscripts include the Physica of Aristotle, Barlaam and Joasaph, and Cyril of Alexandria’s Lexicon.

The most interesting part of this is the miscellaneous manuscripts, which could contain anything.  You’d never order a microfilm of one of these — but now you can browse, have a hunt, see what you can find.  Treasures are bound to be discovered!

Nor is the library just manuscripts.  There are the archives, and there are PDF’s of early printed books.



Difficulties with the Herculaneum rolls

From Kentucky.com: (via Blogging Pompeii).

Some 2,000-year-old Roman scrolls are stubbornly hanging onto their ancient secrets, defying the best efforts of computer scientists at the University of Kentucky to unlock them. …

The UK team spent a month last summer making numerous X-ray scans of two of the scrolls that are stored at the French National Academy in Paris. They hoped that computer processing would convert the scans into digital images showing the interiors of the scrolls and revealing the ancient writing. The main fear, however, was that the Roman writers might have used carbon-based inks, which would be essentially invisible to the scans.

That fear has turned out to be fact. 


Clavis to the letters of James of Edessa

This is J. J. van Ginkel’s list of all the extant letters of James of Edessa.  Since he has drawn it up, and it is visible online in toto, I hope he will not mind if I post it here.  My purpose in doing so, of course, is to bring this numbering into general use.  The numbering as far as #17 is ancient; beyond that is modern.

I need to go back and retrofit the Ginkel letter number to material from the letters which I have online.  Note that there are certainly some scanner artefacts in this, so use with care.

1. To John of Litarba: on two homilies of Jacob of Serug, which are not by Jacob nor Ephrem (BL Add. 12172(b), fols. 79a 81a).
2. To John of Litarba: on medicine and its spiritual interpretation (BL Add. 12172(b), fols. 81a-81b).
3. To John of Litarba: on 2 Pet. 2:5 referring to Noah as the eighth person (BL Add. 12172(b). fols. 81b-83a).
4. To George the deacon: on Ephrem’s Madrasha 25 on the Nativity of our Lord (BL Add. 12172(b), fols. 83a-85a).
5. To John of Litarba: on the feast of the Invention of the Cross and on Ephrein s Madrasha 44 on Faith (BL Add. 12172(b), fols. 85a-87b).
6. To John of Litarba: on problematic passages in the Gospels, e.g. descent of Christ from David (BL Add. 12172(b), fols. 87b-91a).
7. To John of Litarba: on calculating the age of the world (discrepancy between Eusebius and the calculation of Jewish Passover) and on why Jacob dated Christ’s birth in A.Gr. 309 (against Eusebius A.Gr. 312: BL Add. 12172(b), fols. 91a-91b).
8. To John of Litarba: on the number of books by Solomon (five or three): why the books of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Tobit, Esther, Judith, and (1-3) Maccabees are not canonical: on the additional year in the calculation of the Alexandrians (AM 5181 or 5180); chronological, theological, and exegetical topics: on earlier authors (BL Add. 12172(b), fols. 94b-96b: followed by: Scholion on the book of Wisdom (fols. 96b-97b)).
9. To John of Litarba: on prayers, offerings, and alms on behalf of impious and sinful believers (BL Add. 12172(b), fols. 97b-99a).
10. To John of Litarba: on Predestination (BL Add. 12172(b). fols. 99a-104a).
11. To John of Litarba: on Predestination (addition to previous letter; BL Add. 12172(b), fols. 104a-110a).
12. To John of Litarba: on Ephrem’s Madrasha 2 against false doctrines (Shabblaye, Quqaye. Palut) (BL Add. 12172(b), fols. 110a-111b).
13. To John of Litarba. reply to eighteen questions: on Gen. 15:13, on literacy before Moses, on the Nubian woman in Num. 12:1, on the cause of Satan’s fall, on Job 2:6, on Behemoth, the bird in Job 30:13 and Leviathan, on Zachariah in Matt. 23:35/Luke 11:51, on Jonah, Tiglath-Pileser and Jonah 3:4 (40 or 3 days), on the wild gourds (2 Kgs. 4:39), on Obadiah. on the articles carried away from the temple by the Babylonians, on the rock spouting water, on the authors of the Psalms, on the Hebrews and the antiquity of their language, on 1 Kgs. 4:32-33. on Song of Songs 3:7-8, on 1 Sam. 17:55. on Gen. 18:32 (BL. Add. 12172(b), fols. 111b-121b).
14. To John of Litarba. reply to thirteen questions: on the composer of the Quqite hymns (Simeon the Potter): on the man in whose house our Lord celebrated the Passover: on 2 Cor. 12:7: on Philip, who baptised the eunuch of Candace: on John 19:25: on Peter the Fuller: on Timothy Ailouros; on the three people called Mar Isaac: on the Magi from Persia at the birth of Christ: on the direction of worship of Jews and Muslims: on Ezek. 37:1 14: on the distinction between XXX, XXX and XXX: and on the clause ‘to judge the living and the dead’ and Phil. 2:10 (BL Add. 12172(b), fols. 121b-120b).
15. To John of Litarba: on Acts 10:34 35 and Rom. 2:10-11 (BL Add. 12172(b), fols. 126b-129b).
16. To John of Litarba: on 1 Sam. 18:10; 15:35; 19:22-24: 28:3-20: 16:1-1-23; and 17:55 (BL Add. 12172(b), fols. 129b-134a).
17. To John of Litarba: on chronological, theological, and exegetical topics; on earlier authors (BL. Add. 12172(b): also Mingana 4: on the sinner and wicked: Mingana 9: Moses bar Kepa (quotations)).
18. To John of Litarba: introductory letter to a collection of canons (BL. Add. 14493: Harvard Syr. 93: Mardin Orth. 322: Damascus Patr. 8/11).
19. To George of Serug on Syriac orthography (BL. Add. 7183. Add. 12178, Add. 17134; Mingana 101: Berlin 174 (Sachau 70): Vat.sir. 118).
20. To an anonymous person: poetic exhortation to seek wisdom, not only in words, but also in deeds after reflecting on the three creative agencies: God. Nature, and Mind, and Jacob as a poet (seven-syllabic metre: fragment: BL Add. 12172(a), fols. 65a-70a).
21. To Eustatius of Dara: on Jacob as an ascetic or a man of the world (fragment: BL Add. 12172(a), fols. 70a-72b).
22. To Eustatius of Dara: reply to an invitation to visit (fragment: BL. Add. 12172(a), fols. 72b-73a).
23 To Eustatius of Dara: explanations to a previous poetic (twelve-syllable metre) letter (fragment: BL. Add. 12172(a), fols. 73a-73b).
24. To Eustatius of Dara: on two letters of the Greek alphabet (i and k: fragment: BL Add. 12172(a), fols. 73b-74b).
25. To Eustatius of Dara: on Gibeonites and Joshua bar Nun (fragment: BL Add. 12172(a), fol. 74b).
26. To Eustatius of Dara: on the pros and cons of ‘East’ and ‘West’ (i.e. Byzantine Empire) (fragment (?): twelve-syllable metre: BL Add. 12172(a). fols. 74b 77a).
27. To the priest Abraham: allegory on viticulture (BL Add. 12172(a), fols. 77a 77b).
28. To the sculptor Thomas: questions to be put to Nestorians (BL Add. 12172(a), fols. 77b-78a).
29. To Kyrisuna of Dara: (fragment, in twelve-syllable metre; BL Add. 12172(a), fol. 78a).
30. To Kyrisuna of Dara: contains references to philosophy (Aristotelian ὅρος) and contains Greek sayings (fragment: referred to in a letter by George of the Arabs).
31. To the priest Simeon the Stylite: on he who has doubts about his profession (BL Add. 17168).
32. To the deacon Barhadbshabba: on Chalcedonians (BL Add. 14631: compare George of the Arabs to Barhadbshahba).
33. To the priest Addai: baptism and blessing of water in the Night of Epiphany (BL Add. 14715).
34. To an anonymous person: brief sketch of history (BL Or. 2307).
35. To the priest Thomas: Syriac liturgy (BL Add. 14525. Vat. sir. 581. Mingana 3: also used by Dionysius bar Salibi (H. Labourt, Dionysius bar Salibi. Expositio Liturgiae (CSCO 13-14, Syr. 13 14; Paris 1903), ed. 6-12. trans. 36-40).
36. To Daniel (fragment: possibly a pupil of Jacob of Edessa and later (after Constantine) bishop of Emesa; Michael the Syrian. Chronicle 11.15, ed. Chabot, 2:472: 11.17. ed. Chabot, 2:480).
37. To Moses (fragment): Paul reaching the third heaven (possibly Moses of Tur Abdin: Assemani, Bibliotheca Orientalis 1, 607: also quotation in Mingana 4).
38. On the day of Nativity of Jesus (to Moses of Tur Abdin according to Dionysius bar Salibi. Expositio Liturgiae, ed. Labourt. 49, trans. 67).
39. To Bar Hadad, Bishop of Tella (BL Add. 14731: quotation by Moses bar Kepa).
40. Addressee unknown (ending of a letter: Berlin 201 (Sachau 165)).
41. To Constantine (quoted by Moses bar Kepa: cf. the Hexaemeron which is dedicated to Constantine; possibly a pupil of Jacob of Edessa and later bishop of Bithynia, Emesa. later Edessa: cf. Michael the Syrian. Chronicle 1 1.15, ed. Chabot, 2:472: 11.17, ed. Chabot. 2:480: 11.20. ed. Chabot, 2:496: Oxford Syr. 142 (Marsh 101)).
42. To George the Stylite (although possibly spurious: Jacob third person) (Berlin 188 (Sachau 218). Mingana 317).
43-5. Three letters to Stephen (Seert 81; now lost (?)).
46. To Lazarus: on the mysterium of the Incarnation (fragment: Mingana 4: Charfet Patr. 79. fol. 27a).
47. To Isho`yahb (fragment: BL Add. 7190).
48. To Harran (‘Malakites’) (Berlin 116 (Sachau 12). Cambridge Add. 2889).
49. On the Divine Economy (Oxford Syr. 142 (Marsh 101): Mingana 105. Mingana 152. Mingana 480 (1-13). Mingana 522: Vatican Borg. 147 and 108 (possibly related to Damascus Patr. 8/11).
50. To Paul of Antioch (fragment: Assemani. Bibliotheca Orientalis I. 477-478).


More on the letters of James of Edessa

As reported in my last post, British Library Additional manuscript 12172 contains a bunch of letters by the Syriac scholar-bishop James of Edessa.  Nearly all are unedited and untranslated. 

Vellum, about 9.5 in. by 6  3/8, consisting of 71 leaves (Add. 12,172, foll. 65-135), a few of which are much soiled and slightly torn. The quires, eight in number, are signed with letters. Leaves are missing at the beginning, as well as after foll. 67, 71, 74, and 78. There are from 31 to 37 lines in each page. This manuscript is written by two hands (foll. 65-78 and foil. 79-135), both apparently of the IXth cent.

1. The first portion, foll. 65-78, contains a collection of letters of Jacob of Edessa;

These are the letters:

  • 1.  (ff.65a-69b).  — Part of a long letter in heptasyllabic metre, imperfect both at the beginning and end.  At the start Jacob speaks of the three creative agencies, God, Nature and Mind.  He then addresses the mind, warning it against too great presumption.   He speaks of the opportunity afforded him of showing his skill as a poet (creator, maker, poihth/j) ; and quotes a part of a letter which he had received, in which the writer says that he regards every wise man, whether residing far or near, whether personally known to him or not, as a friend, and consequently claims Jacob as such.  Jacob in return praises the writer’s philanthropy and eagerness in searching after wisdom; enlarges on the worthlessness of human judgments, citing passages from an unnamed author and from a Greek poet, and finally exhorts him to seek after wisdom, not merely in words, but also in deeds.
  • 2.  (70a-72b). — Letter to Eustathius of Dara.     It replies to the question, whether Jacob followed the heavenly path or the earthly one (that is to say, lived as an ascete or as a man of the world).  The letter is imperfect at the end.
  • 3. (72b). — Letter, imperfect at the beginning, in reply to an invitation to visit a certain person (probably Eustathius of Dara).
  • 4. (73a). — To the same, chiefly occupied with explanations regarding a former letter, which was composed with much art in dodecasyllabic metre.
  • 5. (73b). — To the same, regarding the place of the letters iota and kappa in the Greek alphabet.
  • 6. (74b). — To the same.  Only a few lines of this letter remain.
  • 7. (75a). — To the same, regarding the relative merits and demerits of the East and the West. It is imperfect at the beginning, and commences with a quotation from a letter of Eustathius, in which he charges Jacob with having unduly disparaged the West.  See fol. 75 b, where the name of Eustathius is explained.
  • 8. (77a). — To the priest Abraham, on the vine and its cultivators, but with a hidden meaning.
  • 9. (77b). — To the sculptor Thomas, containing notes of questions to be put to certain Nestorians.  At the end of this letter there is a subscription, stating that this part of the manuscript was written by one John of Hisn Kifa, from the convent of Maryaba, for a monk named Habib, belonging to the convent of the Occidentals.
  • 10. (78a). —  Then follows, apparently in a different hand, a letter of Jacob of Edessa, addressed to one ???? of Dara.  It is composed in dodecasyllabic metre.

Then Wright continues:

The second portion of this manuscript, foll. 79-134, contains seventeen letters of Jacob of Edessa, addressed, with one exception, to John the Stylite.

  • 1. (79a). — Letter to John the Stylite.   Jacob invites John to lay before him any difficulties that may occur in his studies, and treats of some passages in two homilies ascribed to Jacob (of Batnae), but in reality neither by him nor by Ephraim, but the composition of some petty rhetorician.  To enable others to identify these homilies the first words of each are quoted.  This letter has heen edited, with a translation and notes, by Dr. R. Schroter, in the Zeitschrift der D. M. G., Bd. xxiv., p. 261.
  • 2. (81a). — To the same.
  • 3. (81b). — To the same.  It is devoted chiefly to the reconciliation of 2 Peter, ch. ii. 6, where Noah is called ὄγδοος δικαιοσύνης κῆρυξ, with those passages of the Bible which make him the eleventh from Adam. The Glaphyra of Cyril is cited.
  • 4. (83a). — To the deacon George.  It solves questions raised by him in regard to a passage in the 25th madrasha of Ephraim on the Nativity of our Lord.
  • 5. (85a). — To John the Stylite.  In this letter Jacob replies, first, to the question, why the feast of the Invention of the Cross is celebrated on the 14th of Ilul, and what is the tradition of the Church regarding it.  He mentions his having consulted the ecclesiastical history of Socrates to no purpose.  The remainder of the letter is occupied with the explanation of a passage in the 44th madrasha of Ephraim on faith, Opera, t. iii., p. 79.
  • 6. (87b). — To the same.   It treats of difficulties raised about passages in the Gospels, especially regarding the descent of Christ from David, it being nowhere stated in Scripture that the Virgin Mary was of the line of David. On fol. 89 a Jacob alludes to apocryphal writings.  After citing various passages from the prophets to show that the Messiah was the son of David, he proceeds to argue from the book of Daniel, ch. ix. 20 27, that the Messiah is really come, and that therefore the expectation of the Jews is vain.
  •  7. (91a). — To the same.   Jacob replies to only two questions out of a number that had been put to him by John. a) Why, in calculating the Jewish passover, the years of the world are generally fixed at 5180, to which are added the years of the Seleucian era, whereas Eusebius reckoned the years of the world at 4888?  In the course
    of the discussion Jacob mentions the following chronographers, fol. 92 a : Africanus, the predecessor of Eusebius ; Clemens Stromateus; Andreas and Magnus his brother; Hippolytus, the bishop and martyr ; Metrodorus; Anianus, a monk of Alexandria ; and Andronicus.  b) Why, in one of his letters, Jacob placed the birth of Christ in the year of the Greeks 309, whereas Eusebius gives 312, in which he is followed by Severus (Sabocht)
  • 8. (94b). — To the same.   In this letter Jacob considers the following questions. a) Why Clement, the disciple of Peter, speaks of five books of Solomon, whereas Athanasius, Basil, Gregory (Nazianzen), Amphilochius, Eusebius, and others, mention only three?  Why the books of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Tobit, Esther, and Judith, as well as the three books of the Maccabees, are not included among the canonical books ?  c) About the additional year in the calculation of the Alexandrians, 5181 instead of 5180.  As an appendix to this letter, we find a scholion on the book of Wisdom.
  • 9. (97b). — To the same.  Jacob argues that prayers, offerings, and alms, in behalf of the souls of the impious after their death, are of no avail, but not so in behalf of the souls of sinful believers.  In support of his views he cites Theophilus of Alexandria.
  • 10. (99a). — To the same.  John had asked him whether, as many asserted, the Fathers of the Church held that the precise duration and limit of the life of every man was fixed by God the Creator at the moment of his creation and birth ; and desired proofs either in the affirmative or negative from the Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers.  Jacob says that, to answer this difficult question satisfactorily, he would require to have at hand all the writings of the principal Fathers, such as Athanasius, Basil, the Gregories, John (Chrysostom), Cyril (of Alexandria), Severus (of Antioch), Ephraim, Xenaias (of Mabug), and Jacob (of Batnae), fol. 100 a. At present he argues the question chiefly from Scripture, and answers it in the negative.
  • 11. (104a). — To the same.  In the letter immediately preceding this, Jacob had written that, though the day of a man’s death was not fixed by God on the very day of his birth, yet no man died before his time and without its being so ordered by God.  He now repeats his statement in distinct terms, fol. 104 b, and explains and defends it at great length, showing that his views are in accordance not only with the words of Scripture and the writings of the Fathers, but also with the sentiments of the heathen philosophers, of whom he cites Porphyry (f.107b), ὁ πρὸς Νημέρτιον λόγος (a lost work To Nemertios, quoted by Cyril of Alexandria in Contra Julianum, in which Porphyry addresses the question of evil and providence).
  • 12. (110a). — To the same.   In this letter Jacob explains some passages of Ephraim in the 2nd madrasha against false doctrines (Opera, t. ii., p. 440), showing: a) who was the woman that founded the sect of the Shabbethaye, and who these were; b) who were Kuk and the Kukaye ; and c) who was the Palut mentioned by Ephraim.  This letter has been published in the Journal of Sacred Literature, 4th Series, vol. x., p. 430. See also the Zeitschrift der D. M. G., Bd. xxiv., p. 296.
  • 13. (111b). — To the same.   In this letter:
    a) The reason of the Divine utterance in Gen. xv. 13.
    b) Whether it is true, as they say, that there was no writing and no letters before Moses? This was affirmed by Athanasius, for the purpose of ridding the Church of apocryphal books, even though that of Enoch had to be sacrificed with them; but Jacob answers in the negative. We might as well say, with Basil, that there was no wine before the flood. The genuineness of the book of Enoch is proved by its being cited by the apostle Jude; and we have Jewish traditions to the effect that Amram taught Moses the Hebrew as well as the Egyptian letters in Pharaoh’s house.
    c) Who was the Ethiopian woman mentioned in Num. xii. 1? Not Zipporah, but the daughter of an Ethiopian king, whose city Moses besieged and captured, when he was in Pharaoh’s service, as is narrated in Egyptian history, fol. 115 a.
    d) What was the pride of Satan, on account of which he fell from his brightness and became dark ? What was the envy wherewith he envied? and if the time be known when he suffered thus?
    e) How we should understand Job, ch. ii. 6? and whether Moses wrote the book of Job?
    f) What are Behemoth, the bird called XXX (Job xxxix. 13), and Leviathan?  The Behemoth are locusts Leviathan is kh~toj and applicable metaphorically to Satan.  The bird is Indian and called the “elephant-bird,” because it carries off and devours young elephants.
    g) Who was the Zacharias mentioned in Matth. xxiii. 35, Luke xi. 51 ? and why was he put to death ?  According to Jacob, he was Zacharias the father of John the Baptist.
    h) Whether the son of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings xvii. 17 24) was Jonah the prophet? whether Tiglath-pileser, the king of the Assyrians, was king of Nineveh in the time of Jonah ? and which is the correct reading in Jonah iii. 4, 40 days or 3 days ? The first question is answered in the negative, the only authority for the statement being the ” Lives of the Prophets,” falsely ascribed to Epiphanius, the second Jacob leaves undecided, though he thinks it probable ; as to the third, he prefers the reading of the LXX.  
    i) What are the wild gourds mentioned in 2 Kings iv. 39 ?
    j) Obadiah the prophet was probably the third captain of fifty, 2 Kings i. 13, and the husband of the widow, 2 Kings iv. 1.  
    k) The articles carried away from the temple by the Babylonians, as narrated in 2 Kings, were those made by Solomon. The ark, altar, golden table, etc., made by Moses, which had been carefully stored up since the time of Solomon, were conveyed away secretly by Jeremiah during the siege, and deposited in the cave on mount Nebo, where Moses was buried, the site of which is unknown. This is what is meant in the epistle of Baruch by the words XXX. 
    l) Of the rock that emitted water, Jacob declines to speak; but answers John’s question regarding Zeruiah the mother of Joab, Abishai and Asahel, and Abigail the mother of Amasa, the son of Jether.
    m) The Psalms were not all written by David ; some were composed by the sons of Korah, viz. Asaph,  Ethan and Heman ; others by Moses, Jeremiah, Solomon, Jeduthun, etc.
    n) Whether the Jews were called Hebrews from Eber? and whether Hebrew is the primeval language ? Both questions are answered in the affirmative.  As to the antiquity of Hebrew, as compared with Syriac or Aramaic, he cites the opinion of Clement, the disciple of S. Peter, and of Eusebius of Emesa. One of his principal arguments is derived from Gen. ii. 23. Regarding 1 Kings iv. 32, 33.  
    o) On the Song of Songs, iii. 7, 8. Gregory Nyssen is cited.   p) On 1 Sam. xvii. 55. 47?) On Gen. xviii. 32. Lot had only two daughters and two sons-in-law, and no one else akin to him in Sodom save his wife.
    This letter has been published in the Journal of Sacred Literature, 4th Series, vol. x., p. 430. See also the Zeitschrift der D.M.G., Bd. xxiv., pp. 286, 290.
  • 14. (121b). — To the same.  In this letter Jacob replies to 13 questions.
    a) Who was the Jacob who composed the Kukite hymns and whether he was Jacob (Baradaeus) of Pesilta? The answer is, that the said hymns were not composed by any person of the name of Jacob, but by the deacon Simeon, a potter by trade, of the village of Gashir, in the time of Xenaias of Mabug.  
    b) The man in whose house our Lord celebrated the passover with his disciples was not Nicodemus, as some have thought, but Lazarus of Bethany; to whom also belonged the ass on which our Lord rode into Jerusalem.
    c) On 2 Corinth, xii. 7. 8  
    d) Philip, who baptized the eunuch of Candace and converted the Samaritans, was not Philip the apostle, but a deacon of the Church. Having spoken of Candace as “queen of Sheba” instead of “queen of the Ethiopians”,  Jacob explains his reason for so doing. 
    e) On S. John’s Gospel, ch. xix. 25. The Virgin Mary had no sister according to the flesh.
    f)  Who was Peter, patriarch of Antioch, whom the heretics called κναφεύς? (Peter the Fuller) and why he got this name ?
    g) Why Timotheus, patriarch of Alexandria, was named Aelurus?
    h) Mar Isaac — whether there was only one writer of the name, or two, or three? Three, two orthodox and one a heretic, who all wrote in the Syriac or Aramaic tongue. The first: Isaac of Amid, a disciple of Ephraim, who went to Rome in the reign of Arcadius to see the Capitol, and on his way back stopped some time at Byzantium, where he suffered imprisonment. After his return, he became a priest of the church of Amid. The second : Isaac, a priest of the church of Edessa, in the
    time of the emperor Zeno. He went up to Antioch when Peter the Fuller was patriarch, during the Nestorian disputes, and preached against that sect, taking his text from a parrot: The third : Isaac, also of Edessa, who at first, in the time of the bishop Paul, was orthodox, but afterwards, in the time of the bishop Asclepius, joined the Nestorians.
    i) Of the Magi, who came from Persia at the birth of our Saviour. They were not three in number, but twelve.
    j) Some one had asked John, why the Jews worshipped towards the south. This question is ridiculous, says Jacob, for both the Jews and the Moslems worship, not towards any particular quarter of the heavens, but towards Jerusalem and the Ka`ba. The man should have asked, towards what direction the Jews
    worshipped in the tabernacle of Moses and the temple of Solomon, viz. towards the west. So also did our Saviour.
    k) On Ezekiel, ch. xxxvii. 1 14.
    l)  On the distinction between two Syriac words.
    m) On the clause in the Creed, “to judge the living and the dead,”  and on Philipp. ii. 10.
  • 15. (126b). — To the same.  On Acts, X. 34, 35, and Rom. ii. 10, 11.
  • 16. (129b). —  To the same.  On 1 Sam. xviii. 10 ; xv. 35 and xix. 23, 24; xxviii. 7, seqq. ; xvi. 22, 23, and xvii. 55.
  • 17. (134a). — To the same.  On Daniel, Joachim and Susanna. This letter has been left unfinished by the scribe.

Wright adds:

On fol. 135 b there is a note, stating that the manuscript belonged to the convent of S. Mary Deipara.

That is a large number of unedited letters.  Some of them should be of historical interest, I would have thought.  It would be interesting to know whether the material quoted from Porphyry is otherwise preserved, or whether it is evidence of the circulation of the lost work To Nemertios as late as 700 AD.


How the text of Nonius Marcellus reaches us

The 4th century Latin dictionary by Nonius Marcellus is our main source for the fragments of lost Latin literature from the Roman republic — works like Accius, the satirist Lucillius, Varro’s Menippean Satires, the Tragedies of Ennius, Sissena and the Historiae of Sallust.  The format of the work is a word, a definition, and then one or more quotations to show the usage of the word.

The work was in 20 books, as was traditional for works of grammar.  But the books are of very uneven length.  In the three volume Teubner edition by W. M. Lindsay from 1903 — still the standard, I believe — volume 1 contains books 1-3; volume 2 contains only book 4, which is vast, and volume 3 contains books 5-20.  Book 20 is just a single sheet.   The manuscripts reveal that the work was split into these chunks for transmission also.

Three forms of the text have reached us. 

The first contains what is known as the ‘pure’ text.  This is pretty much untampered with, although subject to the usual perils of transmission.  Copying a dictionary composed of short quotes and spotting errors in it is quite a challenge if your Latin is not that good, and Angelo Mai, when he printed the first edition of the text of Cicero’s previously lost De re publica in 1822, described the text as A vertice, ut aiunt, usque ad extremum unguem ulcus est — as ulcerated from top to toe.

The second form of the text is known as the ‘doctored’ text.  In some places this is actually more faithful to the original than the corrupted ‘pure’ text.  But mostly it has been edited.  Some scholar of the Carolingian period revised the text to produce a more readable version, in the interests of those trying to learn Latin.  This was a very successful revision, and copies of this version out-number the pure text.

The third form is the ‘extract’ version.  The word and definition is included, but the quotations have been omitted in most cases.  The result is a glossary, doubtless intended for handier use in monasteries.

All three versions derive from a single archetype, in which a leaf from book 4 had fallen out, and been replaced for safe-keeping immediately after the first leaf of book 1.  The transmission is also rather mix-and-match: a single manuscript may use the first form for books 1-3, and the doctored text for book 4.

All the manuscripts are 9th century or later, and all of them, for all three versions, seem to be connected to Tours and the Loire valley in France.  In particular the literary activity of Lupus of Ferrieres there in the 9th century seems to be pivotal.

The pure text is represented by the following manuscripts:

  • L – Leiden, Voss. Lat. F. 73, dated to the start of the 9th century, from Tours.
  • F – Florence, Lauren. 48.1, 9th century, corrected and annotated by Lupus of Ferrieres.
  • HBritish Library, Harley 2719, 9-10th century.  Contains glosses in Breton, so was written in or near Britanny, not far from the Loire. Online.
  • E – Escorial M.III.14, mid-late 9th century, from Auxerre.  The book was at St. Peter’s Ghent during the 11th century.
  • Gen. – Geneva lat.84, 9th century, from Fulda in Germany, with which Lupus had connections.
  • B – Berne 83, 9th century, written at Reims in the time of Hincmar.
  • Cant. – Cambridge University Library Mm.5.22, end of the 9th century, from Bourges.
  • P – Paris lat. 7667, 10th century, from Fleury.

L contains all three sections of the text, and is a fine and carefully written book made at Tours in the early years of the 9th century, probably while Alcuin was still abbot of St. Martins there.  For books 1-3 it is the ancestor of all the other surviving manuscripts above.  It incorporates corrections from the doctored and extract families.

The corrections to F are interesting.  F3 contains readings and supplements known from no other source, and clearly right.  It must be inferred that this corrector had access to another old manuscript — perhaps the archetype of all the manuscripts itself, or a copy taken before the rot had set in.

For book 4, things change.  Book 4 of E is descended from book 4 of L, but the best manuscript of this book is Gen. which is NOT descended from book 4 in L, but from some common ancestor.  And Gen. was undoubtedly written at Fulda in Lower Germany.  There were links between Tours and Fulda, as we can see from the transmission of Apicius and Suetonius, and again we think of Lupus of Ferrieres, whose strong links with Fulda explain why a German manuscript appears in what is otherwise a bunch of manuscripts all written in one area of France.  Some of the notes may even be in his hand.  We can be reasonably certain that this book was brought from Fulda to the Loire area.  Book 4 in B is a cousin of Gen., written rather badly, and the other manuscripts are descended from Gen.

The chunk comprising books 5-20 is different again, with these books in L descended from the archetype, while H, P and E are all cousins of L via one or more now lost intermediaries.

The ‘doctored’ text does not tell us much more about how the text moved around in the Dark Ages.  The only complete representative of the whole family is G, Wolfenbuttel Gud.lat. 96.  This was written, yes, at Tours between 800-850.

The ‘extract’ family exists in a bunch of manuscripts, and, once again, they are all connected with Tours, Reims, and Auxerre.

Nonius, then, was popular during the 9th century.  But he is a difficult author, and after this period he was not copied.  Only two medieval book catalogues (St. Vincent, Metz, s. XI, and St.Amand, s.XII) mention a copy.  The text did not circulate widely again until the 15th century.


Aulus Gellius thought of his own work as being divided into “chapters”

Book 11, chapter 9 of the Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius is a tale from the lost author Critolaus.  It relates how Demosthenes accepted a bribe not to speak against the Milesians.  Chapter 10 begins as follows:

10.  Quod C. Gracchus in oratione sua historiam supra scriptam Demadi rhetori, non Demostheni, adtribuit; verbaque ipsius C. Gracchi relata.

1. Quod in capite superiore a Critolao scriptum esse diximus super Demosthene, id C. Gracchus in oratione, qua legent Aufeiam dissuasit, in Demaden contulit verbis hisce…

10. That Gaius Gracchus in a speech of his applied the story related above to the orator Demades, and not to Demosthenes; and a quotation of Gracchus’ words.

1. The story which in the preceding chapter we said was told by Critolaus about Demosthenes, Gaius Gracchus, in the speech Against the Aufeian Law, applied to Demades in the following words…

At the end of the preface, we find also these words:

25Capita rerum quae cuique commentario insunt, exposuimus hic universa, ut iam statim declaretur quid quo in libro quaeri invenirique possit.

25Summaries of the material to be found in each book of my Commentaries I have here placed all together, in order that it may at once be clear what is to be sought and found in every book.

We learn a great deal from this about how a second century author with a collection of miscellaneous material organised it.

Caput is being used somewhat flexibly, but here we see it used both to indicate the summary of the content of a self-contained portion of a book — a chapter title, if you like — and also for that self-contained portion itself.  We might say “passage”, but there seems no special reason not to say “chapter” and “chapter title / summary”.

This tells us that Aulus Gellius himself organised his work into capita — chapters.  Also that he composed these capita — chapter summaries.  We may speculate that a literary slave may have been used to compose these, as Cicero had Tiro do work for him, and Josephus used Greek ammanuenses to give polish to his works.  But there seems no need to suppose this.

On reading the Loeb, I thought at first that we also knew that these capita (chapters) were numbered at some point.   If we look at book 8 in the Loeb, we find under the chapter summaries (capita) in a couple of cases small excerpts from the lost text.  These, of course, have been extracted by editors from quotation by later authors, who must have specified the numeral of the chapter.  So chapter 3 has a fragment. 

3. Quem in modum et quam severe increpuerit audientibus nobis Peregrinus philosophus adulescentem Romanum ex equestri familia, stantem segnem apud se et assidue oscitantem.

Et adsiduo oscitantem vidit, atque illius quidem delicatissimas mentis et corporis halucinationes.

3.  In what terms and how severely the philosopher Peregrinus in my hearing rebuked a young Roman of equestrian rank, who stood before him inattentive and constantly yawning.

. . . and saw him continually yawning and noticed the degenerate dreaminess expressed in his attitude of mind and body.

But what does the actual source say?  Well, the Loeb note on the fragment says:

 This fragment is preserved by Nonius, II, p121, 19, s.v. halucinari.

That’s not very helpful, is it?  I must admit that the over-brevity of Loeb references always annoyed me!  What normal person could follow such a reference?  Even I don’t know who “Nonius” is, and I have a better grasp of ancient literature than almost anyone not professionally active.  Which work, which edition, I wonder, is meant? 

But the  mention of a work at the end suggests a dictionary compiler, and a search brings first the Wikipedia article for Nonius Marcellus, a 4-5th century grammarian, then W.M.Lindsay’s 1901 article, and then Muller’s 1888 edition: vol. 1, and vol.2.  Finally Lindsay’s 1903 Teubner, vol. 1vol. 2 and vol. 3.  All I have to do now is track down the reference, and even so, it is still nearly impossible.

After two hours struggle, I find that the correct reference is book 2, which is in vol. 1 of Lindsay, in the section under H (which is NOT in alphabetical order), Lindsay p. 175.  At the head of this page are some gnomic numerals “121. 122 M.”  The “page” is therefore a reference to some elderly standard edition.  This reads:

HALVCINARI, aberrare et non consistere atque dissolvi et obstupefieri atque tardari honeste veteres dixerunt, ut est (cf. Gell. VIII, 3): ‘et adsiduo oscitantem vidit atque illius quidem delicatissimas mentis et corporis alucinationes’.

But this gives no textual link to Aulus Gellius.  So my initial impression here was mistaken.  Possibly some of the other fragments will give us more information, but I lack the time to pursue this now.

There is more we could learn, if we knew more about the textual history of this collection of all the capita, immediately following the preface.  Because book 8 of the Attic Nights is lost.  Yet we do have the capita for book 8.  This means that either the collection of all the capita was transmitted at the correct place; or, that the collection of capita circulated independently.

All this is valuable information on the way in which ancient authors worked.  They did have chapters, if they chose.  They did have chapter titles, if they chose.  They did have chapter numbers, if they chose.

So is there really any case for denying the authenticity of any transmitted chapter divisions, numerals, and headings, unless we find multiple different ones in the manuscripts?  If so, what is it? 


A medieval catalogue of classical books at the abbey of Arras

Opening my copy of G. Becker’s Catalogi bibliothecarum antiqui to a random page, I find myself looking at the following entry (p.254):

126. Monasterium S. Vedasti Atrebatense = Arras. saec. XII.

Libri philosophice artis et auctores beati Vedasti hi sunt: 1. 2. duo Virgilii. – 3.4. duo Lucani. – 5. unus Oratius. – 6. Priscianus unus. – 7-9. Boetii III. – 10. Boetius in periermeniis Aristotelis. – 11. commentum in ysagogis Porfirii. – 12. item commentum periermeniarum Aristotelis de Greco in Latinum translatum. – 13. dialectica Augustini et decem predicamenta et Arator in uno volumine. – 14. item alius Arator et Prosper in uno volumine. – 15. liber rethoricorum Tulii Ciceronis, decem predicamenta Aristotelis in uno volumine. – 16. item decem predicamenta Arist. et commentum Boecii super ea. – 17. topica Tullii Ciceronis libri III. – 18. liber Euricii, liber Probi per versus, Boetius de musica, Aurelianus de laude musice discipline, versus Hubaldi ad Carolum imperatorem, Macrobius de sumnio Scipionis, divisio mathematice, Sedulius et Iuvencus in uno volumine. – 19. Terentius. – 20. ciclus Dionisii. – 21. glosarius et maior Donatus. – 22. somnium Scipionis. – 23. passionalis medicinalis libri IV. – 24. calculatio Albini. – 25. excerptum de metrica arte. – 26. item alius de eadem arte. Libri divini hi sunt: 27. Augustinus…

And it continues with a long list of libri divini, up to number 167.   Twenty-six non-patristic or biblical texts.

Behind the strange spellings are some familiar names.  Two volumes of Vergil; two of Lucan.  “Oratius” I did not know but must be Horace, while Priscian is a grammar.  Three volumes of Boethius follow, then another on Aristotle.  Number 11 is a commentary on the Isagogue of Porphyry, followed by a commentary on the Peri Hermenias or De interpretatione which the cataloguer seems to realise is a translation from Greek into Latin.  Cicero is then well represented; and there are two copies of the Dream of Scipio, quoted by Macrobius and thereby preserved from Cicero’s De republica.

It’s not always clear which text is meant.  The monkish cataloguer had no list of works at his disposal, which he could consult in cases of uncertainty.  All he could do was read the rubrics at the head of each book and transcribe the sometimes corrupted entries. 

It’s an interesting game, to look at these entries and try to puzzle out what they mean.   I commend it to everyone.


If only we had a time-machine to take us back to ancient Rome!

Reading in bed can be perilous.  I was just reading this in Aulus Gellius’ Attic Nights (book 5, ch. 4), and had to get up and write about it:

4.  On the word duovicesimus, which is unknown to the general public, but occurs frequently in the writings of the learned.

I chanced to be sitting in a bookshop in the Sigillaria 1 with the poet Julius Paulus, the most learned man within my memory; and there was on sale there the Annals of Fabius 2 in a copy of good and undoubted age, which the dealer maintained was without errors.  But one of the better known grammarians, who had been called in by a purchaser to inspect the book, said that he had found in it one error; but the bookseller for his part offered to wager any amount whatever that there was not a mistake even in a single letter. The grammarian pointed out the following passage in the fourth book:  “Therefore it was then that for the first time one of the two consuls was chosen from the plebeians, in the twenty-second (duovicesimo) year after the Gauls captured Rome.”  “It ought,” to read, not duovicesimo, but duo et vicesimo or twenty-second; for what is the meaning of duovicesimo?” . . . 3 Varro in the sixteenth book of his Antiquities of Man; there he wrote as follows: “He died in the twenty-second year (duovicesimo); he was king for twenty-one years.” . . .

1. Quintus Fabius Pictor, who was sent as an envoy to Delphi after the battle of Cannae (216 B.C.), wrote a history of Rome from the coming of Aeneas to his own time. He wrote in Greek, but a Latin version is mentioned also by Quintilian (I.6.12) and was used by Varro and by Cicero.
2.  A street or quarter in Rome where the little images were sold which were given as presents at the festival of the Sigillaria.
3. There is a lacuna in the text which might be filled by “This question might be answered by.”

 Ah, which of us would not wish to be there, back in 160 AD, sitting in that bookshop in the Sigillaria, and looking over the shoulder of Aulus Gellius and Julius Paulus, as they examine the aged copy of the archaic Latin Annals of Q. Fabius Pictor!   What lover of books cannot sigh at the thought of that book, of “undoubted age”.

I wonder just how long it was, after that event, that the very last copy of Pictor’s work vanished from the world?

(Thanks to Bill Thayer for the text here).


Galen’s preface to Hippocrates “On the workshop/laboratory of a doctor” in English

Andrew Eastbourne has come through, and a .doc file of this text (De officina medici) arrived today and can be downloaded from here: Galen_-_Preface.   I have also uploaded it to the Fathers site here.  I’m placing this in the public domain — do whatever you like with it (except stick your own copyright notice on it!)

It is most interesting as a guide to the transmission of texts in ancient times, so I will do my best to post it here.

He entitled a medical [work], “Pertaining to the Surgery” (κατ’ ἰητρεῖον).[1]  But it would have been better for it to be entitled, “On the Things Pertaining to the Surgery” (περὶ τῶν κατ’ ἰητρεῖον), as some give the title for the [works] of Diocles, Philotimus, and Mantius.  For while these men wrote on the same subject, in each book, in the greatest number [of copies] the title lacks the preposition (περί) and the article (τῶν)—they are entitled, simply, “Pertaining to the Surgery”—in a few [copies], however, [it is given] with the preposition and the article:  “On the Things Pertaining to the Surgery.”  But whereas these men’s books give quite copious theoretical instruction, Hippocrates’ [book], after the catalogue of the things that are the components of surgery overall, gives a full explanation of bandaging, since the man considered it proper to practice this first.  And indeed, the practice of this can be pursued most especially with pieces of wood sculpted into human form, or if [this is] not [possible], on the bodies of children at least.

This much the book itself required me to say, before my interpretations of individual points; now, however, I will go through what is not required by the book, but by those who, in copying [2] them, readily received the writings of the ancients in whatever [form] they themselves wished.[3]  For some eagerly attempted to find 300-year-old copies of even very old books,[4] preserving some in papyrus scrolls, others on sheets of papyrus, others on parchment, like the [texts] that are with us in Pergamum.[5]

Therefore, I decided to examine all these things in the [commentaries of the] earliest interpreters, so that on the basis of the majority and the most trustworthy I might discover the authentic writings.  And the result turned out to surpass my expectations.  For I discovered that they nearly all agreed with each other—the treatises and the commentaries of the interpreters—such that I was struck with bewilderment at the audacity of those who have recently written commentaries or have made their own edition of all the books of Hippocrates, among whom are Dioscorides and his associates, and Artemidorus, called Capito, and his associates,[6] who made many innovations in the ancient writings.

It seemed to me that the account of the commentaries would be [too] long, if I mentioned all the writings, and so I imagined that it was better to write [about] the older ones only, adding to them some few others—those that show but little alteration—and of these, primarily those which have been acknowledged by the earlier commentators on the book.  There are four of them:  two, who wrote commentaries on all the books of Hippocrates—Zeuxis and Heraclides; and then Bacchius and Asclepiades, [whose comments], not on all [the books of Hippocrates, are] hard to understand.[7]

And now, enough of these matters.  By way of recovering the pleasure of a clearer exordium, I will speak briefly, as though I had not said anything already.  Hippocrates’ book, entitled “Pertaining to the Surgery,” contains at the outset a preamble to the whole art [of medicine], as I shall demonstrate a little later, and for this reason some have reasonably considered it proper to read it first of all, promising lessons very similar to what some later gave in the works they entitled “Introductions.”  And next in sequence after the common preamble, he teaches (regarding what can be effected in the surgery) the most useful things for those who are beginning to learn the medical art.  It will become plain to you that [all] this is the case as you apply your mind carefully to the explanations of the expressions themselves. 

From: Claudii Galeni Opera Omnia, tom. XVIII pars II, ed. D. Carolus Gottlob Kühn, Lipsiae (1830), p. 629-632. Title: ΤΟ ΙΠΠΟΚΡΑΤΟΥΣ ΚΑΤ̕ΙΗΤΡΕΙΟΝ ΒΙΒΛΙΟΝ ΚΑΙ ΓΑΛΗΝΟΥ ΕΙΣ ΑΥΤΟ ΥΠΟΜΝΗΜΑ Α.  The title of the Latin translation is:  Hippocratis De Medici Officina liber et Galeni in eum Commentarius I; Galeni praefatio. [Note by R.P.]
[1] “Surgery” here appears to refer to the physical set-up for a doctor’s operations, not the practice of surgery to which the English term most frequently refers.
[2] The Greek term, μεταγράφοντες, carries the implication that they changed them in the process of copying.
[3] Here Birt, Das antike Buchwesen, p. 503, suggests emending the odd ἢ (“or” [?]) to οἳ, yielding the following meaning for the sentence:  “…but by the copyists, who readily took…”
[4] In the Greek, it is the copying rather than the composition that is explicitly described as “300-years old,” since the participle γεγραμμένα—lit., “having been written”—is in the accusative case, whereas the books are in the genitive.
[5] Kuhn’s text (τὰδὲἐνδιαφόροιςφιλύραις, ὥσπερτὰπαρ’ ἡμῖνἐνΠεργάμῳ:  “others on various / excellent [sheets of paper made from] the under-bark of the lime tree, like the texts that are with us in Pergamum”) is problematic.  Although this under-bark is attested as being used for writing (Herodian 1.17.1; Cassius Dio 72.8.4), it has no connection with Pergamum.  Birt, Das antike Buchwesen, p. 503, cites Cobet’s emendation (ἐνδιφθέραις) with approval—I have adopted it here; Birt also mentions Marquardt’s suggestion (ἐνδιφθερίναιςφιλύραις:  “on [sheets of] parchment ‘bark'”).
[6] The phrasing here—”Dioscorides and his associates” (Gk. οἱπερὶΔιοσκορίδην)—is frequently used in Greek as a circumlocution for the simple “Dioscorides.”
[7] Gk. δυσλόγιστα; this can mean, literally, “hard to calculate” or “bad at calculating” and hence, either obscurity or shoddy commentating is the point.  


UPDATE: Andrew Eastbourne writes to remind me that “duties” of a doctor would be “officiis”, and to say that “officina” is workshop/laboratory.