Works of Galen from Pergamum (129 - c. 210) are distinguishable
from others by their amplitude and diversity. Nothing or nearly
nothing has escaped from this curious mind: with an equal
easyness, he tackles medicine and philosophy, anatomy and
physiology, therapeutics and pharmacology, but also, ethics and
rhetoric as well as poetry and theatre, to only mention a few of
his main interests. This large and multiform edition, mainly
composed under three emperors Marcus Aurelius, Commodus and
Septimus Severus, is nowadays accessible within the 21 volumes
(plus an index volume) of C.G Kühn's edition published in
Leipzig from 1821 till 1833.
The approximate 20 000 pages of this edition (to which one refers
to, as far as concerns Galen's treatises) have never had, as
a whole, any critical edition ; and it excludes numerous treatises
which were not kept in Greek but in their translation. An
important part of Galen's work has not come down to us or has
been passed on only in the Latin, Arabic and very rarely Hebrew
translations. Nearly entirely lost is the majority of his
philosophical and ethical works as well as important commentaries
on the treatises of Hippocratus. For example, on Hippocratus'
treatise "Upon air, water and situations", a treatise
lost to us in Greek but surviving in Arabic. In fact, all kinds
of situations coexist: some treatises, kept in Greek, have been
translated both in Latin and Arabic ; other ones, lost in Greek,
have been preserved only in medieval Latin translations, as in the
case of "Subfiguratio empirica" ; others have
been kept only in Arabic, whereas some others still have been lost
in Greek, Latin and Arabic.
There is a paradox: these main medical works which represent an
eighth of the whole Greek literature from Homer till the end of
the second century of our era, seriously lack, for the majority of
them, critical editions and their French translations. The Kühn
edition, which will still remain irreplaceable for a long time,
lacks both critical apparatus (except one) and/or a translation
into a modern language. Let's hope that in the future there
will be more scientific editions of Galen's works. It is
indeed a very big task, but any initiative aiming to facilitate
access to the very large Galenic corpus must be welcomed and
sustained. In this sense, one can be glad that the Medical
University Library of Paris (BIU Santé) has started a
scannerisation programme of the main Galen editions. Galen's
texts, in the form which they came down to us, and as we are able
to read them today in Kühn edition, have unavoidably been
transformed and/or deteriorated during the different stages of
their transmission. Moreover, the quite recent tradition of
Galen's Greek texts rarely goes back beyond the 12th century.
The editor to come will have to take into consideration not only
the whole Greek manuscript tradition, but also, where they exist,
the Latin, Arabic or Hebrew translations which represent an
important number of treatises. This quest, which was begun with
research on the direct and indirect traditions will contain, as a
natural and indispensable continuation, the study of different
printed editions, which -- having insured the survival of Galenic
texts --, have also contributed to new stages in its history.
Throughout its transmission, Galen's text has never stopped
evolving nor to be corrected, commented, annotated, and translated
with greater and greater concern for exactingness and precision.
The BIU Santé offers today a direct access to its readers,
philologists, medical historians, students, Hellenists or medical
doctors, placing at their disposal the main witnesses of this
A long distance has been covered between the very first printed
edition (editio princeps) of Galen's works in Greek, the
Aldine edition printed in Venice in 1525 by the famous printer
ALDE MANUCE, and the last editions published in Berlin in the
Corpus Medicorum Graecorum or in Paris in the " Collection
des Universités de France ". On the BIU Santé web-site, the
reader will find the main editions of the Galenic text, both the
most decisive ones as well as the ones which more modestly
contributed to its history. Now are directly accessible, available
and downloadable the five in-folio volumes of the 1525 Aldine
edition, as well as the edition due to the care of L. Fuchs, H.
Gemusaeus and J. Cameriarius printed in Basel in 1538, (which
essentially redoes the Aldine text, while at the same time
correcting the most evident mistakes and errors), the ambitious
edition of R. Chartier (Paris, 1679), (which was to provoke the
ruin of the editor), and finally the already cited C. G.
Kühn's edition (Leipzig, 1821-1833).
The Latin editions have not been neglected given even more so
that they sometimes preceded the Greek text. Such is the case of
the relatively rare and hardly available Diomède Bonardus'
edition (Venice, 1490) which gathers the ancient Latin
translations from the antehumanist period, from Constantin the
African, to Nicolas from Reggio, including the Toledo translators.
Such is the case also of the editions from Giunta, regularly
printed in the workshops of the Giunta family from Venice and
which followed one another from the sixteenth century until the
beginning of the seventeenth century. This is why for philological
interest BIU Santé made a choice for the Giunta's edition of
1565. This edition, prepared and annotated by A. Gadaldini, good
authority on Galen's works and remarkable scholar, can only
but draw the attention of the philologist who will here regularly
make important discoveries. The same logic was applied in making
our choice for the edition published in Basel in 1549 by Froben,
and which was prepared by the famous doctor from Zwickau, Janus
Cornarius, who accomplished a good number of translations.
Finally, the non-Hellenist, non-Latinist scholar will take
advantage in consulting the choice of French translations from Ch.
Daremberg: approximately ten Galenic treatises published in Paris
in two volumes from 1854-1856.
If a reader wants more precise information or to check something
selectively, he can now easily and quickly have an access to
these different editions. It is not always easy to have these
editions available for consultation in foreign or French
libraries, therefore, one can only hope for the success of an
undertaking destined to offer such precious aids.