First printed editions of Galen
at the Bibliothèque Interuniversitaire de Santé of Paris (BIU Santé)

Presentation by Véronique BOUDON
CNRS-Paris IV Sorbonne

Translated by F. Alptuna (BIU Santé) and S. Shadwell

 Books list

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 history.

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.