Sunday, September 30, 2012


Claudio De Stefani (ed.), Galeni, De differentiis febrium libri duo arabice conversi. Altera, 1. Pisa; Roma: Fabrizio Serra editore, 2011. Pp. 103. ISBN 9788862273787. €34.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Adam C. McCollum, Hill Museum and Manuscript Library (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed at the end of the review.]

Galen penned his book on different kinds of fevers, which the editor calls "a theoretico-diagnostic work dedicated to fevers" (13), during his second Roman period (168-216/7 [?]), probably in 174 or perhaps early in 175. It is arranged in two books with fourteen and eighteen sections respectively. While there are a number of Greek manuscripts in which the work has been preserved, it is still only in Kühn's edition of Galen's work (vol. 7 [Leipzig, 1824]) that one finds a printed version of the text; there has still been no proper edition of the text "realized according to modern criteria" (13). In addition to the Arabic version dealt with in this volume, there are also Latin translations, none of which have been edited.

The Arabic translation (Aṣnāf al-ḥummayāt) is the handiwork of the famous ninth-century Greek-Syriac- Arabic translator Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq. Fortunately for those interested in Greek-Syriac-Arabic translations, in particular translations of Galen into those last two languages, Ḥunayn composed an extant "letter" (Risāla) on his involvement with Galen-translations and it survived.1 In § 17 of the Risāla, Ḥunayn explicitly mentions Galen's De differentiis febrium. After briefly describing the work, he says:

Sergius [of Rēš ʿAynā] translated this book [into Syriac], not admirably, and I first translated it for Ǧibrīl ibn Boḫtīšōʿ when I was young, and this was the first book of Galen's I translated into Syriac. Then, after I was older, I examined it and found some shortcomings in it, so I corrected it with care and improved it, since I wanted a copy for my son. I translated it again, [this time] into Arabic, for Abū 'l-Ḥasan Aḥmad ibn Mūsá.

As De Stefani notes (14), it is not clear, either from these remarks of Ḥunayn or from the character of the Arabic translation itself, whether the Arabic version we have is a translation directly from Greek, from Syriac, or (I would add) a more complex basis of both Greek and Syriac, in which case Ḥunayn may have worked mainly from his Syriac text, but made even further alterations inspired by the Greek at hand. Nevertheless, since he does not find any conspicuous hallmarks of a Syriac basis for the Arabic translation, De Stefani takes Greek as the practical basis of the Arabic version here edited.

The so-called "School of Ḥunayn" — which includes Hunayn, his nephew Ḥubayš and his son Isḥāq — is the best- known group of translators in the Greek(-Syriac)-Arabic translation movement, and scholars have accordingly devoted much scrutiny to translated texts attributed to it. The earliest significant work was that of Gotthelf Bergsträsser (Ḥunain ibn Isḥāq und seine Schule, Leiden, 1913), who identified a set of criteria to determine the translation styles of the various members of Hunayn's "School." As De Stefani notes (26), Bergsträsser's criteria of translation style highlight a number of features that, based on them alone, might suggest attribution to Ḥubayš and not to Ḥunayn. These include pleonastic expressions, the use of after certain adverbial accusatives, verbal periphrasis for Greek prepositions as the first elements of compound nouns and verbs, and doublets (i.e., two roughly synonymous Arabic terms for one in Greek). Of this last category the editor supplies a complete (it seems) and very useful list of examples from the text, together, of course, with the Greek. Greek-Syriac translators (including Sergius of Rēš ʿAynā) had earlier employed this technique and so do other Greek-Arabic translators (including Ḥunayn), but it is a more notably manifest phenomenon in the work of Ḥubayš. The Arabic translation, however, also shows marks of Ḥunayn's style distinct from that of Ḥubayš (28-29). So what do we make, in terms of attribution, of these stylistic testimonies characteristic of certain translators? It is hard not to agree with De Stefani when he points out that recent work on comparative translation technique has lessened the weight of importance formerly accorded to such evidence for questions of attribution to this or that translator. Bergsträsser was working with a more limited corpus than is now available, so, while his remarks on criteria of translation style remain useful, scholars should employ them cum grano salis.

As the author states in the preface, his work on the text began with the intention of offering a possible evaluation of readings in the Greek text, with which the author had also been occupied, but he then recognized the need for closer attention to the Arabic text in and for itself. Matthias Wernhard, a student of Rainer Degen, happened also at the time to have been working on the text, and upon contact from De Stefani he sent him some of his work. Wernhard's dissertation, Galen: Über die Arten der Fieber in der arabischen Version des Ḥunain Ibn Isḥāq: Edition und Übersetzung is available online at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Library site, and De Stefani's own provisional edition of the Arabic version appeared online in 2004 at the Studi di Eikasmós Online.

The manuscripts on which this edition is based are five: Brit. Mus. Or. 6670.3, Escurial 797.1, Escurial 849.3, Escurial 860.4, and Teheran Maǧlis 6410.1, all of which De Stefani examined in microfilm, with the exception of the Brit. Mus. manuscript (the earliest copy, dated 1184 CE), which he studied through autopsy. The editor gives details for each manuscript in a few lines, but with reference to further descriptions elsewhere. The only manuscript undated is Escurial 860; the last dated manuscript is the one from Iran, from 1348/9 or before. There are twelve errors common to all the manuscripts, but several other mistakes mark out the four later manuscripts from that of the Brit. Mus., which itself has a number of mistakes separating it from the other four. This "tradizione bipartita" (23) which the editor detected convinced him to give the greatest attention to the Brit. Mus. copy.

The text is accompanied by a single apparatus criticus which combines (in Latin) both the textual matter one expects and on occasion literary and stylistic references, giving close parallels in other Arabic medical texts and references to Bergsträsser's translation-style criteria referred to above. The editor has represented more fully than is perhaps normal vowels and diacritic marks, both those with manuscript support and those without; for example, the commonly occurring word "fever" (ḥummá) is given in his edition with the šadda, even though this sign is not necessarily so given in the manuscripts, generally speaking. Because he has been explicit about his editorial practices (§ 9 of the introduction, pp. 23-24), we cannot easily fault him. He has also regularly corrected the writing (or lack of writing) of the hamza; this is not an unusual editorial practice, but it can reinforce a false idea of literary Arabic as being more uniform and regular, even in its orthography, that it really is.

The book itself is well made and sturdy, even though it is paperback; there is, in fact, a durable dustcover that fits around the thick cardboard cover itself. The Arabic font is in its shape easy to read and elegant, but the occasionally supplied vowel marks on top of the consonants (i.e. a, an, u, un) really sit too high and encroach on the area properly belonging to the line above. In addition, the font's size is too small and there are too many words per line for comfortable reading, something I have noticed in another Arabic edition from the same publisher: around eighteen words per line. By contrast, the average word-to-line ratio of four other Arabic editions I pulled from my shelf is about 12. I noticed a single typo: on p. 33, in the spelling out of the reference to Al-Rāzī's Kitāb al-ḥāwī fī al-ṭibb, the word Ḥāwī is missing the macron on the a.

De Stefani has done a service to those scholars interested in Arabic medical tradition — I use "Arabic" here simply as a linguistic descriptor; in any case, naming these texts "Islamic" captures only part of the scholarly activity that produced them — and the more general transmission of Greek literature and learning to Syriac and Arabic: we have here another text, well edited, that will become grist for their mill. It might have been yet more useful with the addition of an index verborum to conclude the volume. While the critical text itself, of course, will only be of real use to scholars with Arabic, the editor's introduction will at the least give other readers a clear picture of this particular text, the witnesses to it, and its Nachleben, as well as some general hints as to the work of Ḥunayn and those associated with him.

Table of Contents

Prefazione 11-12
Introduzione 13-30
Ḥunain e il De differentiis febrium
La tradizione manoscritta
La bipartizione della tradizione
Il gruppo S1 S2 S3
La contaminazione e gli scoli di Ḥunain
Problemi stomatici: i codici S1 e M
Altri casi dubbi della recensio
Conclusioni e criteri editoriali
Le citazioni di ar-Rāzī
Alcune caratteristiche della versione araba
La paternità della traduzione
Dopo Ḥunain: brevi cenni sulla fortuna
Bibliografia 30-32
Conspectus codicum 33-34
Galeni De differentiis febrium 35-103


1.   The Risāla was first edited (and translated) in 1925 by Gotthelf Bergsträsser; an improved edition is due to appear shortly from John Lamoreaux.

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