Vatican Palimpsests Digital Recovery of Erased Identities [by A. Németh]


Important medical texts, principally by Galen, were translated very soon into Syriac. The most important testimony of this translation activity is the Syriac Galen Palimpsest, an eleventh-century liturgical Hymnbook which was used in the Melkite (Rum Orthodox) setting. It was entirely copied onto recycled folios of Galen’s treatise, On Simple Drugs, probably translated by Sergius of Resh Ayina in the sixth century. In the process of recycling, the larger folios with texts arranged in two columns were folded to become a bifolio of the new liturgical codex. Several folios of this liturgical book were left in Saint Catherine Monastery on Mt. Sinai. This is how the first two folios of this book (today Vat. sir. 647, f. 39) arrived at the Vatican Library, together with other manuscript fragments from Sinai and probably through the mediation of Friedrich Grote. Incidentally, another folio of the Syriac Galen Palimpsest was added as the last folio (f. 227) to Vat. sir. 623, pt. 2 [cf. G. Kessel, Membra Disjecta Sinaitica I: A Reconstitution of The Syriac Galen Palimpsest, in Manuscripta Graeca et Orientalia: Mélanges monastiques et patristiques en l’honneur de Paul Géhin, édités par A. Binggeli – A. Boud'hors – M. Cassin, Leuven, 2016, pp. 469-496: 474-475].

Vat. sir. 647, f. 39v