17.01.25, Lamoreaux, ed. and trans., with appendix by Kessel, Hunayn ibn Ishâq on His Galen Translations

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Thérèse-Anne Druart

The Medieval Review 17.01.25

Lamoreaux, John C. and appendix by Grigory Kessel, eds. Hunayn Ibn Ishaq on His Galen Translations. Eastern Christian Texts. Provo: Brigham Young University, 2016. pp. xxxiv, 207. ISBN: 978-0-8425-2934-1 (hardback).

Reviewed by:
Therese-Anne Druart
The Catholic University of America

Hunayn ibn Ishâq (d. 873) from the Church of the East is one of the most famous translators from Greek into Syriac and/or into Arabic. Lamoreaux offers us a critical edition and English translation of Hunayn's catalogue and notes on his translations of Galen's texts, be they medical or philosophical. Hunayn's fascinating text required much skill for its editions as Hunayn conceived of this listing as a work constantly in progress and so manuscript versions reflect various stages of this listing. Lamoreaux clearly explains his principles for the edition and provides variants, etc. in the apparatus criticus as well as extensive notes to the English translation that faces the Arabic text. The brief introduction is to the point and gives the necessary information. The book also includes several very useful appendices:

1. A careful examination of the way Hunayn uses the technical terms Talkhîs, Takhallus and Talakhkhus. Lamoreaux explains that Hunayn often uses these terms to "refer to the process of revising, emending, and editing a work for publication" (137) and so Lamoreaux translates it as "'to produce a corrective edition' or 'to produce a correct edition'" (137).

2. A most useful prosopography of translators and patrons.

3. A list of the works of Galen mentioned by Hunayn, with references to the Greek editions when they do exist, as well as to standard bibliographical discussions of the textual history of Galen's works in Arabic, Greek, Latin and Syriac.

4. An appendix by Grigory Kessel, which consists of an inventory of Galen's extant works in Syriac.

The book, of course, also includes a bibliography and index.

Hunayn's "listing" of his Galen translations, far from being a mere listing, gives us an enormous amount of information about all the translations of Galen's works into Syriac and Arabic of which Hunayn knew and not simply his own or those of his collaborators or of his son--for each of the text he lists--as well as the name of the person for whom such translations were made. The first preface indicates that someone ('Alî ibn Yahyâ?) pointed to Hunayn the need "for a list of what is needed and known of the books of the ancients on medicine, an exposition of the purpose of each of them, and an enumeration of the volumes of each book, as well as what subjects are treated in each volume" (2). Hunayn could not remember all he had translated but he had more or less already done so in Syriac for Galen and so set about preparing an Arabic and updated version of this Syriac text. We should note that Hunayn did not limit himself to Galen's medical works but included his philosophical works. The second preface gives the Arabic version of the original Syriac preface.

Hunayn's text, therefore, is a mine of information, not only about which texts he himself translated, whether from Greek or Syriac and whether into Syriac and/or Arabic, but also about the works of other translators and their quality--he even at times indicates that his own earliest translations needed to be emended as he acquired more experience or gained access to better manuscripts. We learn that some patrons wanted a translation ad litteram, i.e. a very literal translation, while other wanted one ad sensum, i.e. giving the meaning without being so literal. Hunayn's text tells us much about the whole translation movement and who were the patrons. One wonders how Hunayn could translate so many texts, while also composing some of his own, and one cannot help admiring his dedication to, as well as his care for, his translations. One gets a sense of high-level efficiency and of many people being involved in the process of translating themselves or of getting works translated for them. Hunayn's knowledge of Galen's works is amazing as Galen wrote much not only on medicine, but also on philosophy. Thanks to Hunayn and other translators we get some access to works of Galen that are now lost in Greek. Of particular interest are the references to Galen's epitomes of some dialogues of Plato and to some of his own ethical works.

Lamoreaux presents a very careful edition of the Arabic text and an excellent and cautious English translation. His notes are to the point and helpful. One regrets that, for the texts lost in Greek, Lamoreaux does not provide direct reference to the Arabic edition when it exists. For instance, Galen's epitome of Plato's Timaeus was edited and translated into Latin by Paul Kraus & Richard Walzer as Compendium Timaei Platonis aliorumque dialogorum synopsis quae extant fragmenta (Plato arabus 1; London: Warburg Institute, 1951). Hellenists, particularly those interested in Galen's philosophy, which did not fare well in Greek, may be interested in knowing how to have some access to their content. Let us take as example: the text Lamoreaux in his translation called Dispositions of the Soul and which is lost in Greek (120). Hunayn's translation has not yet surfaced but a summary has, which is referred to by a confusing variety of titles. P. Kraus edited it under the title "The Book of Ethics by Galen," Bulletin of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Egypt, 5/1 (1937): 1-51 (Arabic Section) and no less than two English translations of this Arabic Summary exist: one by J. N. Mattock ("A Translation of the Arabic Epitome of Galen's Book Peri Hthôn," in Islamic Philosophy and the Classical Tradition: Essays Presented by his Friends and Pupils to Richard Walzer on his Seventieth Birthday, ed. S. M. Stern, Albert Hourani & Vivian Brown [Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1972], 235-60) and more recently one by Daniel Davies with an introduction by P. N. Singer ("Character Traits," in Galen: Psychological Writings, ed. P. N. Singer [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013], 107-201--this chapter also includes a list of quotations in later Arabic and Hebrew sources).

Even when the Greek has survived, consulting the Arabic translation may be quite useful to establish the text, as P. N. Singer in the book referred to earlier argues, following Bazou (1999, 2011), for The Capacities of the Soul Depend on the Mixture of the Body (pp. 333-424), which Lamoreaux calls That the Faculties of the Soul Follow the Mixtures of the Body (124). I was somewhat surprised that Lamoreaux, who works very carefully, did not refer for the listing and editions of Galen to Véronique Boudon, "Galien de Pergame," in Dictionnaire des Philosophes antiques, III: d'Eccélos à Juvenal, ed. Richard Goulet (Paris: CNRS Éditions: 2000), pp. 440-66, which pays much attention to the philosophical works, including those translated fully in Arabic as well as to those known only to Arabic fragments. Lamoreaux's edition and translation gives us a much better access not only to Hunayn's text, but also to the whole question of translations from Greek into Syriac and/or Arabic and their patrons.

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