Theft and Fraud for Love of Books

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship Vol. 1

“The Ptolemies are said to have resorted to many ingenious devices with a view to adding to the treasures of their Libraries. We are told by Galen (xvii a p. 606) that the numerous vessels which entered the harbour were compelled to surrender any mss which they had on board, and that the owners of these mss had to rest content with copies of the same ; these mss were known as τὰ ὲκ πλοίων [‘the ones from the ships’], and among them (according to one version of the story) was a MS of a book of Hippocrates brought to Alexandria by the physician Mnemon of Side in Pamphylia. Galen is also the authority for the story already quoted (p. 58) as to the way in which the official text of the three great tragic poets of Athens was secured for Alexandria by Ptolemy Euergetes, i.e. either the first of that name (247-222 B.C.), or the second, also known as Ptolemy Physcon (146-117 B.C.). The keenest rivalry arose between the royal patrons of learning at Alexandria and Pergamon. It is even stated that one of the Ptolemies, probably Philadelphus, prohibited the export of paper made from the Egyptian papyrus, and thus led to the use of skins of animals as materials for writing in the reign of the Pergamene prince, Eumenes (I, 263-241 B.C.) But such materials had been long in use, so that we can only infer that improvements in their preparation were introduced at Pergamon. In process of time skins were made smooth for writing on both sides, instead of only one, and the material thus manufactured was called charta pergamena, or ‘parchment’; but the word is not found earlier than the Edict of Diocletian (301 A.D.) Eumenes II (197-159 B.C.) is said to have invited the Alexandrian Librarian, Aristophanes of Byzantium, to leave Alexandria for Pergamon, and the mere suspicion that the Librarian was ready to accept such an invitation prompted Ptolemy Epiphanes (205-182 b.c) to put him in prison. The royal passion for collecting mss at Alexandria and Pergamon naturally led to the fabrication of many spurious works; and to various devices tor giving recent copies a false appearance of antiquity; it also led to careless transcription for the mere sake of rapidity of production.”

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