This is a unpublished Open Letter.



I would like to call the attention of your readers towards a minor problem in the recently rediscovered Euchologion of Mar Saba, known generically as The Archimedes Palimpsest. Originally catalogued by v. Tischendorf in 1846, this book had attached an ex-libris that was lost during its adventurous life. From this ex-libris, it is known that the origin of the manuscript is the Great Lavra of St. Sabas, near Jerusalem. It was assumed that it had arrived to Constantinople as a part of a collection of books moved from Mar Saba to Jerusalem in the early XIXth century, and from there to the Patriarch's Metochion, where Heiberg did his famous reading in 1906.

Now, it happens that the Patriarch bought Mar Saba in 1625, and it was so ruined that a complete restoration was needed as early as 1688. Thus there is a window of possibility for some valuable manuscripts to be moved from Mar Saba to Jerusalem or Constantinople in the middle XVIIth century. This could be justified either in grounds of getting profit of a risky inversion or just as an intent to avoid damage to the books during the expected restoration process. In 1659 Isaac Barrow, cleric, translator of Euclid, expert mathematician and lector of Greek, visited Constantinople libraries asking for readings about "the liturgy of St John Chrysostom ". We have not got any other reference of this visit, perhaps due to Barrow losing his entire luggage in a fire at Venice some years later.

Thus, it is of some relevance to try to confirm or deny this time window. It is because of it that I want to call the attention of your readers upon the question of the ex-libris, as if it were clearly later than 1670 it would definitely close the window. And on the contrary, if it were possible to locate other books with the same kind of ex-libris and having arrived to Constantinople before the XIXth century, it should be possible to claim that the Archimedes Palimpsest was available for early scholars.

Since the description of v. Tischendorf, the book was catalogued by P-K in 1899, then described by Heiberg in 1906, then temporally lost. It was bought by M.L. Sirieix around 1920, then passed to her daughter Anne Guersan in 1946. Prof. J. Bollack in Lille examined it in the 60s, and also Prof. A. Wasserstein and the priest J. Paramelle in the 70s, when it was sent to "Etablissement Mallet", Paris, for consolidation and repairs. Recovery of the original labelling seems, then, unlikely; but inference from oral descriptions, from similar books, or even from physical clues in the book, could be still possible.


							Alejandro Rivero
							EUPT, Universidad de Zaragoza
							44071 Teruel, Spain  

[Postscript 08/3/04] Prof. S.P., who is working with the text in CDROM, has be kind to confirm me that the content of the book starts as usual with St J Chrysostom' liturgy: ovviamente non posso precisare se l'eucologio si trovava già a Costantinopoli nel 1650, ma sono sicuro che all'origine il codice iniziava con la Liturgia di Crisostomo (questa è la sequenza ordinaria delle parti a partire dall'XI secolo), proprio i testo che cercava Barrow! Forse non è molto, ma spero che la norizia ti sia utile

The following is expanded from an appendix at the end of my LLULL article on democritus.

Apéndice 2: Cronología del palimpsesto de Arquímedes.

483: Se funda el monasterio de Mar Saba

Siglo X: Composición del texto matemático.

Siglos XII-XIII:  Sobreescritura de un Eucologio.

1229, April the 14th: Colophon date in the manuscript, according J Lowden.

¿?  el manuscrito recibe un ex-libris de pertenencia a la biblioteca del monasterio de Mar Saba, la Gran Lavra de S. Sabas. Este monasterio fue fundado en el 483 y abandonado en 1440. El ex-libris fue descrito en el siglo XIX (¿v. Tischendorf en 1846?); al parecer se perdió en las posteriores peripecias del manuscrito.

1440: Mar Saba queda abandonado.

1540: Joachim revitaliza el monasterio de Mar Saba.

1623: El monasterio, endeudado, es puesto a la venta.

1625: El monasterio es comprado por el Patriarcado Ortodoxo de Jerusalén.

1659: Isaac Barrow deja Constantinopla, donde ha estado entre uno y dos años. Su equipaje se pierde al incendiarse en Venecia el barco que lo transportaba, y vuelve por tierra a través de Alemania y Holanda.

1688: El patriarca Dositheos solicita autorización para restaurar Mar Saba.

1834: La biblioteca de Mar Saba contiene aún un millar de manuscritos. 

Primer tercio del siglo XIX: Se efectúa al parecer un traslado de manuscritos desde Mar Saba al monasterio del Santo Sepulcro en Jerusalén, perteneciente al patriarcado.

1846: Von Tischendorf "Reise in den Orient", que describe el palimpsesto en la biblioteca del Metochion del Santo Sepulcro en Constantinopla, “hija” de la monasterio de Jerusalén. According v T. (q. by Nigel Wilson, NOVA tv transcript), this library contained about 30 manuscripts. La hoja segunda del manuscrito es llevada a Cambridge(UL Additional 1879.23).

1899: Papadopoulos-Kerameos clasifica el Euchologion en su catalogo de manuscritos del Metochion. (volume 4, codex 355 ?)

1906 y 1908: Heiberg lee el texto matemático en Constantinopla. Lo publica en 1913.

Década de 1920: Marie Louis Sirieix, funcionaria francesa, obtiene el manuscrito.

Década de 1930: Varios manuscritos son transportados a la Biblioteca Nacional de Grecia, pero el palimpsesto no se encuentra entre ellos.

1947: Anne Guersan, hija de M.L. Sirieix, pasa a custodiar el manuscrito.

1956: A la muerte de Sirieix en Paris, Anne y su hijo, Dr. Robert Guersan, quedan como depositarios.

Década de los 60: Jean Bollack, profesor de la Universidad de Lille y vecino de los Guersan, examina el manuscrito.

Década de los 70: El profesor A. Wasserstein y el padre J. Paramelle examinan el texto y sugieren su restauración. La restauración es llevada a cabo por “Etablissement Mallet” en París.

Entre los 70 y los 80: Los Guersan anuncian la venta del manuscrito con una discreta publicidad (200 copias) a diversas instituciones. Varias bibliotecas se interesan por el tema.

1984: un potencial comprador visita a los Guersan.

Marzo 1993: El manuscrito es consignado a Christie´s para su venta.

29 de Octubre de 1998: El manuscrito es subastado en Nueva York. El comprador permanece anónimo, delegando en el anticuario londinense Simon Finch para la puja.

1999: Los juzgados de Nueva York emiten sentencia favorable a la venta del manuscrito.

1999-2000: Exposición pública del manuscrito en The Walters Art Gallery (Abigail Quandt?). El profesor Reviel Netz queda a cargo del trabajo científico sobre el palimpsesto (and Nigel Wilson).

2001-2002: Netz-Kaito-Tchernetska preliminary reading of Proposition 14.

Added 2005: some extra coincidences around the content of The Method

I read in D. Burkhardt that the volume of the cylindrical wedge (ie prop. 14) appears in Kepler "Nova Stereometria..." as theorem XVII. Kepler work is very early in the XVIIth century, and surely inspirating to Cavalieri as much as Luca Valerio and Archimedes were.

The missing "n=4 Archimedean Dome" (as Apostol and Mnatsakian call it) has the same properties that Cavaliery and Galileo' "Scudella" (say, n=infty Dome). It is also logic for architects to study this volume above the Dome, so one can not discard some argument coming from XVIIth century architecture treatises.

remark: actually, Drawings from Galileo and Cavalieri are much in the style of extant drawings of the palimpsest.

remark2: remember that besides the Dome, also a sheet before the wedge result was discarded for the palimpsest, so that the wedge is the last sheet used... what happened to the other sheets?

While Cavalieri letters about the scudella are around 1634, his meeting with Galileo and the common agreement on the idea of "indivisibles" was in January of 1626. Note in the chronology above that the monastery was sold in 1625. Surely any valuation process should include an experts evaluation of the contents of the library, should it?

(rel Kepler) two ways are possible: A) an early circulation of the problems in the palimpsest or the missing extant book. B) A mathematician examining the library in 1623 would jump from seeing one of the "new results" there in.

rel Galileo. Another influences in Jan 1626, beside Kepler, were a amusing reference to Melisso of Samos (via a bee drawing) and an inquisitorial review of his views on atomism (see Redondi and also Mariano Artigas).