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Journal Chacham's Journal: Looking for Galen's De Temperamentis in English

While researching for a personal project I wanted to look at Galen's De Temperamentis. The book talks about temperaments and is referred to near the beginning of Galen's own On the Natural Faculties.

Keirsey and others quote Galen. Some challenge this understanding saying he got Phlegmatics and Cholerics backwards. For this and other reasons i wanted to read the book myself. Alas, i do not read Ancient Greek.

Galen wrote his works in Greek. Some are extant, some are not. Some in Greek, some in Arabic, some in Latin, and not always via one translation. Greek->Arabic->Latin is found, and in some works Greek is not the original source language, that is, the original Greek text is lost, but some ancient scholar translated another version back to Greek.

But it's all available in English, right? No, it is not. :( It is surprising to many that there are very few works of Galen available in English, at least in the public domain. This is somewhat unbelievable; Galen, an important, famous, and prolific author of antiquity, doctor and philosopher, praised both then and now, who, even after a fire destroyed many of his works still has a immense anthology in his name, whose works are in the public domain, are simply unavailable to those of us who do not read ancient Greek, Arabic, and Latin. At first this sounds ok, but with all the information people like, want, and have today, to have such an author of antiquity to be beyond the reach of most people, is indeed hard to believe.

A bit more searching found that Internet Archive via its own efforts and those of Google Books has 8 copies of De Temperamentis online.

The texts are as follows:

Ancient Greek


In the Latin, the first two are the same edition, and the last three are the same edition. I ignored the first three because of the Ancient Greek, and tried the Latin editions. The OCR supplied text is mostly garbled. Saving a page and using an online OCR service also returns mostly nonsense. Ostensibly, the older unclear fonts, the "f" looking like an "s", and not-well-recognized Latin add up to a real problem. Further, the first Latin edition listed above has interspersed commentary. Even if the OCR did work, the commentary would pose a bit of an issue.

Well then, maybe i should try it myself. I took two copies which looked clearest to me, one from each edition: Hieremiae Thriveri... Commentarii in omnes Galeni libros De temperamentis (1547) and Galeni Pergamensis De temperamentis : et De inaequali intemperie libri tres, Thomas Linacro Anglo interprete. Opus non medicis modo, sed et philosophis oppido q[uam] necessariu[m] nunc primum prodit in lucem cum gratia & priuilegio. Impressum apud praeclaram Cantabrigiam per Joannem Siberch, anno MDXXI (1881).

The texts seem fraught with errors. To illustrate, here are the first two sentences from the each edition, with base letters, separate ae into two letters, fixing s/f problems, and adjoining words that are brought together with a hyphen over two lines. Other issues, such as broken words, misplaced punctuation, are left in place.

First edition (Google Translate):

Constare animalium corpora ex calidi, frigidi, sicci, humidiq; temperatura, nec effe horum omnium parem in temperatura portionem, demostratum antiquis abunde eft, tum philofophorum, tum medicorum praecipuis. Diximus autem & nos de ijs , ea quae probabilia suntuisa,alio opere:in quo de ijs, que Hippocrates constituit, elemetis egimus.

Second edition (Google Translate):

Constare animalru corpora ex calidi, frigidi, sicci, humidique mixtura , nec effe horu omniu pare in temperatura portione , demonstratum antiquis abunde eft,tum philofophorum, tu medicorum precipuis. Diximus autem & nos de ijs,ea quae .pbablia sunt uisa alio opere . In quo de ijs,quae Hyppocrates costituit elemetis , egimus.

Correcting the two editions based on each other, and using Google Translate from English back to Latin where neither is translated well, here's what it should read (Google Translate)

Constare animalum corpora ex calidi, frigidi, sicci, humida mixtura, nec effe horu omniu parem in temperies portione, demonstratum antiquis abunde eft, tum philofophorum, tu medicorum praecipuis. Diximus autem & nos de ijs, ea quae probabilia sunt uisa alio opere in quo de ijs, que Hippocrates constituit, elementis egimus.

Note the differences in spelling:

  1. animilium/animalru/animilum (both)
  2. humidiq;/humidique/humida (both)
  3. temperatura/mixtura/mixtura (first)
  4. horum/horu/horu (first)
  5. omnium/omniu/omniu (first)
  6. parem/pare/parem (second)
  7. temperatura/temperatura/temperies (both)
  8. portionem/portione/portione (first)
  9. demostratum/demonstratum/demonstratum (first)
  10. tum/tu/tu (first)
  11. praecipuis/precipuis/praecipuis (second)
  12. que/quae/que (second)
  13. Hippocrates/Hyppocrates/Hippocrates (second!)
  14. constituit/costituit/constituit (second)
  15. elemetis/elemetis/elementis (both)

The first was corrected 10 times, the second, 9 times. Regarding spacing and punctuation, which, admittedly, is mildly arbitrary, the former seems better:


  1. humidiq; (extra semicolon)
  2. ijs , (extra space)
  3. suntuisa,alio (missing space)
  4. suntuisa,alio (comma instead of space)
  5. opere:in (colon instead of space)


  1. mixtura , (extra space)
  2. portione , (extra space)
  3. eft,tum (missing space)
  4. ijs,ea (missing space)
  5. .pbablia (extra period, comma, or something)
  6. opere . (extra period)
  7. ijs,quae (missing space)
  8. elemetis , (extra comma)

This is all from my typing it in and comparing, then going back and "showing the work" for the JE. Note, the f/s difference is not always obvious, and sometimes may also be incorrect. I am not listing those, because i simply can't tell what which one each is supposed to be.

In summary, i tried typing in two sentences. There were 10 spelling errors and 5 punctuation errors in the first edition, and 9 spelling errors and 8 punctuation errors in the second, for a total of 15 or 17 typographical errors, using Google Translate with Latin, and not counting f/s confusion. Most likely, the plate workers did not understand Latin, which would add to the usual mistakes in daily, manual labor. It certainly makes one appreciate modern day word processors.

Typing, correcting, and identifying which word is correct is time consuming. I don't know how long those two sentences took, but even if i would ramp up the speed with familiarity, the ~140 pages would take quite a bit of time. And doing it alone, usually means a less thorough proofreading. This would require some effort.

So, i searched some more, and found a project funded by the Wellcome Trust and supervised by Professor Philip van der Eijk to translate Galen into English, properly. This is an immense effort, as they are using older manuscripts, that is in ancient Greek, where available, and trying to be true to the text.

The funding was awarded in 2009, and the first volumes were set to appear in 2011. Looking on Amazon, however, shows the still unpublished first book with a release date of December 31, 2013. My guess is that is a placeholder for unfinished work. It is also a bit expensive and, ostensibly, not going to be in the public domain.

With all this i sent Professor van der Eijk an email asking about the text. Not that i know how such emails are sent, but nonetheless:

Professor van der Eijk,

  I am interested in Galen's De Temperamentis for research in a personal project, and have been looking online for an English translation. Google and the Internet Archive have a couple Latin translations, but they seem to be of poor quality and the text via OCR is garbled. I even typed in the first two sentences but had to correct a number of words for it to make any sense, at least as is seemed when using Google Translate Latin to English.

I then found your project of translating Galen. I wish to ask, is a translation of De Temperamentis being prepared?

I sent that, yesterday, September 9th. It is far to early to expect a reply.

This leads me to the following conclusion. Galen's works will likely be available in a number of years for purchase, but nothing free online, and certainly not soon.

With this realization i wondered if Kickstarter could be used for a community funded project to make De Temperamentis available in English, for free, online. Galen's other works could also be done, providing there is interest and, of course, source material in the public domain. Such a project would not be a best solution, such as the project funded by the Wellcome Trust. However, it would likely give people what they need, being mostly correct, similar to Wikipedia.

When i mentioned this to a friend of mine, he said he recently saw posting on Slashdot, a Kickstarter project to make Chopin's music available online for free. His former project was very successful ($68,359 pledged of $11,000 goal), and the current campaign seems well on its way to success ($46,562 pledged of $75,000 goal, five days in with 40 days to go). While in some ways his project is different, in others is is similar, that is, to make the old available online for free.

At this point i'm not sure what to do. Try doing some more sentences, make a kickstarter project, search online some more, or give it up. As might be imagined, my mind has been jumping here and there on what to do, wondering if it is even worth the effort, or if it is, what to do next. At least posting this JE makes me a bit more relaxed, having put a lot of this down, finally, in writing.

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Looking for Galen's De Temperamentis in English

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You mean you didn't *know* she was off making lots of little phone companies?