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Porphyry, Introduction (or Isagoge) to the logical Categories of Aristotle.  Preface to the online edition

The Isagoge was composed by Porphyry in Sicily during the years 268-270, and sent to Chrysaorium, according to all the ancient commentators Ammonius, Elias, and David.  Porphyry was in Sicily recovering from the suicidal depression into which he fell while living with Plotinus in Rome. It contains a short introduction to the logical categories (Organon) of Aristotle; how abstract ideas are to be classified.

The work was very popular in the middle ages, and the Arbor Porphyrianae of Aquinas was derived from it.  Its authority grew down the centuries, and it was still in use in textbooks in the Orient at the end of the 19th century.

The exact title of the work is not clear.  Three titles come down to us:  

So popular a work is extant in a large number of manuscripts, and in several languages.  All the Greek manuscripts derive from a single copy, written after the work was translated by Boethius.  One copyist changed in his copy every reference to θεὸς (god) to ἄγγελος (angel).

Greek Manuscripts

There are 25 manuscripts of the Greek text.  The manuscripts fall into two families, one better and one less so.  A, B, L, M form the better family; C is the best of the inferior family, which ultimately was used for the Aldine printed text.  



Shelfmark & Notes

Date /


  Urbinas 35.  Parchment, large quarto, 440 folios.  Written by Arethas of Caesarea in a distinctive hand.  Very clearly written.  Fol. 1-20 contain the Isagoge.  Excellent very clear marginalia. 9(end) - 10 (start) 
B Paris, BNF. Coislin 387. Parchment, quarto.  10th century according to the catalogue, but Bruns thought 11th. Brought from Mt. Athos.  241 folios. 42r-54r contain the Isagoge.  Preceded by preface and commentary of Elias. Followed f.54v-108 by another commentary.  Some scholia.  The iota subscript is everywhere omitted. 10 (catalogue), or 11
C Paris, BNF. Coislin 330.  Parchment, quarto.  305 folios.  f.2r-17r contain the Isagoge, the remainder is the Organon of Aristotle, to which it is the introduction.  No scholia. 11
D Munich Monacensis 222. Bombycine, quarto.  242 folios.  f.1-7r contain Ammonius preface to the Isagoge.  Ff.7v-32r contain the Isagoge with scholia from Ammonius and Photius filling margins and some whole pages.  Ff. 33-240 contain the Organon of Aristotle.  ff. 241-2 contain a brief text entitled Porphyry on the 10 categories but which is probably Byzantine.  The text is in Busse.  The manuscript is derived from a copy of the inferior family of the text.  There are corrections. 13 or 14
E Munich Monacensis Aug. 475.  Bombycine, quarto.  304 folios, containing Isagoge and Organon.  ff.1-3 and 10-22 contain the Isagoge.  First folio is of parchment, added later.  ff.4-9 were added later.  4r-6r are excerpts from David; 6v-9v are another copy of the start of the Isagoge from some other codex.  The codex is very carefully written, with few instances of homoeoteleuton.  Many corrections in a second hand; additional 'corrections' in a third hand from an inferior manuscript.  Belongs to the better family of mss. No scholia on the Isagoge.   13, more likely 14.
F Florence Florentinus Badiae 193.  Bombycine, containing the Isagoge and the OrganonIsagoge 1.1-3.18 written by a later hand from an inferior manuscript.  Belongs to the better family of mss.  Carelessly written.  Corrections in the scribe's hand and in a second hand in the margins and above the line. 14
G Paris, BNF. Parisinus Graecus 1971.  Parchment, 32x23 cms.  Most of it was written by various hands in the 13th century, but f.2 and ff.127-136 are 14th century.  The Isagoge is ff.1-10.  Followed by the Organon.  Belongs to the lesser family, except f.2 which belongs to the good family.  Seems to be the manuscript used to 'correct' E by the third hand. 13, some written in 14
H Paris, BNF. Parisinus Graecus 1972.  Bombycine, large.  Contains Isagoge and Organon, with scholia by Leo Magentinus.  Isagoge ff.2v-33v. 13
N Paris, BNF. Coislin 157.  Parchment.  Mutilated at the start.  Isagoge and Organon.   13 or 14
J Paris, BNF Parisinus Graecus 1843.  Bombycine, quarto.  Belongs to the lesser family, with many corruptions. 14, perhaps 13.
K Paris, BNF Parisinus Graecus 1973.  Bombycine, 28x22cms.  The Isagoge is on ff. 2r-9v.  Some good readings, but generally belongs to the inferior family, with many corruptions.  14, possibly 15.
L Florence, Mediceo-Laurentian Florentinus Laurentianus 72,5.  Parchment, large.  The Isagoge is on ff. 7-21.  Many ornate scholia in three hands in the margin.  The oldest scholia (saec. XI) agree with material in the commentary of Elias in B.  Other scholia are later. 11
M Milan, Ambrosian Ambrosianus L. 93 sup.  Parchment.  Contains Isagoge, then a life of Aristotle, then the Organon.  No scholia on the Isagoge.  Same family as O and V. 10
O Paris, BNF. Parisinus Graecus 2051.  Bombycine, 24x16cms.  The Isagoge is on ff.51r-66r, following the commentary of Ammonius on the Isagoge.  Same family as M and V.  Seems to be a copy of V, since marginal corrections in V appear on the line in the text. 14
V Vienna Vindobonensis Graecus 139.  Paper, quarto.  Folios 1-4 preface of Ammonius, Isagoge begins on f. 5r.  Same family as M and O.  Some good readings, but much interpolated.  14
P Paris, BNF. Parisinus Graecus 2086.  Bombycine. 24x18cms.  Torn and damaged by damp.  Some letters have disappeared and been inked over by a later hand.  Isagoge on ff.1-16, but ff.8-9 are later replacements, from a good family but much 'corrected' with corruptions.  No scholia, corrections written above the line. 15 (might be 14).
Venice, Marcianus Marcianus 201.  Parchment, small folio. Date given by subscriptio.  183 ff.  Mostly logical works of Aristotle.  Isagoge on ff. 1r-9r.  On folio 1 the first part has been erased and rewritten omitting various corruptions, sometime in the 14-15th century.  Related to A but cannot be a copy, as has readings in common with B and L.  Corrected from an inferior ms.  Used as the basis for the Aldine printed text. November 955 AD.
RI Venice, Marcianus Marcianus 202.  Paper, small.  Mostly written in the 14th century, but the Isagoge written in the 15th.  The Isagoge begins on f.92r. 15
RII Paris, BNF. Parisinus Graecus 1928.  Paper, 27x21cms.  Isagoge begins f. 34v.  Also contains commentary of Ammonius. 15
RIII Paris, BNF. Parisinus Graecus 1974.  Paper, 29x20cms.  Isagoge is ff.20r-37r, after preface of Ammonius. 15
RIV Paris, BNF. Parisinus Graecus 1975.  Paper, 29x22cms.  Isagoge is ff.1r-12v. 16
RV Paris, BNF. Parisinus Graecus 2085.  Paper, 22x16cms.  Isagoge begins f.1r. 16 (end of)
RVI Paris, BNF. Parisinus Graecus 2120.  Paper, 165x115cms.  Badly written. 16
RVII Paris, BNF. Parisinus Graecus 2511.  Paper. Isagoge starts f.298r.  Grammatical scholia in margin. 15 or 16
Munich. Monacensis 493.  Paper, quarto.  Copied from the Aldine printed edition. 15

The Aldine edition was printed at Venice in November 1495, and contained the Isagoge followed by the Organon.

Latin Manuscripts

The oldest translation was made by Marius Victorinus, to which Boethius refers.  However in many places Victorinus did not understand the text and paraphrased.  Nothing of this has come down to us, except as in Boethius' version.   All the manuscripts are of the latter version.



Shelfmark & Notes

Date /


Paris, BNF.  Parisinus Latinus 11129 (previously Suppl. lat. 1331 D).  Parchment, quarto.  The Isagoge begins on f. 92r, with the title Anicii malii severini boecii in ysagogas porphirii a se translatae editionis secundae liber primus incipit. 11, perhaps 10
B Munich Monacensis 4621.  Parchment, quarto.  Isagoge begins on f. 80v. 11 & 12
C Munich Monacensis 6403.  Parchment, quarto. 11
D Paris, BNF. Parisinus Latinus 6400.  Paper. 15
E Paris, BNF. Parisinus Latinus 6288 (once Colbertinus).  Parchment. 10
L Florence, Mediceo-Laurenziana Laurentianus 89 sup. 80.  Parchment, quarto.  Ff. 1-13 contain the Isagoge, ff.14-72 the commentary on it of Boethius in three books. 11
P Florence, bibl. S. Crucis Ms. 11. sin. 5.  Parchment, quarto.  Isagoge on f. 1-6 without a title. 13
Q Florence, Mediceo-Laurenziana Laurentianus 89 sup. 76.  Parchment, quarto.  Isagoge on f.4-10 without a title. 13
M Florence, bibl. S. Crucis Ms. 11. sin. 1.  Parchment, quarto.  f.1-11, Isagoge without a title.  Related to L. 13
N Florence, bibl. S. Crucis Ms. 11. sin. 2.  Parchment, quarto.  f.1-8, Isagoge without a title.  Derived from M.  Careless copying. 13
O Florence, bibl. S. Crucis Ms. 11. sin. 3.  Parchment, quarto.  f.1-10, Isagoge without a title.  Derived from M.  Related to S, possibly to Q. 13
S Florence, bibl. S. Crucis Ms. 11. sin. 7.  Parchment, quarto.  f.1-5, Isagoge without a title.  Derived from M.  Related to O, possibly to Q. 13 (end)
T Florence, Mediceo-Laurenziana Laurentianus 71,14.  Parchment, quarto. ff.44-51,  Isagoge without a title.  A poor quality text. 15

Oriental Manuscripts

Three Syriac translations of the Isagoge are known.

NOTE (7/4/17): I have received an email from Daniel King at Cardiff University, with corrections to this information.  It seems that there are in fact only two Syriac versions:

- an anonymous version made probably in the 6th century, fully extant only in BL Add.14658 and partly in BL Add.14618

- a revision made by Athanasius of Balad (details as per yr website)

The item on the website about a version by Hunayn is probably false. The ancient catalogues of those Florence mss claimed the author was Hunayn but this is very unlikely.  The ms Florence Laur. 176 (these days the Florence mss have a different numbering system, by the way) is actually a copy of part of Bar Hebraeus' Cream of Wisdom, which was his summary/commentary on Aristotelian logic. The other 2 Florence mss mentioned are both copies of Athanasius of Balad's translation.

Also the mss mentioned for you 'third translation' are just more copies of Athanasius' version.

An Arabic translation was made by Bar-Hebraeus.  His own copy of this, together with the categories of Aristotle, and other works and the Book of the eye is in the Vatican library.  Another copy of this translation is in Paris. Or. 908.  Another translation, by an unnamed author, exists in Vienna in the Palatine collection, Ms. 69.  There are many Arabic commentaries on the work, listed by Wenrich.

NOTE:  Dr King comments:

The first Arabic version appears to be that of Al-Dimashqi. Now this must have been made from a Syriac since Dimashqi did not read Greek, but whether it was based on Athanasius' would require further research.

I am not sure what is meant by BarHebraeus' "translation" mentioned on the website info, but I suspect that arose as a misunderstanding from a catalogue entry. He certainly wrote about it but not, I think, a translation. By his day, there were already multiple Arabic versions in circulation.

An Armenian translation exists, with the commentary of David, and two copies are in Paris, BNF., Ms. Armen. 105 and 106.


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This text was written or translated by Roger Pearse, 2007. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.

Greek text is rendered using unicode.  Syriac is also in unicode, using the Serto Jerusalem font from Beth Mardutho.

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