Lost literary work

A lost work is a document, literary work, or piece of multimedia produced some time in the past, of which no surviving copies are known to exist. It can only be known through reference. This term most commonly applies to works from the classical world, although it is increasingly used in relation to modern works. A work may be lost to history through the destruction of an original manuscript and all later copies.

Works—or, commonly, small fragments of works—have survived by being found by archaeologists during investigations, or accidentally by anybody, such as, for example, the Nag Hammadi library scrolls. Works also survived when they were reused as bookbinding materials, quoted or included in other works, or as palimpsests, where an original document is imperfectly erased so the substrate on which it was written can be reused. The discovery, in 1822, of Cicero's De re publica was one of the first major recoveries of a lost ancient text from a palimpsest. Another famous example is the discovery of the Archimedes palimpsest, which was used to make a prayer book almost 300 years after the original work was written. A work may be recovered in a library, as a lost or mislabeled codex, or as a part of another book or codex.

Well known but not recovered works are described by compilations that did survive, such as the Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder or the De Architectura of Vitruvius. Sometimes authors will destroy their own works. On other occasions, authors instruct others to destroy their work after their deaths. This should have happened with several pieces, but did not, such as Virgil's Aeneid, which was saved by Augustus, and Kafka's novels, which were saved by Max Brod. Handwritten copies of manuscripts existed in limited numbers before the era of printing. The destruction of ancient libraries, whether by intent, chance or neglect, resulted in the loss of numerous works. Works to which no subsequent reference is preserved remain unknown.

Deliberate destruction of works may be termed literary crime or literary vandalism (see book burning).

Lost worksEdit

Classical worldEdit

Specific titlesEdit

  • Agatharchides
    • Ta kata ten Asian (Affairs in Asia) in 10 books
    • Ta kata ten Europen (Affairs in Europe) in 49 books
    • Peri ten Erythras thalasses (On the Erythraean Sea) in 5 books
  • Agrippina the Younger
    • Casus suorum (Misfortunes of her Family, a memoir)
  • Alexander Polyhistor
  • Sulpicius Alexander
    • Historia
  • Anaxagoras
    • Book of Philosophy. Only fragments of the first part have survived.
  • Apollodorus of Athens
    • Chronicle (Χρονικά), a Greek history in verse
    • On the Gods (Περὶ θεῶν), known through quotes to have included etymologies of the names and epithets of the gods
    • A twelve-book essay about Homer's Catalogue of Ships
  • Archimedes
  • Aristarchus of Samos
    • Astronomy book outlining his heliocentrism (astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around a relatively stationary Sun)
  • Aristotle
  • Augustus
    • Rescript to Brutus Respecting Cato
    • Exhortations to Philosophy
    • History of His Own Life
    • Sicily (a work in verse)
    • Epigrams
  • Berossus
    • Babyloniaca (History of Babylonia)
  • Gaius Julius Caesar
    • Anticatonis Libri II (only fragments survived)
    • Carmina et prolusiones (only fragments survived)
    • De analogia libri II ad M. Tullium Ciceronem
    • De astris liber
    • Dicta collectanea ("collected sayings", also known by the Greek title άποφθέγματα)
    • Letters (only fragments survived)
      • Epistulae ad Ciceronem
      • Epistulae ad familiares
    • Iter (only one fragment survived)
    • Laudes Herculis
    • Libri auspiciorum ("books of auspices", also known as Auguralia)
    • Oedipus
    • other works:
      • contributions to the libri pontificales as pontifex maximus
      • possibly some early love poems
  • Callinicus
    • Against the Philosophical Sects
    • On the Renewal of Rome
    • Prosphonetikon to Gallienus, a salute addressed to the emperor
    • To Cleopatra, On the History of Alexandria, most likely dedicated to Zenobia, who claimed descent from Cleopatra
    • To Lupus, On Bad Taste on Rhetoric
  • Callisthenes
  • Cato the Elder
    • Origines, a 7-book history of Rome and the Italian states.
    • Carmen de moribus, a book of prayers or incantations for the dead in verse.
    • Praecepta ad Filium, a collection of maxims.
    • A collection of his speeches.
  • Marcus Tullius Cicero
    • Hortensius a dialogue also known as "On Philosophy".
    • Consolatio, written to soothe his own sadness at the death of his daughter Tullia
  • Quintus Tullius Cicero
    • Four tragedies in the Greek style: Troas, Erigones, Electra, and one other.
  • Helvius Cinna
    • Zmyrna, a mythological epic poem about the incestuous love of Smyrna (or Myrrha) for her father Cinyras
  • Claudius
    • De arte aleae ('"The art of playing dice, a book on dice games)
    • an Etruscan dictionary
    • an Etruscan history
    • a history of Augustus' reign
    • eight volumes on Carthaginian history
    • a defense of Cicero against the charges of Asinius Gallus
  • Cleitarchus
  • Ctesibius
    • On pneumatics, a work describing force pumps
    • Memorabilia, a compilation of his research works
  • Ctesias
    • Persica, a history of Assyria and Persia in 23 books
    • Indica, an account of India
  • Diodorus Siculus
    • Bibliotheca historia (Historical Library). Of 40 books, only books 1–5 and 10–20 are extant.
  • Eratosthenes
    • Περὶ τῆς ἀναμετρήσεως τῆς γῆς (On the Measurement of the Earth; lost, summarized by Cleomedes)
    • Geographica (lost, criticized by Strabo)
    • Arsinoe (a memoir of queen Arsinoe; lost; quoted by Athenaeus in the Deipnosophistae)
  • Euclid
    • Conics, a work on conic sections later extended by Apollonius of Perga into his famous work on the subject.
    • Porisms, the exact meaning of the title is controversial (probably "corollaries").
    • Pseudaria, or Book of Fallacies, an elementary text about errors in reasoning.
    • Surface Loci concerned either loci (sets of points) on surfaces or loci which were themselves surfaces.
  • Eudemus
    • History of Arithmetics, on the early history of Greek arithmetics (only one short quote survives)
    • History of Astronomy, on the early history of Greek astronomy (several quotes survive)
    • History of Geometry, on the early history of Greek geometry (several quotes survive)
  • Verrius Flaccus
    • De Orthographia: De Obscuris Catonis, an elucidation of obscurities in the writings of Cato the Elder
    • Saturnus, dealing with questions of Roman ritual
    • Rerum memoria dignarum libri, an encyclopaedic work much used by Pliny the Elder
    • Res Etruscae, probably on augury
  • Frontinus
    • De re militari, a military manual
  • Gorgias
    • On Non-Existence (or On Nature). Only two sketches of it exist.
    • Epitaphios. What exists is thought to be only a small fragment of a significantly longer piece.
  • The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women
  • Homer
    • Margites
    • The Odyssey mentions the blind singer Demodocus performing a poem recounting the otherwise unknown "Quarrel of Odysseus and Achilles", which might have been an actual work that did not survive
  • Livy
  • Longinus
    • On The End: by Longinus in answer to Plotinus and Gentilianus Amelius (preface survives, quoted by Porphyry)
    • On Impulse
    • On Principles
    • Lover of Antiquity
    • On the Natural Life
    • Difficulties in Homer
    • Whether Homer is a Philosopher
    • Homeric Problems and Solutions
    • Things Contrary to History which the Grammarians Explain as Historical
    • On Words in Homer with Multiple Senses
    • Attic Diction
    • Lexicon of Antimachus and Heracleon
  • Lucan
    • Catachthonion
    • Iliacon from the Trojan cycle
    • Epigrammata
    • Adlocutio ad Pollam
    • Silvae
    • Saturnalia
    • Medea
    • Salticae Fabulae
    • Laudes Neronis, a praise of Nero
    • Orpheus
    • Prosa oratio in Octavium Sagittam
    • Epistulae ex Campania
    • De Incendio Urbis
  • Gaius Maecenas
    • Prometheus; descriptive fragments from some other authors survive. Construct of book is surmised by researchers.
  • Manetho
    • Ægyptiaca (History of Egypt) in three books. Only few fragments survive.
  • Memnon of Heraclea
  • Minucianus, son of Nicagoras the Athenian sophist
    • Art of Rhetoric
    • Progymnasmata
  • Nicagoras, Athenian sophist
    • Lives of Famous People
    • On Cleopatra in Troas
    • Embassy Speech to Philip the Roman Emperor
  • Nicander
    • Aetolica, a prose history of Aetolia.
    • Heteroeumena, a mythological epic.
    • Georgica and Melissourgica, of which considerable fragments are preserved.
  • Ovid
    • Medea, of which only two fragments survive.
  • Pamphilus of Alexandria
    • Comprehensive lexicon in 95 books of foreign or obscure words.
  • Pherecydes of Leros
    • A history of Leros
    • On Iphigeneia, an essay
    • On the Festivals of Dionysus
  • Pherecydes of Athens
    • Genealogies of the gods and heroes, originally in ten books; numerous fragments have been preserved.
  • Pherecydes of Syros
    • Heptamychia
  • Philo of Byblos
    • Phoenician History, a Greek translation of the original Phoenician book attributed to Sanchuniathon. Considerable fragments have been preserved, chiefly by Eusebius in the Praeparatio evangelica (i.9; iv.16).
  • Pliny the Elder
    • History of the German Wars, some quotations survive in Tacitus's Annals and Germania
    • Studiosus, a detailed work on rhetoric
    • Dubii sermonis, in eight books
    • History of his Times, in thirty-one books, also quoted by Tacitus.
    • De jaculatione equestri, a military handbook on missiles thrown from horseback.
  • Gaius Asinius Pollio
    • Historiae (Histories)
    • Epitome by Gaius Asinius Pollio of Tralles
  • Praxagoras
    • History of Constantine the Great (known from a précis by Photius[2]).
  • Prodicus
    • On Nature
    • On the Nature of Man
    • "On Propriety of Language"
    • On the Choice of Heracles
  • Protagoras
    • "On the Gods" (essay)
    • On the Art of Disputation
    • On the Original State of Things
    • On Truth
  • Pytheas of Massalia
    • τὰ περὶ τοῦ Ὠκεανοῦ (ta peri tou Okeanou) "On the Ocean"
  • Gaius Asinius Quadratus
    • The Millennium, a thousand-year history of Rome; thirty fragments remain
  • Quintilian
    • De Causis Corruptae Eloquentiae (On the Causes of Corrupted Eloquence)
  • Seneca the Younger
    • Book on signs, 5000 were compiled
    • Against Superstitions, Augustine preserved some passages.
  • Septimius Severus
    • Autobiography
  • The Hellespontine Sibyl
  • Socrates
  • Speusippus
    • On Pythagorean Numbers
  • Strabo
    • History
  • Suetonius
    • De Viris Illustribus (On Famous Men — in the field of literature), to which belongs: De Illustribus Grammaticis (Lives Of The Grammarians), De Claris Rhetoribus (Lives Of The Rhetoricians), and Lives Of The Poets. Some fragments exist.
    • Lives of Famous Whores
    • Royal Biographies
    • Roma (On Rome), in four parts: Roman Manners & Customs, The Roman Year, The Roman Festivals, and Roman Dress.
    • Greek Games
    • On Public Offices
    • On Cicero’s Republic
    • The Physical Defects of Mankind
    • Methods of Reckoning Time
    • An Essay on Nature
    • Greek Terms of Abuse
    • Grammatical Problems
    • Critical Signs Used in Books
  • Sulla
  • Thales
    • On the Solstice (possible lost work)
    • On the Equinox (possible lost work)
  • Tiberius
    • Autobiography ("brief and sketchy", per Suetonius)
  • Trajan
  • Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus
    • Memoirs of the civil wars after the death of Caesar, used by Suetonius and Plutarch
    • Bucolic poems in Greek
  • Varro
    • Saturarum Menippearum libri CL or Menippean Satires in 150 books
    • Antiquitates rerum humanarum et divinarum libri XLI
    • Logistoricon libri LXXVI
    • Hebdomades vel de imaginibus
    • Disciplinarum libri IX
  • Zenobia
    • Epitome of the history of Alexandria and the Orient (according to the Historia Augusta)
  • Zoticus
    • Story of Atlantis, a poem mentioned by Porphyry
  • The work of the Cyclic poets (excluding Homer), specifically:

Unnamed worksEdit

  • Lost plays of Aeschylus. He is believed to have written some 90 plays, of which six plays survive. A seventh play is attributed to him. Fragments of his play Achilleis were said to have been discovered in the wrappings of a mummy in the 1990s.[3]
  • Lost plays of Agathon. None of these survive.
  • Lost poems of Alcaeus of Mytilene. Of a reported ten scrolls, there exist only quotes and numerous fragments.
  • Lost choral poems of Alcman. Of six books of choral lyrics that were known (ca. 50–60 hymns), only fragmentary quotations in other Greek authors were known until the discovery of a fragment in 1855, containing approximately 100 verses. In the 1960s, many more fragments were discovered and published from a dig at Oxyrhynchus.
  • Lost poems of Anacreon. Of the five books of lyrical pieces mentioned in the Suda and by Athenaeus, only mere fragments collected from the citations of later writers now exist.
  • Lost works of Anaximander. There are a few extant fragments of his works.
  • Lost works of Apuleius in many genres, including a novel, Hermagoras, as well as poetry, dialogues, hymns, and technical treatises on politics, dendrology, agriculture, medicine, natural history, astronomy, music, and arithmetic.
  • Lost plays of Aristarchus of Tegea. Of 70 pieces, only the titles of three of his plays, with a single line of the text, have survived.
  • Lost plays of Aristophanes. He wrote 40 plays, 11 of which survive.
  • Lost works of Aristotle. It is believed that we have about one third of his original works.[4]
  • Lost work of Aristoxenus. He is said to have written 453 works, dealing with philosophy, ethics and music. His only extant work is Elements of Harmony.
  • Lost works of the historian Arrian.
  • Lost works of Callimachus. Of about 800 works, in verse and prose; only six hymns, 64 epigrams and some fragments survive; a considerable fragment of the epic Hecale, was discovered in the Rainer papyri.
  • Lost works of Chrysippus. Of over 700 written works, none survive, except a few fragments embedded in the works of later authors.
  • Lost works of Cicero. Of his books, six on rhetoric have survived, and parts of seven on philosophy. Books 1–3 of his work De re publica have survived mostly intact, as well as a substantial part of book 6. A dialogue on philosophy called Hortensius, which was highly influential on Augustine of Hippo, is lost. Part of De Natura Deorum is lost.
  • Lost works of Cleopatra including books on medicine, charms, and cosmetics (according to the historian Al-Masudi).
  • Lost works of Clitomachus. According to Diogenes Laërtius, he wrote some 400 books, of which none are extant today, although a few titles are known.
  • Lost plays of Cratinus. Only fragments of his works have been preserved.
  • Lost works of Democritus. He wrote extensively on natural philosophy and ethics, of which little remains.
  • Lost works of Diogenes of Sinope He is reported to have written several books, none of which has survived to the present date. Whether or not these books were actually his writings or attributions are in dispute.
  • Lost works of Diphilus. He is said to have written 100 comedies, the titles of 50 of which are preserved.
  • Lost works of Ennius. Only fragments of his works survive.
  • Lost works of Enoch. According to the Second Book of Enoch, the prophet wrote 360 manuscripts.[5]
  • Lost works of Empedocles. Little of what he wrote survives today.
  • Lost plays of Epicharmus of Kos. He wrote between 35 and 52 comedies, many of which have been lost or exist only in fragments.
  • Lost plays of Euripides. He is believed to have written over 90 plays, 18 of which have survived. Fragments, some substantial, of most other plays also survive.
  • Lost plays of Eupolis. Of the 17 plays attributed to him, only fragments remain.
  • Lost works of Heraclitus. His writings only survive in fragments quoted by other authors.
  • Lost works of Hippasus. Few of his original works now survive.
  • Lost works of Hippias. He is credited with an excellent work on Homer, collections of Greek and foreign literature, and archaeological treatises, but nothing remains except the barest notes.
  • Lost orations of Hyperides. Some 79 speeches were transmitted in his name in antiquity. A codex of his speeches was seen at Buda in 1525 in the library of King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, but was destroyed by the Turks in 1526. In 2002, Natalie Tchernetska of Trinity College, Cambridge discovered and identified fragments of two speeches of Hyperides that have been considered lost, Against Timandros and Against Diondas. Six other orations survive in whole or part.
  • Lost poems of Ibycus. According to the Suda, he wrote seven books of lyrics.
  • Lost works of Juba II. He wrote a number of books in Greek and Latin on history, natural history, geography, grammar, painting and theatre. Only fragments of his work survive.
  • Lost works of Leucippus. No writings exist which we can attribute to him.
  • Lost works of Lucius Varius Rufus. The author of the poem De morte and the tragedy Thyestes praised by his contemporaries as being on a par with the best Greek poets. Only fragments survive.
  • Lost works of Melissus of Samos. Only fragments preserved in other writers' works exist.
  • Lost plays of Menander. He wrote over a hundred comedies of which one survives. Fragments of a number of his plays survive.
  • Lost poems of Phanocles. He wrote some poems about homosexual relationships among heroes of the mythical tradition of which only one survives, along with a few short fragments.
  • Lost works of Philemon. Of his 97 works, 57 are known to us only as titles and fragments.
  • Lost poetry of Pindar. Of his varied books of poetry, only his victory odes survive in complete form. The rest are known only by quotations in other works or papyrus scraps unearthed in Egypt.
  • Lost plays of Plautus. He wrote approximately 130 plays, of which 21 survive.
  • Lost poems and orations of Pliny the Younger.
  • Rhetorical works of Julius Pollux.
  • There exists a list of more than 60 lost works in many genres by the philosopher Porphyry, including Against the Christians (of which only fragments survive).
  • Lost works of Posidonius. All of his works are now lost. Some fragments exist, as well as titles and subjects of many of his books.[1]
  • Lost works of Proclus. A number of his commentaries on Plato are lost.
  • Lost works of Pyrrhus. He wrote Memoirs and several books on the art of war, all now lost. According to Plutarch, Hannibal was influenced by them and they received praise from Cicero.
  • Lost works of Pythagoras. No texts by him survived.
  • Lost plays of Rhinthon. Of 38 plays, only a few titles and lines have been preserved.
  • Lost poems of Sappho. Only a few full poems and fragments of others survive. It has been hypothesized that poems 61 and 62 of Catullus were inspired by lost works of Sappho.
  • Lost poems of Simonides of Ceos. Of his poetry we possess two or three short elegies, several epigrams and about 90 fragments of lyric poetry.
  • Lost plays of Sophocles. Of 123 plays, seven survive, with fragments of others.
  • Lost poems of Sulpicia, who wrote erotic poems of conjugal bliss and was herself the subject of two poems by Martial, who wrote (10.35) that "All girls who desire to please one man should read Sulpicia. All husbands who desire to please one wife should read Sulpicia."
  • Lost poems of Stesichorus. Of several long works, significant fragments survive.
  • Lost works of Theodectes. Of his 50 tragedies, we have the names of about 13 and a few unimportant fragments. His treatise on the art of rhetoric and his speeches are lost.
  • Lost works of Theophrastus. Of his 227 books, only a handful survive, including On Plants and On Stones, but On Mining is lost. Fragments of others survive.
  • Lost works of Timon. None of his works survive except where he is quoted by others, mainly Sextus Empiricus.
  • Lost works of Tiro. A biography of Cicero in at least four books is referenced by Asconius Pedianus in his commentaries on Cicero's speeches.[6]
  • Lost works of Xenophanes. Fragments of his poetry survive only as quotations by later Greek writers.
  • Lost works of Zeno of Elea. None of his works survive intact.
  • Lost works of Zeno of Citium. None of his writings have survived except as fragmentary quotations preserved by later writers.

Amerindian texts and codicesEdit

Ancient Chinese textsEdit

Ancient Indian textsEdit

  • Jaya and Bharata, early versions of the Hindu epic Mahabharata
  • Bārhaspatya-sūtras, the foundational text of the Cārvāka school of philosophy. The text probably dates from the final centuries BC, with only fragmentary quotations of it surviving.
  • Valayapathi, Tamil epic poem, only fragments survive.
  • Kundalakesi, Tamil epic poem, only fragments survive.

Ancient Egyptian textsEdit

  • The Book of Thoth, a legendary manuscript alluded to in Egyptian literature believed to contain the secrets to comprehend the power of the gods and speech of animals.[8]
  • Additionally, thousands of other pieces are attributed to the deity Thoth. Seleuces noted that the number of his writings was 20,000 while Manetho held it was 36,525.[9]

Avestan textsEdit

  • Avesta, the holy book of Zoroaster. After Alexander's conquest, avesta was fragmented and it has been said only third of it survived orally.
  • Avesta recollected in 21 volumes, in Sasanian era, only a quarter of which survive.

Gnostic textsEdit

Pahlavi / Middle-Persian textsEdit

  • Khwātay-Nāmag (Book of Lords) : A chronological history of Iranian kings from the mythical era to the end of Sasanian period. This book was an important reference for post-Sasanian and Islamic historians such as Ibn al-MuqffaIbn al-Muqaffa' as well as Ferdowsi in his epic work Shahnameh'".
  • Ewen-Nāmag: Multi-volume book on Iranian ceremonies, entertainment, warfare, politics, precepts, principles and examples in the Sasanian era.
  • Zij-i Shahryār: An important work of astronomy.
  • Karirak ud Damanak: A version translated into Pahlavi of the Indian work of fiction Pancatantra.
  • Hazār Afsān or Thousand Tales: A Pahlavi compilation of Iranian and Indian tales. This work was translated to Arabic in the Islamic era and became known as One Thousand and One Nights.
  • Mazdak-Nāmag: Biography of Mazdak, the Zoroastrian reformer and the primate of Mazdakism movement.
  • Kārvand: A book of rhetoric.
  • Jāvidan Khrad (Immortal wisdom): Quotations of the mythical Iranian king and sage Hushang.
  • Scientific Works of Gondishapur Academy: Works of Greek, Indian, and Persian scholars of the Academy of Gondishapur on medicine, astrology, and philosophy. A remarkable part of their heritage was translated into Arabic during the Graeco-Arabic translation movement.

The Middle-Persian literature had a remarkable diversity based on historical accounts. Only a poor part of mostly religious texts survived by Zoroastrian minorities in Persia and India.

Manichaean textsEdit

Lost Biblical textsEdit

Lost texts referenced in the Old TestamentEdit

Lost works referenced in Deutero-canonical textsEdit

Lost works referenced in the New TestamentEdit

Lost works pertaining to JesusEdit

(These works are generally 2nd century and later; some would be considered reflective of proto-orthodox Christianity, and others would be heterodox.)

2nd centuryEdit

  • Hegesippus' Hypomnemata (Memoirs) in five books, and a history of the Christian church.
  • The Gospel of the Lord compiled by Marcion of Sinope to support his interpretation of Christianity. Marcion's writings were suppressed but a portion of them have been recreated from the works that were used to denounce them.
  • Papias' Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord in five books, mentioned by Eusebius of Caesarea.

3rd centuryEdit

  • Edict of Decius, 250 AD
  • Various works of Tertullian. Some fifteen works in Latin or Greek are lost, some as recently as the 9th century (De Paradiso, De superstitione saeculi, De carne et anima were all extant in the now damaged Codex Agobardinus in 814 AD).

4th centuryEdit

5th centuryEdit

  • Sozomen's history of the Christian church, from the Ascension of Jesus to the defeat of Licinius in 323, in twelve books.

6th centuryEdit

7th centuryEdit

Anglo-Saxon worksEdit

12th centuryEdit

14th centuryEdit

  • Inventio Fortunata. A 14th-century description of the geography of the North Pole.
  • Itinerarium. A geography book by Jacobus Cnoyen of 's-Hertogenbosch, cited by Gerardus Mercator
  • Res gestae Arturi britanni (The Deeds of Arthur of Britain). A book cited by Jacobus Cnoyen
  • Of the Wreched Engendrynge of Mankynde, Origenes upon the Maudeleyne, and The book of the Leoun. Three works by Geoffrey Chaucer.
  • The Coventry Mystery Plays, a cycle of which only two plays survive.
  • Carostavnik or Rodoslov. Old Serbian biography enters a new—historiographic or even chronographic—phase with the appearance of the so-called Vita, better yet "Lives of Serbian Kings and Archbishops" by Danilo II, Serbian Archbishop formerly Abbot of the Hilandar Monastery and his successors, most of whom remained anonymous.
  • Vrhobreznica Chronicle originates in 1371 but the work is not transcribed until two and half centuries later by a writer named Gavrilo, a hermit, who collected earlier annals in his redaction composed in 1650 at the Vrhobreznica monastery. Part of a manuscript archived as Prague Museum #29 (together with Vrhobreznica Genealogy).
  • Koporin Chronicle – a 1371 chronicle transcribed in 1453 by Damjan, a deacon, who also wrote the annals on the order of Archbishop of Zeta, Josif, at the Koporin monastery.
  • Studenica Chronicle – a 14th century chronicle from 1350–1400. Oldest survived copy in a 16th-century manuscript, together with a younger annals.
  • Cetinje Chronicle covers events from 14th century until the end of 16th century, though the manuscript collection is from the end of the 16th century.

15th centuryEdit

  • Yongle Encyclopedia (永乐大典; 永樂大典; Yǒnglè Dàdiǎn; 'The Great Canon [or Vast Documents] of the Yongle Era'). It was one of the world's earliest, and the then-largest, encyclopaedia commissioned by the Yongle Emperor of China's Ming dynasty in 1403, completed about 1408. About 400 volumes (less than 4%) of a 16th-century manuscript set survive today.[16]
  • François Villon's poem "The Romance of the Devil's Fart."

16th centuryEdit

17th centuryEdit

18th centuryEdit

  • All poems and literary works by Carlo Gimach, except for the cantata Applauso Genetliaco, are believed to be lost.[18]
  • Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's journal was burnt by her daughter on the grounds that it contained much scandal and satire.
  • Edward Gibbon burned the manuscript of his History of the Liberty of the Swiss.
  • Adam Smith had most of his manuscripts destroyed shortly before his death. In his last years he had been working on two major treatises, one on the theory and history of law and one on the sciences and arts. The posthumously published Essays on Philosophical Subjects (1795) probably contain parts of what would have been the latter treatise.[19]
  • The Green-Room Squabble or a Battle Royal between the Queen of Babylon and the Daughter of Darius, a 1756 play by Samuel Foote, is lost.
  • Numerous works by J. S. Bach, notably at least two large-scale Passions and many cantatas (see List of Bach cantatas) are lost.
  • Mozart's Cello Concerto in F and Trumpet Concerto are lost.
  • Beethoven's 1793 'Ode to Joy', which was later incorporated into his ninth Symphony
  • Haydn's "Double Bass Concerto", of which only the first two measures survive; the rest were burned and destroyed. Supposedly a copy of it may exist somewhere, according to many different speculations.
  • Personal letters between George Washington and his wife Martha Washington; all but three destroyed by Mrs. Washington after his death in 1799.

19th centuryEdit

  • Aaron Burr's farewell address to the senate in 1805 has been lost, though the general outlines are known through contemporaneous comments.[20]
  • Memoirs of Lord Byron, destroyed by his literary executors led by John Murray on 17 May 1824. The decision to destroy Byron's manuscript journals, which was opposed only by Thomas Moore, was made in order to protect his reputation. The two volumes of memoirs were dismembered and burnt in the fireplace at Murray's office.
  • The Scented Garden by Sir Richard Francis Burton, a manuscript of a new translation from Arabic of The Perfumed Garden, was burned by his widow, Lady Isabel Burton née Arundel, along with other papers.
  • A large number of manuscripts and longer poems by William Blake were burnt soon after his death by Mr. Frederick Tatham.
  • Parts two and three of Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, burned by Gogol at the instigation of the priest Father Matthew Konstantinovskii.
  • At least four complete volumes and around seven pages of text are missing from Lewis Carroll's thirteen diaries, destroyed by his family for reasons frequently debated.
  • The son of the Marquis de Sade had all of de Sade's unpublished manuscripts burned after de Sade's death in 1814; this included the immense multi-volume work Les Journées de Florbelle.
  • A large section of the manuscript for Mary Shelley's Lodore was lost in the mail to the publisher, and Shelley was forced to rewrite it.
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins burned all his early poetry on entering the priesthood.
  • In the Suspiria de Profundis of Thomas De Quincey, 18 of 32 pieces have not survived.
  • Alexander Ivanovich Galich's completed manuscripts Universal Rights and Philosophy of Human History were destroyed in a fire, an event the grieved Galich did not long survive.
  • Margaret Fuller's manuscript on the history of the 1849 Roman Republic was lost in the 1850 shipwreck in which Fuller herself, her husband and her child perished. In Fuller's own estimation, as well as of others who saw it, this work, based on her first-hand experience in Rome, might have been her most important work.
  • A schoolmate of Arthur Rimbaud claimed that he lost a notebook of poems by the famous poet, the "Cahier Labarrière", which reportedly contained about 60 poems (if true, and if all were distinct from his known verse poems, this would represent about as much in volume).[21] Paul Verlaine also mentioned a text called "La Chasse spirituelle", claiming it to be Rimbaud's masterpiece, which was never found (although a fake was published in 1949).
  • The first draft of Thomas Carlyle's The French Revolution: A History was sent to John Stuart Mill, whose maid mistakenly burned it, forcing Carlyle to rewrite it from scratch.
  • Joseph Smith's translation of the Book of Lehi from the Mormon Golden Plates was either hidden, destroyed, or modified by Lucy Harris, the wife of transcriber Martin Harris. Whatever their fate, the pages were not returned to Joseph Smith and declared "lost." Smith did not recreate the translation.
  • Isle of the Cross, Herman Melville's followup to the unsuccessful Pierre was rejected by his publishers and has subsequently been lost.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson burned his first completed draft of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde after his wife criticized the work. Stevenson wrote and published a revised version.
  • Abraham Lincoln's Lost Speech, given on May 29, 1856, in Bloomington, Illinois. Traditionally regarded as lost because it was so engaging that reporters neglected to take notes, the speech is believed to have been an impassioned condemnation of slavery.
  • L. Frank Baum's theatre in Richburg, New York burned to the ground. Among the manuscripts of Baum's original plays known to have been lost are The Mackrummins, Matches (which was being performed the night of the fire), The Queen of Killarney, Kilmourne, or O'Connor's Dream, and the complete musical score for The Maid of Arran, which survives only in commercial song sheets, which include six of the eight songs and no instrumental music.
  • Leon Trotsky describes the loss of an unfinished play manuscript (a collaboration with Sokolovsky) in his My Life, end of chapter 6 (sometime between 1896 and 1898).[22]
  • The Poor Man and the Lady. Thomas Hardy's first novel (1867) was never published. After rejection by several publishers, he destroyed the manuscript.
  • George Gissing abandoned many novels and destroyed the incomplete manuscripts. He also completed at least three novels which went unpublished and have been lost.[23]
  • John P. Marquand wrote an early novel called Yellow Ivory in collaboration with his friend W.A. Macdonald.[24]
  • During the many years of his career, Mark Twain produced a vast number of pieces, of which a considerable part, especially in his earlier years, was published in obscure newspapers under a great variety of pen names, or not published at all. Joe Goodman, who had been Twain's editor when he worked at the Virginia City, Nevada, "Territorial Enterprise", declared in 1900 that Twain wrote some of the best material of his life during his "Western years" in the late 1860s, but most of it was lost. [2] In addition, many of Twain's speeches and lectures have been lost or were never written down. Researchers continue to seek this material, some of which was rediscovered as recently as 1995.
  • Although frequently referenced in the Oxford English Dictionary and traceable in several catalogues of libraries and booksellers, no copy of the 1852 book Meanderings of Memory by Nightlark could be tracked down.
  • The Reverend Francis Kilvert's diaries were edited and censored, possibly by his widow, after his death in 1879. In the 1930s, the surviving diaries were passed on to William Plomer, who transcribed them, before returning the originals to Kilvert's closest living relative, a niece, who destroyed most of the manuscripts. Plomer's own transcription was destroyed in the Blitz. He only learned of the originals' destruction when he planned to publish a complete edition in the 1950s.
  • Jean Sibelius's Karelia Music was destroyed after its premiere in 1893. What survives today fully are the Karelia Ouverture and the Karelia Suite. Most of the music was reconstructed in 1965 by Kalevi Kuosa, from the original parts that had survived. The parts that hadn't survived were those of the violas, cellos, and double basses. Based on Kuosa's transcription, the Finnish composers Kalevi Aho and Jouni Kaipainen have individually reconstructed the complete music to Karelia Music.

20th centuryEdit

  • James Joyce's play A Brilliant Career (which he burned) and the first half of his novel Stephen Hero. His grandson Stephen later burned Nora Joyce's letters to James as well.
  • J. Meade Falkner left an almost complete fourth and last novel on a train and felt he was too old to start again.
  • A number of Scott Joplin's compositions have been lost, including his first opera, A Guest of Honor.
  • Various parts of Daniel Paul Schreber's "Memoirs of My Nervous Illness" (original German title "Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken") (1903) were destroyed by his wife and doctor Flesching for protecting his reputation, which was mentioned by Sigmund Freud as highly important in his essay "The Schreber Case" (1911).
  • L. Frank Baum wrote four novels for adults that were never published and disappeared: Our Married Life and Johnson (1912), The Mystery of Bonita (1914), and Molly Oodle (1915). Baum's son claimed that Baum's wife burned these, but this was after being cut out of her will. Evidence that Baum's publisher received these manuscripts survives. Also lost are Baum's 1904 short stories "Mr. Rumple's Chill" and "Bess of the Movies", as well as his early plays Kilmourne, or O'Connor's Dream (opened April 4, 1883) and The Queen of Killarney (1883).
  • In 1907, August Strindberg destroyed a play, The Bleeding Hand, immediately after writing it. He was in a bad mood at the time and commented in a letter that the piece was unusually harsh, even for him.
  • "Text I" of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a 250,000-word manuscript by T. E. Lawrence lost at Reading railway station in December 1919.
  • In 1922, a suitcase with almost all of Ernest Hemingway's work to date was stolen from a train compartment at the Gare de Lyon in Paris, from his wife. It included a partial World War I novel.
  • The novels Tobold and Theodor by Robert Walser are lost, possibly destroyed by the author, as is a third, unnamed novel. (1910–1921)
  • The original version of Ultramarine by Malcolm Lowry was stolen from his publisher's car in 1932, and the author had to reconstruct it.
  • Jean Sibelius burned his unfinished 8th Symphony and several of his unfinished works in the 1920s
  • Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi quotes extensively from Richard Wright's travel diaries in 1935/6. Following Wright's death they have become 'lost'.
  • In 1938 George Orwell wrote Socialism and War, an "anti-war pamphlet" for which he could not find a publisher. Although many previously unknown letters and other documents relating to Orwell have been discovered in recent years, no trace of this pamphlet has yet come to light. With the beginning of World War II Orwell's views on pacifism were to change radically, so he may well have destroyed the manuscript.
  • Lost papers and a possible unfinished novel by Isaac Babel, confiscated by the NKVD, May 1939.[25]
  • Manuscript of Efebos, a novel by Karol Szymanowski, destroyed in bombing of Warsaw, 1939.
  • Five volumes of poetry and a drama, all in manuscript, by Saint-John Perse were destroyed at his house outside Paris soon after he had gone into exile in the summer of 1940. The diplomat Alexis Léger (Perse's real name) was a well-known and uncompromising anti-Nazi and his house was raided by German troops. The works had been written during his diplomat years, but Perse had decided not to publish any new writing until he had retired from diplomacy.
  • Walter Benjamin had a completed manuscript in his suitcase when he fled France and arrest by the Nazis in the summer of 1940. He committed suicide in Portbou, Spain on September 26, 1940, and the suitcase and its contents disappeared.
  • There are reports that Bruno Schulz worked on a novel called The Messiah, but no trace of this manuscript survived his death (1942).
  • The novel In Ballast to the White Sea by Malcolm Lowry, lost in a fire in 1945.[citation needed]
  • The novel Wanderers of Night and poems of Daniil Andreev were destroyed in 1947 as "anti-Soviet literature" by the MGB.
  • Some pages of William Burroughs's original version of Naked Lunch were stolen.
  • Three early, unpublished novels by Philip K. Dick written in the 1950s are no longer extant: A Time for George Stavros, Pilgrim on the Hill, and Nicholas and the Higs.
  • In 1958, while working on the last chapter, William H. Gass' novel Omensetter's Luck was stolen off of his desk, forcing him to begin from scratch.
  • The manuscript for Sylvia Plath's unfinished second novel, provisionally titled Double Exposure, or Double Take, written 1962–63, disappeared some time before 1970.
  • Venedikt Yerofeyev's novel Dmitry Shostakovich was in a bag with two bottles of fortified wine that was stolen from him in a commuter train in 1972.
  • Several pages of the original screenplay for Werner Herzog's Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes were reportedly thrown out of the window of a bus after one of his football teammates threw up on them.
  • The screenplay for the proposed Dean Stockwell-Herb Berman film After the Gold Rush is reportedly lost.
  • Diaries of Philip Larkin – burnt at his request after his death on 2 December 1985. Other private papers were kept, contrary to his instructions.
  • The fourth novel of Sasha Sokolov have been lost when the Greek house where it was written burnt down in the second half the 1980s.
  • Jacob M. Appel's first novel manuscript, Paste and Cover, was in the trunk of an automobile that was stolen in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1998. The vehicle was recovered, but the manuscript was not.[26]

21st centuryEdit

Lost literary collectionsEdit

  • Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang (3rd century BCE) had most previously existing books burned when he consolidated his power. See Burning of books and burying of scholars.
  • The Library of Alexandria, the largest library in existence during antiquity, was destroyed at some point in time between the Roman and Muslim conquests of Alexandria.
  • Aztec emperor Itzcoatl (ruled 1427/8-1440) ordered the burning of all historical Aztec codices in an effort to develop a state-sanctioned Aztec history and mythology.
  • During the Dissolution of the Monasteries, many monastic libraries were destroyed. Worcester Abbey had 600 books at the time of the dissolution. Only six of them have survived intact to the present day. At the abbey of the Augustinian Friars at York, a library of 646 volumes was destroyed, leaving only three surviving books. Some books were destroyed for their precious bindings, others were sold off by the cartload, including irreplaceable early English works. It is believed that many of the earliest Anglo-Saxon manuscripts were lost at this time.
"A great nombre of them whych purchased those supertycyous mansyons, resrved of those lybrarye bokes, some to serve theyr jakes [i.e., as toilet paper], some to scoure candelstyckes, and some to rubbe their bootes. Some they solde to the grossers and soapsellers..." — John Bale, 1549

Rediscovered worksEdit

  • Gospel of Judas, a fragmentary Coptic codex rediscovered and translated, 2006.[41][42]
  • W. A. Mozart and Antonio Salieri are known to have composed together a cantata for voice and piano called Per la ricuperata salute di Ofelia which was celebrating the return to stage of the singer Nancy Storace, and which has been lost, although it had been printed by Artaria in 1785.[43] The music had been considered lost until November 2015, when German musicologist and composer Timo Jouko Herrmann identified the score while searching for music by one of Salieri's ostensible pupils, Antonio Casimir Cartellieri, in the archives of the Czech Museum of Music in Prague.[44]
  • The 120 Days of Sodom, written by the Marquis de Sade in the Bastille prison in 1785, was considered lost by its author (and was much lamented by him) after the storming and looting of 1789. It was rediscovered in the walls of his cell and published in 1904.
  • Antonín Dvořák composed his Symphony No. 1 in 1865. It was subsequently lost, which the composer believed to be final and irreversible. It was only found again in 1923, twenty years after Dvořák's death, and performed for the first time in 1936.
  • A Tale of Kitty in Boots by Beatrix Potter, the handwritten manuscripts for this story were found in school notebooks, including a few illustrations. She intended to finish the book, but was interrupted by wars and marriage and farming. It was found nearly 100 years later and published for the first time in September 2016.[45]
  • Lesbian Love, by Eva Kotchever, had only 150 copies published "for private circulation only" in 1925. Historian Jonathan Ned Katz searched and found the only known copy, owned by Nina Alvarez, who had found the book in the lobby of her apartment building in 1998 in Albany, New York. Records show that another copy was held in the Sterling Library at Yale University, but it has not been located.[46]
  • Henri Poincaré's prize-winning submission for the 1889 celestial mechanics contest of king Oscar II was thought to be lost. While this version was being printed, Poincaré himself discovered a serious error. The existing version was recalled and then replaced by a heavily modified and corrected version, now regarded as the seminal description of chaos theory. The original erroneous submission was thought to be lost, but it was found in 2011.[47]

Lost works in popular cultureEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Aristotle's Monograph On the Pythagoreans
  2. ^ "Photius, Bibliotheca or Myriobiblion (Cod. 1-165, Tr. Freese)". www.tertullian.org. Retrieved 2020-08-28.
  3. ^ "Play revived using mummy extracts". BBC News. 14 November 2003. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  4. ^ Jonathan Barnes, "Life and Work" in The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle (1995), p. 9.
  5. ^ Rutherford Platt (1926). The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden. Entry: The Book of the Secrets of Enoch XXIII
  6. ^ Asconius Pedianus, In Milone 38
  7. ^ Frank L. Salomon, 2004: The Cord Keepers. Khipus and Cultural Life in a Peruvian Village; Duke University Press; ISBN 0822333902
  8. ^ Miriam Lichtheim (2006) [First Published 1978]. Ancient Egyptian Literature, Volume III: The Late Period. University of California Press. pp. 125–128. ISBN 9780520248441.
  9. ^ Jasnow, Richard Lewis; Zauzich, Karl-Theodor (2005). The Ancient Egyptian Book of Thoth: A Demotic Discourse on Knowledge & Pendant to Classical Hermetica. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 2. ISBN 9783447050821.
  10. ^ James M. Robinson (1988). The Nag Hammadi Library. p. 288.
  11. ^ 2 Maccabees 2:23
  12. ^ Roger Pearse (2002-07-03). "Photius, Bibliotheca or Myriobiblion (Cod. 1–165, Tr. Freese)". Tertullian.org. Retrieved 2012-12-01.
  13. ^ Roger Pearse (2002-07-03). "Photius, Bibliotheca or Myriobiblion (Cod. 1–165, Tr. Freese)". Tertullian.org. Retrieved 2012-12-01.
  14. ^ Margaret Clunies Ross, The Cambridge Introduction to the Old Norse-Icelandic Saga, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 144.
  15. ^ Peter W. Edbury and John G. Rowe, William of Tyre: Historian of the Latin East, Cambridge University Press, 1988, p. 23–24.
  16. ^ "Yongle dadian". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  17. ^ Asimov, Eric. "The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2012-12-01.
  18. ^ Ellul, Michael (1986). "Carlo Gimach (1651–1730) – Architect and Poet" (PDF). Proceedings of History Week. Historical Society of Malta: 37–38. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 August 2017.
  19. ^ "Biography of Adam Smith (1723–1790)". rug.nl.
  20. ^ Gordon L. Thomas (1953). "Aaron burr's farewell address". Quarterly Journal of Speech. 39 (3): 273–282. doi:10.1080/00335635309381878. "Except for some of his court-room speeches [...] no verbatim reports of his speeches are extant."
  21. ^ Arthur Rimbaud - Œuvre-vie, Alain Borer, Arléa / Le Seuil, 1991, p. 169.
  22. ^ "Leon Trotsky: My Life (6. The Break)". Marxists.org. 2007-02-06. Retrieved 2012-12-01.
  23. ^ Paul Delany, George Gissing: A Life (2008).
  24. ^ Gelder, Robert Van (1946). Writers and writing – Robert Van Gelder – Google Boeken. Retrieved 2012-12-01.
  25. ^ "Critic's Notebook; Isaac Babel May Yet Have The Last Word". The New York Times. July 11, 2001. Retrieved August 14, 2022.
  26. ^ Appel, JM. Phoning Home, University of South Carolina Press, 2014
  27. ^ Daley, Jason. "Terry Pratchett's Unfinished Novels Got Steamrolled". Smithsonian Magazine.
  28. ^ Convery, Stephanie (30 August 2017). "Terry Pratchett's unfinished novels destroyed by steamroller". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  29. ^ "Terry Pratchett's unpublished works crushed by steamroller". BBC News. 30 August 2017. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  30. ^ Allen, Charles (2002). The Buddha and the Sahibs. London: John Murray.
  31. ^ Scott, David (May 1995). "Buddhism and Islam: Past to Present Encounters and Interfaith Lessons". Numen. 42 (2): 141–155. doi:10.1163/1568527952598657. JSTOR 3270172.
  32. ^ Gertrude Emerson Sen (1964). The Story of Early Indian Civilization. Orient Longmans.
  33. ^ "Destruction Of Chinese Books In The Peking Siege Of 1900 – 62nd IFLA General Conference". Ifla.org. Archived from the original on 2008-09-19. Retrieved 2012-12-01.
  34. ^ Kaur, Jaskaran; Crossette, Barbara (2006). Twenty years of impunity: the November 1984 pogroms of Sikhs in India (PDF) (2nd ed.). Portland, OR: Ensaaf. p. 16. ISBN 0-9787073-0-3.
  35. ^ Walia, Varinder (7 June 2003). "Fire of controversy in Sikh library still smoulders". The Tribune. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
  36. ^ "George Fernandes admits Army removed items from Golden Temple during Operation B". Bombay: Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. 25 May 2000. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
  37. ^ Bharadwaj, Ajay (27 Feb 2009). "SGPC, Centre spar over Golden Temple's missing manuscripts - India - DNA". Daily News and Analysis. Chandigarh. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  38. ^ Walia, Varinder (21 May 2009). "No Sikh reference books with us: Antony". The Tribune. The Tribune. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  39. ^ Kaur, Jaskaran; Crossette, Barbara (2006).|http://ensaaf-org.jklaw.net/publications/reports/20years/20years-2nd.pdf Archived 2012-01-19 at the Wayback Machine
  40. ^ Brar, Kamaldeep Singh (20 June 2019). "Explained: The mystery of missing articles of Sikh Reference Library". The Indian Express. Archived from the original on 25 December 2020.
  41. ^ Wilford, John Noble; Laurie Goodstein (April 6, 2006). "'Gospel of Judas' Surfaces After 1,700 Years". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
  42. ^ "View the Gospel of Judas Interactive Document". National Geographic Society. Archived from the original on April 8, 2006. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
  43. ^ "Mozart i Salieri van escriure junts una cantata". El Periódico de Catalunya. January 22, 2016. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  44. ^ Muller, R., and Kahn, M., "Czech musician performs long-lost Mozart score for first time", Reuters, Feb. 16, 2016.
  45. ^ Strickland, Ashley (September 6, 2016). "Discovered Beatrix Potter Tale, Kitty in Boots, releases". CNN. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  46. ^ "Rediscovering Eve Adams, the Radical Lesbian Activist". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  47. ^ Mikael Rågstedt. "FROM ORDER TO CHAOS: THE PRIZE COMPETITION IN HONOUR OF KING OSCAR II". Institut Mittag-Leffler.
  48. ^ Lovecraft, H. P. (20 August 2009). "The History of the Necronomicon". The H. P. Lovecraft Archive. Retrieved 22 September 2019.

Further readingEdit

  • Browne, Thomas. Musaeum Clausum or Bibliotheca Abscondita (published posthumously in 1683)
  • Deuel, Leo. Testaments of Time: The Search for Lost Manuscripts and Records (New York: Knopf, 1965)
  • Dudbridge, Glen. Lost Books of Medieval China (London: The British Library, 2000)
  • Kelly, Stuart. The Book of Lost Books (Viking, 2005) ISBN 0-670-91499-1
  • Peter, Hermann. Historicorum Romanorum reliquiae (2 vols., B.G. Teubner, Leipzig, 1870, 2nd ed. 1914–16)
  • Wilson. R. M. The Lost Literature of Medieval England (London: Methuen, 1952)

External linksEdit