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Lost work

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Lost work

A lost work is a document or literary work produced some time in the past of which no surviving copies are known to exist. In contrast, surviving copies of old or ancient works may be referred to as extant. Works may be lost to history either through the destruction of the original manuscript, or through the loss of all later copies of a work. The term most commonly applies to works from the classical world, although it is increasingly used in relation to more modern works.

Works or fragments may survive, either found by archaeologists, or accidentally by anyone, as in the case of the spectacular find of the Nag Hammadi Library scrolls. Works also survived when they were reused as bookbinding materials; when they were quoted or included in other works; or as palimpsests, which are documents made of materials that originally had one work written on them, but which were then cleaned and reused. The discovery in 1822 of large parts of Cicero's De re publica was one of the first major recoveries of an ancient text from a palimpsest, while another famous example is the discovery of the Archimedes palimpsest, which had been used to make a prayer book almost 300 years later. Works may be recovered in libraries as a lost or mislabeled codex, a palimpsest, or even as a part of another book or codex.

Most known missing works are described by works or compilations that survive, such as the Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder or the De Architectura by Vitruvius. Sometimes authors destroyed their own works. Other times they instructed others to destroy the work after their deaths; such action was not taken in several well-known cases, such that of as Virgil's Aeneid, which was saved by Augustus, and Kafka's novels, which were saved by Max Brod. Handwritten manuscripts existed in very limited copies before the era of printing, so the destruction of ancient libraries, including the multiple attempts on Alexandria, resulted in the loss of numerous works. Of course works that no one has subsequently referred to remain unknown.

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


  • Notable lost works 1
    • Classical world 1.1
      • Specific works 1.1.1
      • Multiple works 1.1.2
    • Ancient Chinese texts 1.2
    • Ancient Indian texts 1.3
    • Manichaean texts 1.4
    • Lost Biblical texts 1.5
      • Lost texts referenced in the Old Testament 1.5.1
      • Lost works referenced in the New Testament 1.5.2
      • Lost works pertaining to Jesus 1.5.3
    • 2nd century 1.6
    • 3rd century 1.7
    • 4th century 1.8
    • 5th century 1.9
    • 12th century 1.10
    • 14th century 1.11
    • 15th century 1.12
    • 16th century 1.13
    • 17th century 1.14
    • 18th century 1.15
    • 19th century 1.16
    • 20th century 1.17
    • Lost literary collections 1.18
  • Lost works in popular culture 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Notable lost works

Classical world

Specific works

  • 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 - memoir)
  • Sulpicius Alexander's Historia.
  • Anaxagoras' book of philosophy—only fragments of the first part have survived.
  • Archimedes'
  • Aristarchus of Samos' astronomy book outlining his heliocentrism (astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around a relatively stationary Sun)
  • Aristotle's
    • second book of Poetics, dealing with comedy
    • On the Pythagoreans[1]
  • Emperor Augustus' De Vita Sua
  • Berossus' Babyloniaca (History of Babylonia)
  • Gaius Julius Caesar's
    • 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
  • Callisthenes'
    • An account of Alexander's expedition
    • A history of Greece from the Peace of Antalcidas (387) to the Phocian war (357)
    • A history of the Phocian war
  • Sulla's Memoirs, referenced by Plutarch
  • Cato the Elder's:
    • 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.
  • Quintus Tullius Cicero's:
    • Four tragedies in the Greek style: Tiroas, Erigones, Electra, and one other.
    • Hortensius, a dialogue also known as "On Philosophy".
    • Consolatio, written to soothe his own sadness at the death of his daughter Tullia Ciceronis
  • Claudius'
    • De arte alea ("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
  • 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
  • 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's
    • 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
  • Hesiodic Catalogue of Women
  • Homer's 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:
  • Lucan's:
    • 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
  • Memnon of Heraclea's history of Heraclea Pontica.
  • Nicander's:
    • Aetolica, a prose history of Aetolia.
    • Heteroeumena, a mythological epic.
    • Georgica and Melissourgica, of which considerable fragments are preserved.
  • Ovid's poem Medea, of which only two fragments survive.
  • Pamphilus of Alexandria's comprehensive lexicon in 95 books of foreign or obscure words.
  • Pherecydes of Leros:
    • A history of Leros
    • an essay, On Iphigeneia
    • On the Festivals of Dionysus
    • Genealogies of the gods and heroes, originally in ten books; numerous fragments have been preserved.
  • Pherecydes of Syros' Heptamychia
  • Pliny the Elder's:
    • History of the German Wars, some quotations survive in Tacitus' 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's Historiae ("Histories")
  • Alexander Polyhistor's Successions of Philosophers.
  • Praxagoras's History of Constantine the Great[1].
  • 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's τὰ περὶ τοῦ Ὠκεανοῦ (ta peri tou Okeanou) "On the Ocean".
  • Quintilian's De Causis Corruptae Eloquentiae (On the Causes of Corrupted Eloquence)
  • Diodorus Siculus' Bibliotheca historia (Historical Library)- of 40 books, only the first 5 books, and books 10 through 20 are extant.
  • The Hellespontine Sibyl's Sibylline Books
  • Socrates' verse versions of Aesop's Fables.
  • Speusippus
    • On Pythagorean Numbers
  • Strabo's 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
  • Thales
    • On the Solstice (possible lost work)
    • On the Equinox (possible lost work)
  • 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

Multiple works

  • 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 Achilles were said to have been discovered in the wrappings of a mummy in the 1990s.[2]
  • Lost plays of Agathon. None of them 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 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 plays of Aristarchus of Tegea. Of seventy pieces, only the titles of three of his plays, with a single line of the text have survived.
  • Lost plays of Aristophanes. He wrote forty plays, eleven of which survive.
  • Lost works of Aristotle. It is believed that we have about one third of his original works.[3]
  • 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, sixty-four 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 Clitomachus. According to Diogenes Laertius, 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 present date. Whether or not these books were actual his writing or attributions are in dispute.
  • Lost works of Diphilus. He is said to have written 100 comedies, the titles of fifty of which are preserved.
  • Lost works of Ennius. Only fragments of his works survive.
  • 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 ninety plays, eighteen 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 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 works of Philemon. Of his ninety-seven works, fifty-seven 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 one hundred and thirty plays, of which twenty-one survive.
  • Lost poems and orations of Pliny the Younger.
  • Rhetorical works of Julius Pollux.
  • 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.[2]
  • 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 thirty-eight plays, only a few titles and lines have been preserved.
  • Lost poems of Sappho. Only a few full poems and fragments of others survive.
  • 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, 7 survive, with fragments of others.
  • Lost poems of Stesichorus. Of several long works, significant fragments survive.
  • Lost works of Theodectes. Of his fifty tragedies, we have the names of about thirteen 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 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.

Ancient Chinese texts

  • Classic of Music attributed to Confucius.
  • Medical treatise of the renowned physician Hua Tuo (traditional Chinese: 華佗; simplified Chinese: 华陀; pinyin: Huà Tuó) from late Eastern Han. The treatise was traditionally referred to as Qing Nang Shu (traditional Chinese 青囊書; simplified Chinese: 青囊书; pinyin: Qīng Náng Shū), literally Book in the Cyan Bag. When Hua Tuo was sentenced to death after incurring the wrath of Cao Cao, who controlled the Imperial Court, the physician tried to entrust the text to his gaoler. However, the gaoler was afraid of potentially implicating himself and in disappointment, Hua Tuo had the text burnt. Records of the Three Kingdoms Chapter 29, Book of Wei - Technology 《三国志卷二十九·魏书·方技传》
  • Book of Bai Ze (simplified Chinese 白泽图; pinyin: Bái Zé Tú). A guide to the forms and habits of all 11,520 types of supernatural creatures in the world, and how to overcome their hauntings and attacks, as dictated by the mythical creature, Bai Ze to the Yellow Emperor in the 26th century BCE.

Ancient Indian texts

  • 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.
  • Valaiyapathi, Tamil epic poem
  • Kundalakesi, Tamil epic poem

Manichaean texts

Lost Biblical texts

Lost texts referenced in the Old Testament

Lost works referenced in the New Testament

Lost works pertaining to Jesus

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

2nd century

  • 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 although 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.

3rd century

  • 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 century

5th century

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

12th century

14th century

15th century

  • 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.[9]
  • François Villon's poem "The Romance of the Devil's Fart."

16th century

17th century

18th century

  • 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.[11]
  • 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.
  • W. A. Mozart and Antonio Salieri are known to have composed together a cantata for voice and piano called Per la ricuperata salute di Ophelia 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.
  • 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 burned and destroyed. Supposedly a copy of it may exist somewhere, according to many different speculations.
  • Personal letters between Martha Washington; all but three destroyed by Mrs. Washington after his death in 1799.

19th century

  • 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 - manuscript of a new translation from Arabic of The Perfumed Garden, was burnt 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 - burnt 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.
  • Franz Liszt claimed to have written a manual of piano technique for the Geneva Conservatoire. Many early works, including three sonatas and two concertos for piano, are also believed to be lost due to the want of a fixed domicile.
  • 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.
  • In 1871, J’avais enterré une grande boîte pleine de lettres, et mis à l’abri mes volumineuses notes sur Saint-Antoine. J’ai retrouvé tout cela intact ».
  • A schoolmate of Arthur Rimbaud confessed he lost a notebook of poems by the famous poet. His "La Chasse spirituelle," which Verlaine claimed was his masterpiece, is also lost forever.
  • 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.
  • Letters written by Felix Mendelssohn seem to suggest that he wrote a cello concerto. It was supposedly lost when the only copy of it fell off the coach that was carrying it to its dedicatee.
  • Various works of Johannes Brahms. Brahms was a perfectionist who destroyed many of his own early works, including a violin sonata. He claimed once to have destroyed twenty string quartets before he issued his official First in 1873.
  • 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 The 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. It is possible the text was deliberately "lost" due to its controversial content.
  • 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).[12]
  • The Poor Man and the Lady. Thomas Hardy's first novel (1867) was never published. After rejection by several publishers, he destroyed the manuscript.
  • [13]
  • The music from Gilbert and Sullivan's first operetta Thespis is lost, except for one chorus that was repeated in The Pirates of Penzance, and one song. Ballet music from the operetta was discovered in 1990.
  • John P. Marquand wrote an early novel called Yellow Ivory in collaboration with his friend W.A. Macdonald.[14]
  • 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 [3]. 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.

20th century

  • The only known copies of the score of the 1903 Scott Joplin opera A Guest of Honor were believed to be confiscated during a dispute between Joplin and the owner of a theatrical boarding house. The score was never recovered by Joplin and it is believed to be lost.
  • James Joyce's play "A Brilliant Career" (which he burned) and the first half of his novel Stephen Hero
  • Various parts of Daniel Paul Schreber's "Memoirs of My Nervous Illness" (original German title "Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken") (1903) was 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 Marred 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.
  • The French composer Albéric Magnard's house was set on fire by German soldiers in 1914. The fire destroyed Magnard's unpublished scores, such as the orchestral score of his early opera Yolande, the orchestral score of Guercoeur (the piano reduction had been published, and the orchestral score of the second act was extant) and a more recent song cycle.
  • "Text I" of Seven Pillars of Wisdom - a 250,000 word manuscript by T. E. Lawrence lost at Reading railway station in December 1919.
  • The Irish Public Records Office in Dublin was burnt by the IRA in 1922, destroying 1,000 years of state and religious archives.
  • 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)
  • Symphony No. 8 (Sibelius). Composer Jean Sibelius mysteriously destroyed his last symphony.
  • The original version of Ultramarine by Malcolm Lowry was stolen from his publisher's car in 1932, and the author had to reconstruct it.
  • 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 a letter of 1938, 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. [4]
  • The manuscript of The Lying Student was seized by Nazi officials in 1939. It went missing during the war, and was not rediscovered for almost forty years. The last section of the poem is still lost.
  • Manuscript of Efebos, a novel by Karol Szymanowski, destroyed in bombing of Warsaw, 1939.
  • Constant Lambert's ballet Horoscope was being performed in the Netherlands in 1940, and the unpublished full score had to be left behind when German forces invaded that country. It was never recovered, and only nine individual numbers remain.
  • The German-language original of Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon was lost. Only the English translation by Daphne Hardy survived to be published.
  • 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 contents disappeared.
  • In 1940 "The Magnet", a popular British Boy's paper, had to cease publication due to WWII paper shortage. At the time, at least four issues are known to have been already completed, but were never published, and were irrevocably lost during the war years.
  • There are reports that Bruno Schulz worked on a novel called The Messiah, but no trace of this manuscript survived his death (1942).
  • In 1944, just before the Warsaw Uprising, the Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik fled Warsaw leaving all his manuscripts behind. When he returned to his apartment in 1945, he discovered that his entire oeuvre had survived the widespread destruction, but had then been burnt on a bonfire by his landlady. The lost works included two symphonies and other orchestral works, as well as vocal and chamber compositions; Panufnik subsequently reconstructed some of them.[15]
  • The novel In Ballast to the White Sea by Malcolm Lowry, lost in a fire in 1945.[16]
  • 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 Naked Lunch were stolen.
  • Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, the predecessor and sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, was considered lost since the 1960s. It was rediscovered only fifty years later, in 2015.[17]
  • Three early, unpublished novels by Pilgrim on the Hill, and Nicholas and the Higs.
  • The manuscript for Sylvia Plath's unfinished second novel, provisionally titled Double Exposure, or Double Take, written 1962-63, disappeared some time before 1970.
  • There were known audio recordings of early performances by The Beatles, such as a song which featured Ringo Starr on drums before he was an "official" member. These tapes have thought to been taped over or destroyed.
  • 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 team-mates 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.
  • Stephen King wrote both a prologue and epilogue to The Shining titled Before The Play and After The Play, respectively. The epilogue is reportedly lost.
  • Hundreds of works by the Norwegian composer and pianist Geirr Tveitt were lost due to a house fire in 1970, when his house burned to the ground. Overall, about 4/5 of Tveitt's production are now gone from that fire, which included symphonies, concertos, choral works, operas, and many piano works. Fortunately some copies, parts, and recordings of some of the works existed elsewhere.

Lost literary collections

  • 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

Lost works in popular culture

See also


  1. ^ On the PythagoreansAristotle's Monograph
  2. ^ "Play revived using mummy extracts". BBC News. 14 November 2003. Retrieved 4 April 2010. 
  3. ^ Jonathan Barnes, "Life and Work" in The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle (1995), p. 9.
  4. ^ WILFORD, JOHN NOBLE; LAURIE GOODSTEIN (April 6, 2006). Gospel of Judas' Surfaces After 1,700 Years"'". New York Times. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  5. ^ "View the Gospel of Judas Interactive Document".  
  6. ^ Roger Pearse (2002-07-03). "Photius, Bibliotheca or Myriobiblion (Cod. 1-165, Tr. Freese)". Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  7. ^ Roger Pearse (2002-07-03). "Photius, Bibliotheca or Myriobiblion (Cod. 1-165, Tr. Freese)". Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  8. ^ Margaret Clunies Ross, The Cambridge Introduction to the Old Norse-Icelandic Saga, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 144.
  9. ^ "Yongle dadian". Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Retrieved 23 October 2014. 
  10. ^ Asimov, Eric. "The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  11. ^ "Biography of Adam Smith (1723-1790)". 
  12. ^ "Leon Trotsky: My Life (6. The Break)". 2007-02-06. Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  13. ^ Paul Delany, George Gissing: A Life (2008).
  14. ^ Writers and writing - Robert Van Gelder - Google Boeken. Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  15. ^ Panufnik, Andrzej (1987). Composing Myself. London: Methuen.  
  16. ^ "Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern Fiction". 
  17. ^ Alter, Alexandra (February 3, 2015). "Harper Lee, Author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Is to Publish a Second Novel".  
  18. ^ "The Buddha and the Sahibs" by William Dalrymple
  19. ^ Scott, David (May 1995). "Buddhism and Islam: Past to Present Encounters and Interfaith Lessons". Numen 42 (2): 141.  
  20. ^ Gertrude Emerson Sen (1964). The Story of Early Indian Civilization. Orient Longmans. 
  21. ^ "Destruction Of Chinese Books In The Peking Siege Of 1900 - 62nd IFLA General Conference". Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  22. ^ The History of the Necronomicon

Further reading

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

External links

  • Discoveries of Lost Classical Literature
  • Longing for Great Lost Works
  • Lost works of Tertullian
  • Lost Works of Berosus
  • Lost Works of W.A. Mozart
  • Weighing Words Over Last Wishes
  • Fragmentary Tragedies of Sophocles Project
  • In Search of a Lost JG Ballard Novel
  • Hi-tech imaging could reveal lost texts
  • The Suppression of Lesbian and Gay History
  • The Memorial of Unsaved Work
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