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More seriously, is the release number (5.1.1) accessible from Lua programs?

No and that's the whole point. A Lua program does not need to know about
minor releases, does it?

It does if you need to work around bugs. In theory, the API version
number (5.1) should be sufficient, but having the patch number can be
extremely useful if a program has to work around a bug/different
behavior in a specific patch release, but still should work with all
versions under that API version umbrella.

Perhaps in the future, creating an API (for both C and Lua) that lets
you access the major, minor, and patch version numbers separately
might be much more convenient for everybody.