From my diary

The first complete draft of Severian of Gabala, De Spiritu Sancto, has arrived.  More to the point, I have now read through it all and given feedback.  One section of it is distinctly hard to follow in the original, because Severian is not being as clear as he might be.  In consequence he has to keep asking his audience to concentrate!

But it’s an interesting sermon.  Once we’ve added enough words in brackets so that the reader can follow the thought, I think that it will be of general interest to modern readers who would like to understand the basis from scripture for some of the church’s statements about the Holy Spirit.

I’ve continued working on the Mithras site.  This week I located pictures of two lost reliefs, and added them to the index of monuments.  It is a very great privilege to live in the internet age, when we can locate relatively easily materials that would have been quite impossible to access, back in 1997, when I started!

I’ve also had an update on a Greek homily that I commissioned; work is in progress.  There is also hope of a translation of the Syriac remains of Theodore of Mopsuestia on Genesis.

Autumn has now definitely arrived here, and this leads me to think of Christmas, and so of Santa Claus.  It seems to be a fact that the hagiographical Lives of St. Nicholas have never been translated into English, or indeed any modern language.  Unfortunately they are late, and exist in multiple versions.  It might be fun to select one or two and commission translations, tho.  Mightn’t it?!

Origen on Ezekiel: yet another translation has been made!

A correspondent writes:

Just wanted to alert you that John Sehorn successfully defended his PhD dissertation on Origen’s Homilies on Ezekiel 1–14 not long ago (link). Apparently it includes a translation of the text. He’s been at it for over three years now – I guess working parallel to you[1] and Scheck.[2]

I don’t know.  You wait four centuries for a translation of Origen’s homilies on Ezekiel, and then three come along in a period of 24 months!  But the more the merrier!

The Mischa Hooker translation, however, is more complete than either the Scheck or Sehorn versions, since these only translate the 14 homilies from the Latin version made by Rufinus, while Hooker also translates a vast array of Greek fragments from all the works of Origen on Ezekiel, and includes a facing Greek and Latin text.  But then, since I published this version, perhaps I am biased!

It is still my intention that Hooker’s text and translation will appear online, freely accessible, once sales trickle to nothing much.  I’d just like to recoup at least some of the investment first.

  1. [1] Mischa Hooker, Origen of Alexandria: Exegetical Works on Ezekiel, In: Ancient Texts in Translation 2, 2014.Amazon.  Please buy a copy!
  2. [2] Thomas P. Scheck, Origen: Homilies 1-14 on Ezekiel, in: Ancient Christian Writers 62, 2012. Amazon.

If you have access to HathiTrust, can you help me with a 1913 article?

I’m trying to access an article from Italian journal Ausonia, from 1913.  Unfortunately, while many volumes of the journal before and after are accessible at, the particular issue I want is not.

The article I want is C. Huelsen, “I lavori archeologici di Giovannantonio Dosio”, in: Ausonia: rivista della Società italiana di archeologia e storia dell’arte, vol. 7 (1913), p.1 ff.

The volume is online here, apparently:

Well, it is if your institution is in the USA, anyway.  But I am overseas and can’t access it.

Can anyone access this?  If so, please use the contact link at right and talk to me.  It seems silly for me to make a library trip for something already freely accessible online.

Many thanks!

UPDATE:  Thank you to the gentleman who sent me a copy of the article, and the other gentleman who made the whole volume available.  I am very grateful!

Sever J. Voicu’s 1990 article on Severian of Gabala

It is hard to do much work on Severian of Gabala for lack of access to the basic materials; texts, translations and studies.  The list of works in the Clavis Patrum Graecorum is useful, but hard to access and split across various entries and sub-sections.  The most important article on the subject is, and remains – after 24 years –  Sever J. Voicu, “Severien de Gabala,” Dictionnaire de spiritualite 14 (Paris, 1990), 752-63.  Fortunately Dr Voicu has given permission for a transcript, made by a correspondent, to appear here.[1]  Here it is, in Word .doc format:

Dr Voicu adds, “It is rather outdated, but no other comprehensive entry about Severian of Gabala has been written since.”  Any errors are, of course, my fault and nobody else’s.  I note that a certain amount of reformatting was introduced, but it seems to make it clearer.

I hope that this will be readable via Google Translate even for those without a command of French.  I hope to prepare an English translation of at least some of it.

  1. [1] I am not entirely certain as to the ownership of this article – if anybody believes that they have property in it, please contact me.

Severian of Gabala news

A couple of updates on the Severian of Gabala work.

Firstly, Bryson Sewell has sent me a first draft of his English translation of De Spiritu Sancto (PG 52 813-826). It still needs heavy revision, and I haven’t commented on it yet, but it is there in skeleton at least.  It looks interesting, for the most part.  Apparently Severian’s style is not always of the clearest, tho!  As ever, when it is done, it will appear here.

One of the problems in studying Severian is that none of his works were online in any modern language – or at least, none in English, and the one or two, that did exist in French etc, were basically in a dark hole somewhere online.  The translations that Bryson is making will fix some of this.

But just getting a list of works is difficult.  Regular readers will recall that I have been driven – unusually – to compiling some kind of bibliography myself, as a basis for commissioning translations.

In general, studies on Severian are few, and hard to access.  The prince of all the articles on Severian is one by Dr Sever J. Voicu, who is the world expert on Severian: Sever J. Voicu, “Severien de Gabala,” in: Dictionnaire de spiritualité 14 (Paris, 1990), pp.752-63.

This is the most comprehensive introduction to the subject, with a detailed bibliography, and it supersedes all previous work.  Of course it is now 24 years old, so it is now somewhat outdated.  But it is impossible to access, and the Dictionnaire itself seems almost unknown to patristic scholars in general; certainly to most anglophone scholars.

Fortunately I obtained a copy of this article some time ago, which led me to realise how essential it was.  Soon afterwards, a correspondent emailed me a Word document of it, which he had scanned.  Dr Voicu has very kindly granted his permission for this transcript to appear online on this blog.  This will happen, probably in the next week.  I want to check it over first, and to make sure that, in whatever format I upload it, it can be handled by Google Translate.

I may also translate portions of it into English.  I’ve been unwell with a virus for a week, but I must return to work on Monday.  Much will all depend on how busy next week is!

More Greek manuscripts at the British Library

An announcement this morning that 44 more Greek manuscripts are now online at the British Library, thanks to funding from Stavros Niarchos.

Many are biblical manuscripts.  The following will be of interest to us.

(Apologies for any errors; some thoughtless person at the BL site has fiddled with the copy and paste, removing all formatting and adding a pointless general link at the end in plain text.  All of which makes it nearly impossible to give a list like this, and include links; you have to delete the cruft and re-add the links manually).

  • Add MS 39601, Revelation (Gregory-Aland 911), imperfect at the end, with a marginal commentary by Andrew of Caesarea, Commentarii in Apocalypsin (TLG 3004.001).  11th c., from Athos.
  • Add MS 39614, Xenophon, Hellenica. Early 16th century, Venice.
  • Add MS 39615, Hermogenes, De constitutionibus (Περὶ στάσεων) (TLG 0592.002). Early 16th century, Venice.
  • Add MS 39616, [Plutarch], De liberis educandis. Early 16th century, Venice.
  • Add MS 39617, Demosthenes, Orationes, with the hypotheses of Libanius and occasional scholia and interlinear glosses. 15th century, Greece.
  • Arundel MS 531, Diogenes Laertius, Vitae Philosophorum, with illuminated head- and tailpieces on f 1r. 2nd half of the 15th century, Italy.
  • Burney MS 61, Collection of works by Greek lyric poets, including Anacreon, Alcaeus, Sappho, Stesichorus, and Ibycus. Occasional marginal notes with variants of Henri Estienne and T. Faber. 2nd half of the 16th century, France.
  • Burney MS 70, Basil of Caesarea, De legendis libris gentilium (TLG 2040.002), and other works. Large initials in colour and gold, partial foliate border on f 1r similar to that in Burney 14. 4th quarter of the 15th century, written by Ioannes Skoutariotes at Florence.
  • Burney MS 71, Callimachus, Hymns (TLG 0533.015-020). c 1500.
  • Burney MS 88, Libanius, Epistulae (TLG 2200.001). End of the 15th century, Italy.
  • Burney MS 89, Lycophron, Alexandra, with the commentary of Ioannes or Isaac Tzetzes, imperfect. 1st half of the 15th century, Greece.
  • Burney MS 96, Minor Attic Orators. End of the 15th century, Venice.
  • Burney MS 98, Pindar, Olympia (TLG 0033.001), imperfect, with interlinear and marginal scholia; Dionysius Periegetes, Orbis Descriptio (TLG 0084.001), with interlinear glosses and marginal paraphrase; Eustathius Thessalonicensis, Commentarium in Dionysii periegetae orbis descriptionem (TLG 4083.006); Strabo, Geographica (TLG 0099.001), extracts. Beginning of the 16th century.
  • Burney MS 106, Sophocles, Ajax, Electra, Oedipus Tyrannus, Antigone; [Aeschylus], Prometheus Vinctus; Pindar, Olympia. End of the 15th century.
  • Burney MS 108, Aelian, Tactica; Leo VI, Tactica; Heron of Alexandria, Pneumatica, De automatis, with numerous diagrams. 1st quarter of the 16th century, possibly written at Venice.
  • Burney MS 109, Works by Theocritus, Hesiod, Pindar, Pythagoras and Aratus. 2nd half of the 14th century, Italy.
  • Burney MS 110, Zenobius, Epitome collectionum Luculli Tarrhaei et Didymi (TLG 0098.001). 4th quarter of the 15th century, Italy.
  • Egerton MS 2625, Thucydides, Historiae (TLG 0003.001), with scholia, formerly forming a single manuscript with Add MS 5110. 15th century, possibly written on Crete.
  • Royal MS 16 C IV Part 1 and Part 2, John Tzetzes, Antehomerica, with a translation into Latin by Petrus Morellus. 1560-1603, France (Tours/Loches), in the hand of Petrus Morellus.
  • Royal MS 16 C VII, Constantine Manasses, Breviarium Chronicum , imperfect. Mid-15th century, Italy? Probably formerly owned by Sir Robert Cotton.
  • Royal MS 16 C XIV, Apparatus Bellicus, followed by extracts from Byzantine authors. 1584, probably written in Italy.
  • Royal MS 16 C XIX, Simplicius, Commentarius in Epicteti Enchiridion. 1st half of the 16th century, Italy (Padua?)
  • Royal MS 16 C XX, Isaac Argyrus, De Metris Poeticis, imperfect, with marginalia by Isaac Casaubon. End of the 16th century, Italy?

Phew.  That was very unpleasant to transcribe and format.

John the Lydian on August

Another chunk of John the Lydian, De mensibus, book 4, has arrived from Andrew Eastbourne.  Indeed it arrived at the weekend, but was delayed by my own illness.  As might be expected, this covers the month of August.

There is material on Augustus, as might be expected, and calendrical material.  No great surprises, but useful all the same!

The notes are copious, which is very necessary to understand the text and a great blessing.  Thank you, Andrew.

As ever, use it in whatever way you like, personal, educational or commercial.

Is it time to nationalise the academic publishers?

A few tweets this morning were complaining about the inaccessibility of the main reference works for patristics, the Clavis Patrum Latinorum and the Clavis Patrum Graecorum.  These works are essentially lists of works by patristic authors.  Each is assigned a number, and the opening words of the first line are given.  If the text appears in the edition of J.-P. Migne, the reference is given; if not, the manuscript where it may be found.

As may be imagined, it is impossible to work in patristics without access to these volumes.

The complaints were that the volumes – numerous and very expensive – were generally not held by university libraries or, if they were, could not be borrowed.  A respondent slyly suggested that perhaps pirate PDFs were available somewhere; which is one answer.  Another said that Brepols, who publish the volumes, would undoubtedly eventually make them available online.  This drew the retort that access would be through a paywall, and that only tier-1 universities would subscribe for it.

Every word of this is true.  We have academics unable to access the tools of their trade, themselves compiled by other academics, because they are – legally – the property of a Belgian publishing house who have to pay their bills somehow, and do so by charging high fees for access.

What is the answer?

A further tweeter said that she would make sure all her work was open access.  This is laudable.  But it doesn’t solve the problem.

The situation is rather akin to that in place in the British Empire when slavery was abolished.  There were great numbers of slave owners, who had obtained their property quite legally, and were financially invested in it.  But the public interest was to abolish slavery.

The rulers of that day, being honest man and leaders of a great commercial nation, did not do what the lesser men of today might do.  They didn’t pillage their countrymen.  Instead they bought out the rights of the slave-owners.  The community as a whole had decided; and the community as a whole paid to make it happen.  Nobody was robbed.  There was no damage to the right of private property, the basis for all civilised life.

Surely the situation is much the same now.  The academic publishers once served a vital purpose.  That purpose is disappearing.  The absurd copyright laws give them ownership of materials lasting back a century.  The public interest is that this material should be freely accessible online.

The answer, surely, is for western governments to buy out the academic publishers.  The Belgian government needs to buy out Brepols and free the archive.  The terms might be negotiated; but the end is necessary, and it should be pursued.  The same applies to Brill in the Netherlands, and so on.

It might be objected that it is rather hard on the middle classes – the only people who pay tax, and who are currently being fleeced of their savings by low interest rates and money-printing – to add to their burdens.  There is merit to this, and it needs to be considered.

But I do not see how else the problem can be solved.

Free access to learning is a national necessity.  Let our politicians find a way.

British Patristics Conference underway today

The 5th British Patristics conference is beginning today in London, and it runs until Friday.  There is a great mass of interesting papers on offer.

Unfortunately I am unable to attend.  I wish that I was there, and I booked back in January.  But a virus has laid me low since Saturday – undoubtedly acquired on the aircraft back from Rome a week earlier.

I hope that perhaps some other attendees will post accounts of the event.  These conferences are uniformly excellent.

Having the right tools

It is wonderful what a difference it makes to have the right tools.

Years ago I obtained a thesis from the US, for which I was charged like a wounded bull.  It was printed double-sided, and I had no sheet-feeder able to handle that.  Today I found two very old Finereader projects on disk, neither comprising more than 70 pages, and both clearly scanned by doing a bunch, first one side, then the other.  It must have been very labour-intensive, for I never proceeded further.

Anyway a correspondent caused me to look for it again.  Thankfully I was able to find the paper copy.  But these days I have a Futijsu Scansnap which is designed to turn bunches of papers into PDFs.  It made short work of the whole document.  Then I numbered the pages in Adobe Acrobat, which revealed one case where two pages had gone through.  I also found that a few pages had acquired a vertical line; these I rescanned.

At the moment Adobe is OCRing the PDF for me.  When it is done, I shall have a nice, compact, 400 dpi copy of the whole thing.

I hardly ever consult the thing; but at least, if I so wish, I can do so easily.

That little document reader was a splendid investment.  When I think of the pain I endure with things which won’t go into it, I am deeply impressed.

There are other advances also.  At my current workplace they have one of these combined scanner-printer-photocopier.  It has a sheet-feeder for copies, and outputs scans to PDF.  I have used it to scan a load of paper articles early one morning into PDF.  But … if you look closely … it will scan A3 as well, through the same A4-looking sheetfeeder.  Which means that even bulky old A3 copies – and who hasn’t got at least some of these? – can be turned into PDFs and the paper discarded!

Worth looking out for at your work.  After all, it doesn’t use consumables, and is way faster than any home device.  Just make sure nobody is likely to object.