Alice Zimmern’s Porphyry: Letter to Marcella

£20 (i.e. $40) got me a copy of the uncommon second edition of Alice Zimmern’s translation of Porphyry’s Letter to Marcella.  It came as an early paperback, rather foxed (‘slight foxing’ in the optimistic words of the seller).  I started to scan the pages of this, using Abbyy Finereader 8.0 and an OpticBook 3600, and got very good results, without breaking the frail spine of the book. 

Unfortunately the copy I have has that mouldy smell that one finds in books that have been exposed to unclean conditions.  Since I don’t want a smell of dirt in my house, it will have to be returned, and I will have to get another.   But I wonder what this smell is?  At all events booksellers should certainly indicate if it is present.

The introduction by Alice Zimmern is general, and of no special interest, although I will include it when I scan it.  She doesn’t indicate any revisions to the translation, and the ‘revised edition’ is only mentioned on the title page.  I have yet to compare the two, but I wonder if perhaps the ‘revision’ is an invention of the publisher?   In 1920 the first edition was out of print.  At all events a revision would allow it to appear with a different publisher, where a straight reprint would fall foul of copyright.

The Phanes Press reprint got rid of the thee’s and thou’s which disfigure the copy before me.  As such it is much more readable.  But I will leave the text as I find it.

1 Response to “Alice Zimmern’s Porphyry: Letter to Marcella”


  1. Brian McLean

    If you imprison a musty smelling book in a plastic bag with some cat litter for a week or two, the smell will go. (I’m busy doing Alice a Wikipedia entry tonight.)