Seventy-two years ago a nun submitted a PhD thesis to Boston College in the USA which contains an English translation of the Peristephanon of Prudentius. The work was never published and is rare. So I wrote to the college and asked for a copy.
My request was declined. Apparently it might be in copyright. Shock! Call the lawyers! “Do you have permission to see this item, sir?” The librarian demands that I write to this now-deceased nun’s order and ask for permission, before she will make me a copy. I’ve been chuckling about this all evening.
I mean… I have to ask the Pope (or his representative), before they will send a copy of a 72 year old thesis to a scholar to use for research purposes? It’s pretty daft, isn’t it. And if I can find someone with “authority” to allow me to look at this, I shall have to be careful how I ask, in case they wonder if I’m taking the mick.
Of course it may be that the environment in which the library has to work is more risky than I think. UK television depicts Americans as people who go around either sueing each other or blowing each other’s heads off on a daily basis. Obviously it must be true — the TV programmes are mostly made in the USA. If so, no wonder the library is a bit gun-shy. No wonder they want to waste my time, and that of the recipient, just in case.
But I had not realised that gangs of nuns might be so much of a threat to them as that. Rampaging gangs, equipped with semi-automatics and a hot-line to a law-firm; man, it’s dangerous out there in Boston.
I’ve written back and shifted the onus on them, by asking to whom I should write. That will cost them something to find out, although not much. Once this nonsense makes work for them, rather than just me, they may see sense.