The perils of translating from old editions

I’m still working on editing the translation of the Gospel Problems and Solutions by Eusebius of Caesarea.  The fragments of catenas and the like are all printed by Angelo Mai in the early 19th century, or reprinted by him from yet earlier non-critical publication.  In other cases he is printing unpublished material.  This means that I need to check for subsequent publication.

Several extracts come from the Questions of Anastasius of Sinai.  A web search — thank heavens for Google — reveals that an edition appeared in 2006, by Marcel Ricard, in the Brepols Corpus Christianorum Series Graeca, vol. 59.  I need the text of questions 9, 148 and 153, so my translator can compare the text given by Mai with that of a critical text.  Sadly the libraries are all closed when I am at home, so a day off for a day trip to Cambridge will be necessary.

Another extract — not actually from the Gospel Problems is given “from unpublished chronicles by George Hamartolus and Johannes Siculus.”  A search reveals that the chronicle of George Hamartolus or George Monachus was edited badly in 1859 by a chap called Muralt, and reprinted by Migne in PG 110.  No sign of a fresher edition, so I’m not sure I need to do much more.

But “Johannes Siculus”… that could be anyone.  All it means is “John of Sicily”; every third Byzantine was called John, and thousands of them lived in Sicily.  A search in Google on “Johannes Siculus” was rather dispiriting!  Fortunately “John of Sicily” was better.  This led to H. Heinrich, Die Chronik des Johannes Sikeliota, Graz, 1892, edited from a Vienna manuscript. A book of that date ought to be online, but … it’s in German.  Das Reich ist immer offline.

So off to COPAC to search for a copy offline.  Several searches later, I draw a blank.  Even a search by author=Heinrich, date=1892, draws a blank.  But I have played before, and am not dispirited.  I am reasonably sure that a copy exists in the UK.  So I wonder if this dratted thing is hidden in a serial?  Hmm.

Back to Google to look for clues, searching for “Johannes Sikeliota”.  And sure enough I find the book mentioned with an addendum, “In Reihe: Schulprogramm Graz / 1892”.  This gives the author as “Alfred Heinrich”.  Search COPAC for the series; nothing.  Ah, the joy of offline knowledge…

Then I remember that Google book search doesn’t work properly outside the US.  I retry via a US server.  The book at least appears now, albeit clearly not online, here.  I click the “Find in a library” link (to worldcat).  And it turns out to be a thesis, or dissertation, never published.  Boy that site is slow, tho.  It never actually finished displaying.

Does anyone know where I could get a copy?

19 thoughts on “The perils of translating from old editions”

  1. The only German library which has the book is the Sächsische Landesbibliothek (Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek) in Dresden. The book’s signature is LD:256138915, siglum 14. I wanted to order a PDF copy, but that service is not available for this book. Furthermore, due to the book’s age you’re apparently only allowed to read it in situ. I will send them an email and ask if there are other ways, but I don’t think they’ll answer before 4 January.

  2. Via WorldCat I just found out that the book is also in the Tresoar library (Leeuwarden, 8911 DH Netherlands), where it is apparently beschikbaar, and in the Princeton University library (Princeton, NJ 08544 United States).

  3. The chronicle by John Sikeliota is apparently a forgery. I found this thesis — —, where it says: “For example, see the reference to the chronicle of John Sikeliotes (Patzig, “Quellen des Zonaras I”, 53), which scholarship has now established as forged (Kresten, “Phantomgestalten”, 213-7)” (p. 14 n. 29). At different parts of the thesis the author also writes that “Johannes Sikeliota” never existed.

  4. Drat. It doesn’t say.

    But “John of Sicily” still really does contain ancient material, that much is clear from Mai using it.

    Nice to be able to download the whole thesis in searchable form!

  5. The Staatsbibliothek Berlin may also have a copy, although according to the catalogue it might have been lost in WWII. Perhaps you check with them yourself.

    The tricky bit is that in their catalogue the word “Sikeliota” is misspelt – try a search on “Heinrich Chronik Johannes Wiener” in the online catalogue at

  6. I was interested in your comment “Then I remember that Google book search doesn’t work properly outside the US. I retry via a US server.” Can you give me any more detail on this ?

  7. I don’t know why it happens. But the list of results returned is not the same as people in the US see. If you can fool the search into thinking you are in the US (via an anonymizing proxy) then you will see this at once.

    If the search worked correctly, we would get the same results, but just not be able to see the books. But it doesn’t.

  8. La Chronique de Georges Hamartolus a été éditée en 1904 par Carl de Boor dans la collection Teubner sous le titre “Georgius Monachus, Chronicon” (2 volumes) et a été rééditée “correctior” en 1978. Cette réédition se trouve sur le site”Gallica”.
    J’espère vous avoir été utile par ces précisions.

  9. J’ajoute que le début de la Chronique de Johannes Sikeliota est reproduite dans la thèse suivante : “Das Chronikon Epitomon (en grec) der Wiener Handschrift Th. Gr. Nr. XL” par Arthur Pusch, Iena 1908. Ce début concerne l’histoire biblique. La thèse est disponible sur le Google Books américain.

  10. Thank you so much for these details! I was unaware of the De Boor edition in Tuebner. De Boor was a busy man who also worked on the fragments of Philip of Side. I wish I knew more about his work.

    The 1978 reedition is on Gallica? You don’t have a link, do you?

    Thank you also for the Pusch text of John Sikeliota, which I find is here:

  11. Cher Monsieur,

    Pour Gallica, le site est :
    Ensuite dans “Rechercher”, taper : “georges le moine”. Les 2 premiers livres qui apparaissent sont l’édition de de Boor, qui a le grand avantage de donner les sources de Georges.

    Puis “Accéder au document”. Vous pouvez télécharger les livres en entier (cliquer sur l’icone en forme de disquette).

    Cela dit, je désespère de trouver Johannes Sikeliota. Je crois que ce qui est faux, c’est le nom de l’auteur et non le texte.

    Michel Festy

  12. Cher Mr. Pearse,

    1 Il y a des développements très intéressants sur le cod. Vindobonensis hist. Gr. 99 (= « Johannes Sikeliota ») dans l’ouvrage suivant : Ioannis Antiocheni Fragmenta ex Historia Chronica – Introduzione, edizione critica e traduzione a cura di Umberto Roberto, Texte und Untersuchungen… 154, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin-New york 2005 :
    – p. CXVII-CXXII (surtout CXVII-CXIX) : présentation de l’œuvre. Le nom de Johannes Sikeliota est une falsification, mais les extraits de chroniques sont authentiques. A lire absolument.
    – p. 80-100 : extraits complets concernant la guerre de Troie. Mais je ne crois pas que c’est ce que vous cherchez.

    2 Télécharger sur Google Books les 2 ouvrages suivants :
    – Krumbacher : Geschichte der Byzantinischen Litteratur, Munchen 1897. Sur Johannes Sikeliota : p. 386 sqq.
    – Albrecht Wirth : Aus Orientalischen Chroniken, Francfort, 1894. Résumé et extraits en grec de « Johannes Sikeliota » : p. 27-34.

    3 Ce que vous cherchez dans « Johannes Sikeliota » concerne-t-il le second Kainan (Evangile de Luc, 3,36) ? Si c’est le cas, je crois avoir toutes les références. Si ce n’est pas le cas. De quoi s’agit-il ?

    Sincerely yours.

  13. Thank you so much for these details, which are really good! I have never looked at Krumbacher, but I will do so now.

  14. The context of my enquiry was some extracts from Eusebius which are quoted by George Hamartolus and John of Sicily. But I determined that these were both from the Praeparatio Evangelica and not from the Diaphonia. I have commissioned a translation into English of the remains of the latter, you see.

    But all this information is useful, as we may want it again. I have updated your comment with links to the Google books items. I’ve also looked quickly at Krumbacher — how very useful! I only wish my German was better!

  15. Cher Mr. Pearse,

    En rapprochant votre travail sur les Questions évangéliques d’Eusèbe et votre recherche du texte de Johannes Sikeliota, j’étais arrivé (peut-être à tort) à la conclusion qu’il s’agissait de la question du second Kainan.
    La question est la suivante : l’Evangile de Luc, 3,36, dans sa généalogie de Jésus, dit qu’Arphaxad est le père de Kainan, lui-même père de Sala, alors que la Genèse, 10,24 et 11,13 dit qu’Arphaxad est le père de Sala et ignore donc Kainan. Cependant quelques manuscrits des Septuaginta ont la même généalogie que Luc.
    Or le texte de Johannes Sikeliota qui évoque la question ne peut être que celui que vous trouverez dans la thèse de Pusch (que vous avez), p. 10, 16-26 (avec en note les variantes du texte du Sikeliota). Ce texte ne parle que des « chronographoi », mais un autre texte est encore plus précis. Il s’agit de l’« Anonymus Matritensis » (ed. Bauer, Teubner 1909), p. 3,6-4,4, qui précise que Jules l’Africain et Eusèbe omettent ce second Kainan. Georges le Syncelle donne les mêmes précisions.
    Je ne sais si ces informations vous sont utiles et si elles sont en rapport avec votre travail. Je n’ai pas les « Questions évangéliques » des Sources Chrétiennes, mais je possède l’Anonymus Matritensis (que j’ai scanné et peux vous envoyer si cela vous intéresse ; il est introuvable sur Internet). Il est possible que « Johannes Sikeliota » et l’Anonyme se réfèrent à la Chronique d’Eusèbe (d’où le second Kainan est absent) et non aux Questions évangéliques. Mais Eusèbe se répète beaucoup dans ses œuvres…
    Je reste à votre disposition.

  16. Thank you very much for your note! This is most interesting, but I can’t pursue it now. Unfortunately I am very tired, and not very well, so I am trying not to get involved in anything new.

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