Abandoning the transcription of al-Makin project

In any language group the first literature that we read is usually the histories of themselves, by themselves.  In Arabic Christian literature there are five such histories: Agapius, Euthychius, Al-Makin, Bar Hebraeus, and one other whose name I can never remember.

Of all of these, the 13th century history of al-Makin has attracted my attention for a while.  The first half has never been printed.  The second half was printed in the 17th century, but the editor died before finishing it.  The remainder of the second half was printed recently.  I felt that I would like to make it all more accessible, so I obtained – with difficulty – some PDF’s of microfilms of manuscripts.  I decided that the first thing to do was simply transcribe one of these, and create an electronic text.  This would make the text accessible, and it would be possible for non-Arabists like me to read it using Google Translate.  A transcriber in Syria was engaged, via a French lady, and off we went.

Unfortunately the project simply will not make progress.  I have so far spent $600, but I have nothing to show for it beyond chunks of text, pages in the wrong order, and so forth.  Small problems become large problems.  Trivial issues block all progress.  Things simply do not get sorted out – things that, in Roman script, would be the work of half an hour to remedy.

I have decided, reluctantly, to do something that I never do.  I am going to abandon the project.  Situated as I am, I have no power to make anything happen.  So I am simply eating my heart out in vain.

I will lose the money, of course.  But I will get my life back.

My life, in the end, is worth much more.

Why, precisely, it is impossible to work with people in the middle east, to do even the simplest tasks, I do not know.   I suppose that this is why those countries are poor, and will always remain poor.

I apologise to anyone who was hoping to see this.  But unless I actually learn Arabic myself and do the job myself, it seems that nothing will be done.

9 Responses to “Abandoning the transcription of al-Makin project”


  1. Pat Cullinan, Jr.

    Roger,

    Looks like you’re up against a force majeure.

    At least, now you can relax.

    All the bsst,

    Pat

  2. Roger Pearse

    Thanks – that is my impression also.

  3. Douglas Galbi

    I was looking for a couple of Tertullian’s treatises. Of course I found them on your fabulous Tertullian website. You’ve done great work. Don’t let this minor setback discourage you.

  4. Roger Pearse

    I agree: that ought to be the right way forward. Not sure how to find such a person, tho.

  5. Neunder

    I agree with Douglas above. Just today, I needed to look up passages from Eusebius’ Preparation, and YOU had it. You’ve done tremendous service. Soldier on!

  6. Neunder

    Have you ever considered commissioning a translation of Rutilius Lupus, De Figuris sententiarum et elocutionis? Never translated into English. And it’s short. From wikipedia: “The work is valuable chiefly as containing a number of examples, well translated into Latin, from the lost works of Greek rhetoricians.” It would only require someone with a basic sense for rhetorical figures.

  7. zimriel

    If Bar Hebraeus (Syriac / Arabic) counts, and Agapius the chronicler counts: then the one you’re missing is probably Elias bar Shenaye of Nisibin. One might also suggest the Siirt Chronicle . . .

    I wouldn’t count the History of the Patriarchs as it was almost certainly composed in Coptic before entering Arabic; ditto John of Nikiu.

  8. zimriel

    - But back to your original point: my condolences to hear you wasted your time and treasure on this project. You have done excellent work elsewhere – we all owe you a debt for your Agapius translations – and I hope this horrible experience has not entirely put you off research in the Islamic era.

  9. Roger Pearse

    Very glad to help, and thank you both. I have no intention of giving up on what I do.

    @Neunder, Rutilius Lupus is new to me. I will look into this further.



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