Update on my book, Origen’s Homilies on Ezekiel

Long term readers may remember that, back in 2014, my company published a rather splendid item in book form, Mischa Hooker’s marvellous translation of Origen’s Homilies on Ezekiel, including the catena fragments, with facing Greek text; some 700+ pages of it.  This was the second volume in the Ancient Texts in Translation series, from Chieftain Publishing.  The hardback was very splendid; and the paperback is a solid item too.

Hard sell:  The book is available still on Amazon.com in hardback ($80) and paperback ($45); and Amazon.co.uk in hardback (£50) and paperback (£30).  Amazon don’t keep a lot of stock, naturally, but you can order any of these as all are in print.  Lead time is probably about a week when out of stock.  Please get your university library to buy it!

The idea behind creating paper books was always to sell enough copies to justify commissioning more academic translations, ideally to university libraries.  Once sales dried up, the book would be released onto the web in the public domain.  This was (and is still) always the intention.

It’s interesting to find that the book is turning out to be something of a slow burner.  Initial sales were not impressive.  Originally no English translation existed of these homilies.  But during the project, the excellent Thomas P. Scheck released one in the well-known Ancient Christian Writers series; and this naturally stole our thunder somewhat.  However he only included a translation of the 14 homilies from Latin, without the original language or the fragments.  Dr Hooker did take account of the Scheck version, which appeared when ours was almost complete.

But I find that the book has continued to sell!  In fact I was surprised to find that it made enough money last year, after three years, to justify keeping it in print for another year.  This was unexpected.

Today I learn that a new review of it has appeared, by Peter W. Martens, in the Society for Biblical Literature’s journal, the Review of Biblical Literature, and published 3rd Jan. 2018.  The review is accessible to SBL members here.

In fact this is the third review that has appeared (to my knowledge), the others being by:

  • Angela R. Christman, in: Journal of Theological Studies 68 (2017), 351-3 (see abstract).
  • L. Vianès, in: Revue de philologie, de littérature et d’histoire anciennes 88 (2014), 180-2.

I must confess to being encouraged by these.  With luck they will result in further sales.  The more copies that sell, the more I might feel inclined to do it again.  I do not believe that the Origen volume will ever recover the investment of money and time that I put into it (to say nothing of others); but if it comes anywhere near doing so, then that is all money to put into further projects.

But I still intend to release the results online.  I nearly did so this Christmas.  Maybe at the end of the year.

Origen of Alexandria: Exegetical works on Ezekiel. Sermons, scholia, fragments.

The second book in Ancient Texts in Translation is now available.  This is a translation of all that Origen wrote on Ezekiel, together with the original text.  The work was translated by Mischa Hooker, who has gamely worked away at this for five years.  The results are really quite satisfactory.

I’m not sure that I actually announced this when it was released, so here’s an overview.

9780956654021-frontcoverOrigen wrote three works in which he commented on Ezekiel.  He wrote sermons, composed a commentary (almost entirely lost) and also scholia.

The series of fourteen expository sermons is lost in the original Greek, but the content is preserved in a Latin translation.  The most recent critical text, and a new English translation, are printed here.

Following these is a long section containing the fragments of his work in Greek.  This comprises the fragments of the original Greek of the sermons, together with the remains of the scholia and the single remaining fragment of the commentary.  The fragments are ordered by the chapter and verse of the bible to which they relate.

The fragments are all derived from medieval Greek bible commentaries, known as catenae.  These consist of “chains” of quotations from earlier authors.  The text as printed by Charles Delarue is used, together with other fragments given by W. Baehrens.  As an appendix a series of fragments from the Onomasticon Marchalianum are given.

The volume has been produced in order to make the translation more readily available.  The original language text is reprinted from the best available critical edition and appears on facing pages.

Somewhat annoyingly, while the project was in-flight, a rival translation appeared in the ACW series, by Thomas Scheck (who has done sterling work on the homilies of Origen).  But that is now some years ago, and his volume only contains the homilies and not the vast array of fragmentary material.

The book is available in hardback and paperback at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.  Here’s the links:

Hardback (ISBN 978-0956654021):  $80 (Amazon.com), £50 (Amazon.co.uk)

Paperback (ISBN 978-0956654038):  $45 (Amazon.com), £30 (Amazon.co.uk)

I – or rather Chieftain Publishing – can also accept purchase orders from institutions.

It is actually selling reasonably well. I’d be grateful for your support, as it did cost rather a lot of money and life-energy to produce!  The sales help to make it possible for me to commission further translations.

The intention, as with volume 1, is to place the book online once the sales drop to nothing.  We’re nearly there with volume 1 now, in fact.  So this is not a hard money-making scheme, but a way to get a translation made that will not be kept offline by greedy publishers.  I expect to lose money on it.  Your purchases reduce the amount I lose!

It’s 742 pages, by the way.  Don’t buy it expecting a slim volume!

Origen hardback arrives!

The hardback test copy of Origen of Alexandria: Exegetical works on Ezekiel (text and translation of the homilies and fragments) has arrived and is fine.  This is the first time I have seen the hardback, and its cover, and it all looks very good!  It’s a meaty volume and no mistake!

I’ve now pressed the buttons on the Lightning Source website to tell them to make it available, both hardback and paperback.  They already have the pricing etc information from Nielsen, the ISBN people.  So I don’t see that there should be much delay.

The next thing I have to do is to add information about the book to Amazon.  This is not a pleasant process, as I recall, since Amazon don’t bother to make it so.

It will interesting to see when the Amazon site changes to say that it is available to purchase!  (For I doubt that it will really be available before then, come what may).

Origen of Alexandria on Ezekiel has arrived!

The paperback proof of the new book has arrived!  Origen of Alexandria: Exegetical works on Ezekiel, translated by Mischa Hooker, has hit my doormat with a mighty thump in its paperback incarnation:

Origen on Ezekiel, tr. Mischa Hooker
Origen on Ezekiel, tr. Mischa Hooker

So far, so good.  I can’t see any obvious problems with it, which means that we can go to print and (I hope) sell some copies.

It’s a long time since I started this project.  The objective is to get the homilies online and freely accessible.  To do this, I commissioned a translation of the homilies on Ezekiel, including the Greek fragments, with parallel original language.  At the time no translation existed, and it has taken years to get here.  And a translation has appeared since (although it is not as comprehensive as ours).  But the idea was always to sell some copies in printed form, and then place the book online.  That is still the aim.

I can’t quite make the book available as yet; I need to check that the hardback is also correctly printed.  But we’re probably only a few days away.  It will, of course, take a little while to trickle through the Amazon.

Struck by the Lightning Source … right in the Origen … ouch!

The Origen book – a text and translation of his works on Ezekiel, including masses of catena material – is complete!  This afternoon, after a mighty struggle with the crummy online interface that Lightning Source Inc provide their hapless customers, I managed to upload the files and order the full proofs, complete with covers and dust-jackets.  Yay!

Less pleasing was my opinion of the following screen, displayed by their system, which showed what percentage of the cover price I would receive, after allowing Amazon (etc) 20%, and deducting LSI’s own fees to manufacture the book.


Yes, that’s right: of a $45 cover price I get $25.   It doesn’t pay, this game.

Never mind.  We’ll sell a few copies of the thing, and then get it online.  But it should look very impressive in printed form.  Really I think it will!

Proof-reading help wanted

The edition and translation of Origen’s Homilies on Ezekiel that I commissioned is now in its final stages.  I need someone to check that the latest bunch of changes were applied correctly, and also to go through the footnotes in one (long 150 page) section and check that the numerals are in the right places, and match up with the text at the bottom of the page.  It’s a bit tedious, and will probably take a few hours, and I haven’t the time to do it.  Unfortunately the proof-reader is otherwise engaged.

Would anyone like to volunteer to assist?  I can’t pay a lot, but I can pay something.  If you’d be interested, please contact me.

From my diary

I’m still working away on the Mithras site.  This week I’ve been dealing with the find of statues and inscriptions at Merida in 1902-3, when a bull ring was constructed.  No archaeological investigation was undertaken, and details are very hazy.

Meanwhile I have discovered some time-consuming problems with the footnotes in the Origen book, in the section devoted to the Greek fragments.  Whenever the text goes into two columns the footnote numbering in the text goes wrong.

This is fiddly and I need to give a very specific list of corrections to the typesetter.  But I have no time!  Not enough hours in the day!

So … too busy to blog!

UPDATE: I wrote that post through the WordPress Android app.  Well that was a disaster, wasn’t it?  And posted twice for good measure.

From my diary

Regular readers will know that through an intermediary I have commissioned a lady in Syria to type up the Arabic text of Erpenius’ 1625 edition of the second part of al-Makin.  Al-Makin was a 13th century Coptic writer.  The first part runs from the creation to the 11th year of Heraclius; the second part (which alone has been printed) is abbreviated from the Islamic writer al-Tabari and runs down to his own time.

Today a further 8 chunks of transcription appeared – 80 pages of the Erpenius edition, which is 300 pages in all.  I now have 190 pages of text in electronic form!  Only 110 to go.

This transcriber is really good and swift and efficient.

I’ve also received a bunch of rather excellent photographs of the Barberini Mithraeum in Rome from a correspondent.  The basic versions can be found here, but the photographer has kindly sent me the high resolution copies.  I shall incorporate them into the Mithras site in due time.

I am still working on the Mithras materials from time to time.  It’s the only way to attack such a vast catalogue of material.  I daresay I shall still be working on it in a few years time.  But that doesn’t matter.  Whatever I put online is useful, and whatever I never get to … well, we’re no worse off.

A bunch of errata have been sent to the typesetter for the Origen book who, it turns out, has been in hospital.

I’m still full of cold, so not doing much on any of my projects however.

From my diary

I had intended to go to Iceland on holiday this week.  Unfortunately the gods decided otherwise, and Hecate breathed her poisoned breath on me on Saturday.  However all things work together for good, for those who love God, and no doubt this is for the best.

This leaves me here, wasting my time at home, and feeling too washed out even to do anything or read much.  Curiously this variant of the annual scourge doesn’t involve large numbers of tissues.  It should be over soon, I think.

One thing I have done (finally) is to forward the proof corrections for the Origen book to the typesetter.  There’s a general problem in the Greek fragments with the bold formatting, and I had intended to go through this and list the problems page by page.  But a quick look today reveals that it’s a general problem, and that every page has been mis-set wherever it went to multiple columns.  So really there’s nothing to be gained by me repeating that same message for every page.  So I have passed that one to the typesetter.

Back to the sofa for me, I think.  It’s not cold, and the sunlight is cheering, but the virus leaves one feeling so weak!  I shall lie there and read twitter.

From my diary

The translation of Origen’s exegetical works on Ezekiel has been proof-read all the way through, and a long but not very serious list of minor issues produced.  Next week I shall do a comparison of bold-face passages in the PDF with the original Word document, and then send the lot to the typesetter to be fixed.

My sincere thanks to John Literal, who volunteered his time and his eyes to read through the text.  It’s a hard task to do, and impossible for either myself or the translator to do, as we have seen the text so many times.  I am very grateful.  Thank you, John!