This morning is Good Friday, the sun is shining and a beautiful day is in prospect. It is the anniversary of when an ordinary middle-class man was done to death horribly by one part of the establishment, the other part (which could have saved him) being unwilling to use up political capital over a “trivial” matter. I’m nobody; so are most people. It could have been us. That’s what human nature in a position of power looks like – indifference to what is right in the cause of what is convenient for the selfish. Historically the festival is now nearly 2000 years old, which is remarkable. When it was first celebrated, there was still an emperor on the throne in Rome.
After finishing at 9pm last night with the Syriac program (I was starting to make mistakes), I started thinking about the Roman History of Herodian. This writer of the 3rd century AD is little known. A Loeb Classical Library translation from 30 years ago exists. But so do two public domain versions. The first is a 17th century one; the other much more modern from 1749, by a Mr. J. Hart. Neither is online in any form and I have seen neither. The first, indeed, might well be just a rendering from a French version.
I’d like to get the Hart text online. The first question is where to find a copy. Glasgow university had one, and are helpful people. But it was fragile, and I could only have 20 pages (out of 400+). Leeds ignored my email; when I repeated it, I was told courteously that they saw no need to make a copy, and had no obligation to the general public anyway, although I wonder if they say that in funding applications for taxpayers’ money. Aberdeen also ignored my email (no doubt, as for Pilate, it wasn’t convenient). The British Library have one, and will make a copy for $250, which is a lot of money — probably the price of the book itself, if one could find one for sale — and I will consider it.
Another issue is that a book of that date will employ the long-S fairly enthusiastically, which is unrecognised by OCR. A dozen corrections per page for 400 pages might be time-consuming.
The other history that should be online and isn’t is Ammianus Marcellinus. The Loeb may be in the public domain, even; and there is a C.D.Yonge translation from Bohn’s Library that definitely is. The latter is even on Google books, for US readers only, as Chris Weimer verified for me. I have had a photocopy of it for years, almost 2 inches thick, sitting on a shelf. Anyhow I checked that no-one had scanned it since I last looked, and then began to run it through the scanner. I did 6 books, and OCR’d and proof-corrected 1 book, by midnight. (At that point I retired to bed with Northanger Abbey!). At this moment book 23 (9th of those extant) is going through the scanner. It is high time that this work was online, and I will now do it. The quality may not be great, there will be no footnotes; but if anyone wants to correct typos, they can; if not, then it doesn’t matter. Either way it will be done. I do wish that my scanner could take more than 25 pages at a time, tho!