Syriac books at

I was fascinated to discover today that a reasonable number of reprints of Syriac texts are for sale at reasonable prices online at These can be rather cheaper than reprints from Gorgias press, for instance. Quality is unknown, tho. Quite a number of Alphone Mingana’s works are there. Search for ‘Assyrian’ or ‘Syriac’.

Postscript (12/1/8).  After the last post, I ordered two volumes to see what the quality was like.  These arrived some time this week.  Both had coloured card covers.

The first was a reprint of Alphonse Mingana’s Syriac text and English translation of The Debate on the Christian Faith between Timothy I and Caliph Mahdi in 781 AD.  The book was well-made, paper quality was cheap but OK.  The printing was plainly from a scan of the page, and showed the increased blackness interspersed with lighter patches that always seems to attend this sort of reprint.  However it was perfectly legible.  The effect was not entirely professional; the spine only contained the title with no publisher, the rear cover simply had a url at the foot of it.  Inside the first page was the title-page of the 1928 original.  There was no indication of ISBN or any other details of the reprint.  The original pages had been printed too low, so that the large page number at the bottom was perilously close to the page edge!  In short, it was quite serviceable but looked a bit cheap.  It cost around $18.

The other was a self-published collection of ‘articles’ on The Assyrian Levies; military formations raised by the British  between the world wars from the East Syriac Christians in the mountains of Iraq.  This had all the failings of the first volume, of course; these are clearly features of publication.  The volume was $10.

The author plainly knew a great deal about his subject, and had even obtained photographs for reproduction.  The printing of these was very grainy, however.  But the real problem was that he didn’t know how to write a story that would engage the reader.  The human interest was entirely absent, and the volume was confusing to read.  Campaigns were recorded in outline, with little indication of why and wherefore.  The volume only came to life in recording the defence of a Royal Air Force base from German-led Iraqi troops during WW2, and this was over too quickly.  I kept feeling the urge to rewrite the book, for it is plain that an interesting book is waiting to be written on this subject.  But this is not it!

I think that we can see that lulu has a useful purpose to students and scholars.  If you have some out-of-print book and need to supply copies to your class, then this is a good way to do so.  (Copyright ownership would have to be checked if the material is one’s own; I have not looked into this, but you would not wish to transfer any property to!)  The prices are not impossible, for a few copies. 

In fact I intend to experiment a bit; to get a copy of Graf’s Geschichte vol. 1 — which is out of print — made this way, for personal purposes.  I have a PDF of most of it, and I will have it printed, but with a blank leaf bound into each opening, so that I can write notes against each page.  This is a practical and effective measure for me to get a working copy of the book.  Of course I won’t sell it, or indeed make it available to anyone else (because of copyright).  But it will permit me to study a book in a language which I don’t know very well, in repeated passes.

But if you wanted to start a publishing business, I think is not the way to go.  I am advised that for more than a few copies it is convenient rather than competitive.  But the cheapness of the products would not give a favourable first impression.  I compared those I saw to the Sources Chretiennes volumes, which may be small but are on good paper and well printed.  I could sell the latter to any academic library; but not the lulu volumes.


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