Microsoft live books to close?

I’ve been reading some reports that Microsoft is to dump this initiative, to stop scanning and just merge the results into its general (useless) search engine.  The site was blocked from access outside the US until a few weeks ago, but is now accessible — while it lasts.

It’s quite a triumph for the British Library, isn’t it?  They signed an agreement whereby their books would only appear on this site — inaccessible to the British taxpayers, who pay their salaries.  Now it seems as if the books won’t really be accessible at all.  If they had appeared on, we would all be able to use them.

Nearly 10 years after the world-wide web became available, the British Library remains dedicated to keeping its collection offline and inaccessible to anyone.  It’s difficult for me, as a British taxpayer, not to feel deep anger at this.  The BL seems to be run by a group of self-satisfied and corrupt bureaucrats, running their little gravy train for themselves and ignoring the public welfare.  But when will politicians bring these people to justice?


Eusebius “Quaestiones” progress 11

Regular readers will know that I have commissioned a gentleman whom I refer to as Mr. A to translate all the remains of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Quaestiones ad Stephanum et Marinum.  This work contains a series of ‘problems’ — differences between the gospels — and Eusebius’ ‘solutions’ to them.  The problems ‘for Stephanus’ all come from either the start of the gospels, and usually deal with the geneaologies of Jesus.  The remainder deal with differences between the endings of the gospels, including the multiple endings of Mark, found even then in the manuscripts.  The work is lost, but an epitome survives, plus lots of fragments in Greek and Syriac catena-commentaries.

Today is a great day.  Mr. A has today completed the first translation of the entire epitome into English, and intends to revise it all by the end of this week.  After this, we start in on the fragments of the catenae.  This week I went to Cambridge and found yet more fragments in various 17th century printed extracts, themselves taken from catenae. 

So far the cost of translation has reached $1,800, which is quite a sum to pay out of my own pocket!  But I hope that if I make the text available in a print-on-demand version online, that enough copies can be sold to recover this.  I also invite donations; after all, the subject of the work should be of interest to an awful lot of people, whether Christian, atheist, or whatever.


The shape of the material heaven

From Augustine, ‘De genesi ad litteram’ (The literal meaning of Genesis), book 2, chapter 9 (tr. J.H.Taylor, 1982):

“It is frequently asked what our belief must be about the form and shape of heaven according to Sacred Scripture. Many scholars engaged in lengthy discussions on these matter, but the sacred writers with their deeper wisdom have omitted them. Such subjects are of no profit for those who seek beatitude, and, what is worse, they take up precious time that ought to be given to what is spiritually beneficial. What concern is it of mine whether heaven is a sphere and the earth is enclosed by it and suspended in the middle of the universe, or whether heaven like a disk above the earth covers it on one side?

“But the credibility of Scripture is at stake, and as I have indicated more than once, there is danger that a man uninstructed in divine revelation, discovering something in Scripture or hearing from it something that seems to be at variance with the knowledge that he has acquired, may resolutely withhold his assent in other matters where Scripture presents useful admonitions, narratives, or declarations. Hence, I must say briefly that in the matter of the shape of heaven the sacred writers knew the truth, but that the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, did not wish to teach men these facts that would be of no avail to their salvation.”


Sir Thomas Phillips of Middle Hill, Cheltenham

In the Guardian online today is a piece on this eccentric English book-collector of the last century, whose collection of manuscripts was a wonder and which is still being sold off even today.  References to manuscripts once in his collection are common in editions.  Most of them are now in Berlin.