How useful are the scanned books at Archive.org?

I’ve downloaded the Patrologia Orientalis volume 7 from Archive.org, and started to translate the French text of Agapius into English.  This is very easy French, as it was written by a Russian, so not his first language.

A real scholar would probably throw up his hands in horror.  The very idea of making a translation from a translation, rather than from the original text, is something that scholars would try not to do.

But hardly anyone knows 9th century Christian Arabic.  Quite a lot of people know French; quite a lot don’t.  I don’t know how much of the text I will translate.  But whatever I do translate should help to make the work better known, so it seems like a worthwhile task to me.

What I’ve been doing is printing off the pages and scribbling a translation in the margin.  Today I typed up a fortnight’s scribblings, which was tedious but necessary.  But…

I can’t help noticing that the 200dpi resolution of the pages isn’t really high enough.  The text is quite faint, even when printed in colour.  The footnotes are hard to read.  Was that Daniel chapter 9, or chapter 4?  Even in the text there can be problems.  Was that 5,500 years, or 3,300 years?

A couple of weeks ago I decided to buy a printed copy of that fascicle of PO 7.  My thinking was that the French was just so easy, that the machine translators might do it perfectly (which was untrue, but never mind).  It arrived yesterday.  I scanned part of it today.  But I couldn’t avoid noticing that letters that I had great difficulty reading, when it was part of the PDF, were perfectly clear now.

This is worrying.  The last thing I want to do is to discourage the digitisation of these volumes.  But at the same time, shouldn’t we ask for higher resolution?

Publishers will be pleased, tho.  Consultation for the odd bit may be OK, but for serious work, I had to go and buy a copy!

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