Elmacin (Al-Makin) 1

I’m not sure where this will take me, but I’ve taken a first step to doing some work on the World Chronicle (al-Majmu` al-Mubarak) of George Elmacin (Jirgis Al-Makin, Ibn Amid); I’ve ordered a copy of the text. 

In fact I’ve ordered a reproduction from the British Library of their manuscript, Ms. Or. 7564 (218 folios).  The reproduction is a digital scan of a monochrome microfilm (don’t laugh); and unusually for the BL, is at a reasonable price of around £60 ($120).  What the quality is like I don’t yet know.  They want a month to produce it, which I can live with.

The work itself is in two halves; the first in 116 biographies of major figures from the Creation down to the 11th year of Heraclius; the second is the “Historia Saracenica” edited with a Latin translation by Erpenius back in the 17th century.  I don’t know if I can get hold of a copy of the latter, or whether I need to yet.  A Latin translation of the end of the first part and all of the second exists in manuscript, unpublished, in the Bodleian, but their current policies on reproductions mean that this is inaccessible to me.

Now I’d like to pay someone to make a transcription and translation of the lot.  At the moment I have no idea what that would cost, except that any text that comes on 436 pages won’t be cheap.  I also have to consider the credit crunch, and whether someone like myself who works as a freelance can afford to fund an expensive long-running project when I don’t have work guaranteed beyond Christmas.

So I’m not sure what will happen here.  But let’s travel hopefully, cautiously and see. 

I think the first desideratum is to get a list of the 116 figures for whom Elmacin gives a  biography.  That shouldn’t cost too much, surely.  One problem may be that these names will be rubricated in the manuscript, i.e. done in red ink, which won’t be visible on a monochrome microfilm (we may fairly curse those who in the age of the digital camera force us to work with this obsolete technology!).  It might be possible to get images on DVD of the two Beirut mss from the HMML site for a relatively small sum, and these might fill the gap.

The next item, I think, would be a translation of the life of Christ.  This is the bit that Shlomo Pines used for his text of the peculiar Testimonium Flavianum that he attributed to “Agapius”, so should be interesting, to get a feel for whether that biography really drew on Agapius.

That should take us up beyond Christmas, and give me a better idea about the text, the costs, and the economic situation.  In 2002-3 most freelancers like myself were out of work for a year.  I devoutly hope the same doesn’t happen this time.


Leave a Reply