Sympathy for Hercules

An Augean day today.  I’ve received an A4 envelope containing a print-off of the translation of the 18 Coptic fragments of Eusebius Gospel Problems and Solutions (Quaestiones ad Stephanum et Marinum) with pencil revisions in the margin, plus revisions of the Coptic transcription, plus notes on the translation of De Lagarde’s Latin preface.  Also an electronic file containing a new version of the translation.  All this has to be merged together, which would anyway be arduous and is hampered by a somewhat disorganised presentation.

De Lagarde benefited from the generosity of the then owner of the Coptic manuscript.  The latter was rather more generous than the British Library of our own day with its talk of copyrights on PDFs which has prevented me seeing it.

Now, since Robert Curzon, with that mindset whereby the British nobles are ever ready to help in every fine endeavour, had promised on 1 May 1866 (after I wrote to him from Schleusingen) to grant me free access to the very valuable books he had collected, in the year 1874 I asked Robert, Lord Zouche, the son of that most magnanimous man, who had meanwhile been summoned to heaven, to honour his father’s promise (I was intending to edit the Egyptian Psalter). 

He very kindly, with truly unheard-of benevolence, entrusted to my piety and learning both the most ancient fragments of the Egyptian Psalms and the codex of which I have just been speaking, sending them to Göttingen. 

This favour was all the more gratifying, the more certain it was that neither in my own Germany were such treasures possessed—for I was born after the riches of the globe had been distributed—nor in the whole of Europe was there to be found, apart from myself, a man who had both studied theology and had acquired some acquaintance with the Egyptian language, and was willing to expend toilsome and thankless effort—and to suffer a large enough financial loss—on the task of editing this catena.

Faced with such generosity, one might hope that De Lagarde would behave similarly.  Alas, at the end of the preface we read:

All those who wish to do so may use my volume, but only with the proviso that without my permission it is not permitted to reproduce what I have edited, nor to include it in the margin of an edition of either the Egyptian New Testament or of the Fathers.

I thank Robert, Lord Zouche, to the highest extent of my abilities for sending the manuscript to me in Göttingen to use.

De Lagarde’s failure to provide a translation was a more certain guarantee that his work would remain unused than this early claim of copyright.  It was successful; the catena remains unknown and unused by scholars.

Let us mourn the passing of the aristocratic spirit, in these days of small minded officialdom, and honour the shade of Robert, Lord Zouche.


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