From my diary

Greetings to any Mertonians who are lured hither by the mention of this site in Postmaster.  Those who remember me may recall that even at college I was interested in the Church fathers!

My apologies for the limited blogging.  I have been interviewing for a new contract this week.  One that I had favoured, with IBM, has given me much anguish.  Who would believe that, under their non-negotiable contract, the contractor is expected to work 8 hours a day for a fixed sum, and for free for up to four more hours a day? Or that the luckless souls so entrapped were contractually unable to leave during the entire 6 month term? Or that if they did, if they got sick, or their children did, they forfeited a month’s salary and were the subject of legal action for up to ca. $10,000?  I cannot imagine making such demands of another human being who simply wants to earn some money from me.

Back in the world of real and important things, the Eusebius volume is still progressing.  I have been unable to work on the corrections for it as yet, tho.  But I had an email from the lady responsible for the Coptic, with some further details.

Yesterday I was talking about chapter titles.  In medieval manuscripts we often find ancient works divided into chapters, and these often labelled capituli or kephalaia.  There are often short pieces of text at the start of the chapter, in red, which we might think of as chapter titles.  But it is a real question whether these are authorial.  The research has not really been done.

Years ago I collected articles on this subject, all more or less poor or limited in scope.  Often these referred to the 1882 Das antike Buchwesen (The ancient book trade) by Birt; or the even more elderly 1872 volume Griechische Literaturgeschichte by Bergk.  The latter gives a short list of ancient authors who mention kephalaia; whatever that means to them at that date.  But it is plainly incomplete, since I myself know of an interesting quotation in the praefatio of Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John.  I know of this only because I scanned the translation to place it online.

 The subjoined subscription of the chapters, will shew the subjects over which our discourse extends, to which we have also annexed numbers, that what is sought may be readily found by the readers.

In other words, he has written a praefatio, then given a list of chapters, and numbered them (and presumably placed numbers in the text?) so that the readers can find them.

Do these words indicate that Cyril is doing something which is a novelty?  If it is not, why does he mention it?

I’ve long hankered to know, all the same, what Bergk and Birt say.  But I knew better than to borrow their books.  I don’t read German very well.  Trying to find whatever there was on chapter titles in these long texts would be fruitless, and hard on the eyes.  So I never did.  But that was then.

How times change!  Today you can download the two books as PDF’s.  This I have done, and OCR’d them.  So I now have searchable PDF’s.  I can do a search on “kapit” (short for kapiteln).  I can find all the passages where the word appears.  I can then select the text, paste it into Google translate, and get a very good idea of what is being said, right there! 

I may paste the text and translation of the relevant portions in this blog, if my job-hunting permits.  A list of ancient discussions of the subject, with verbatim quotation, would be a useful thing to do.

Of course the other question is whether a TLG search on “kephal” would produce more.  I might try that on the CDROM.


5 thoughts on “From my diary

  1. In the preface to one of his Old Testament commentaries, called the Glaphyra, Cyril also makes mention of the 17 kephalaia (‘chapters’) of his De Adoratione et cultu in spiritu et veritate. So those divisions must have been his own doing.

  2. Sadly, Glaphyra does not exist in translation. I was just translating the preface today and came across the mention of the chapters in De Adoratione. It can be found in PG 69.16. De Adoratione takes up all of PG 68 and is also not translated. From what I can tell (from a quick look), it appears that the chapters in De Adoratione also have titles.

    Also, from my reading of of his John commentary, the chapter structure seems to break down the farther you go in the work. The early books are clearly divided according to topical chapters, but some of the later books have no chapters at all, or only have one or two, and the length of the chapters can vary widely. There may yet be some logic to the division of chapters and books, but it’s not immediately obvious to me. I hope to someday look at this issue further.

    Thanks for your posts on this issue.

  3. So much of Cyril is not translated. It is strange and annoying.

    Thank you very much for your comments. Do publish that preface translation somewhere — either formally or else as a draft online somewhere. Don’t let it get forgotten on a hard disk somewhere! Meanwhile I’ve had a go myself at the relevant sentence. (You can correct me where I got it wrong!)

    I appreciate the encouragement. The subject of chapter titles is one that I have long found interesting, and suddenly realised that I can now address. So there will be more.

Leave a Reply