An email has arrived, inviting me to publish commercially an English translation of the World Chronicle of Michael the Syrian. This is a surprise, although a welcome one. It is a very great honour also.
The Chronicle of Michael the Syrian is an enormous thing. The French translation by J.-B. Chabot, made a century ago, fills three large volumes. I borrowed the volumes, one by one, from a library and laboriously scanned them. The resulting PDF’s may be found on Archive.org. The translator estimates around 1200 pages, for the English translation, which is three times the size of Eusebius.
I don’t see my role in life as conventional publishing. There are enough people who could do that. Rather my job is to get things into the hands of people who want to read them. This means three different types of people:
Research libraries, where students can find them, and where journals can review them. Hardbacks with dustjackets is my approach to these.
Ordinary people involved in the subject. This means cheap paperback, although I don’t know how cheap any book of 1200 pages can be.
Ordinary people who just want to look at bits now and then, or do searches. This means freely available online — no other form will cut it.
What I have done for the Eusebius and Origen volumes is to buy the copyright (although allowing the translators to do whatever they like with it as well — hey, why not?). If I own the copyright, I can do #3. But before I do, I get the book typeset and a cover designed, so that I can make #1 and #2 available through Amazon.com, etc. I’ll do some marketing to scholars and libraries as well. Once the sales die down, and whatever money is to be made is made, I can then do #3.
Of course a press like Cambridge University Press would be able to give the book a far more sumptuous production than I can. They can market it to places who wouldn’t look at me. But … they would also hold the copyright until all of us are dead, and none of us would ever see the book.
I’ve made a proposal to the copyright holder, anyway. It may come to nothing, and it doesn’t matter if so; I’m quite busy enough right now! But if it does happen, it will mean that Michael comes out of the shadows and into all of our lives.
It would also mean that I would have to start finding a typesetter!