One evening

“Alas, alas!” I cried.  For I thought that I had found a treasure, and it was brutally jerked from me at the last moment!  I am inconsolable.

The history of Mehmet the conqueror sits in my scanner, and I turn the pages as I type.  The library lent it to me today.  It is a scarce volume.  The author, Kritovoulos, witnessed the fall of Constantinople to the Turk, and their mercy to the fallen city. 

Rarely do I sit at my scanner now.  Somehow I am more tired in the evenings, than I was even ten years ago.  Then I would merrily dedicate a weekend to wrestling with some huge volume.  Now a pile sit on the side, that I would rather have in electronic form, and simply gather dust.

The scan is for my own reference.  A PDF shall be created, and sit on my hard disk. 

But as I sat, and scanned, and surfed, I noted that the translation was made in 1954.  A glimmer of hope crept into my heart.  Perhaps, I thought, perhaps they did not renew the copyright?  Perhaps it is out of copyright?  Perhaps it could go online?

So I thought, and hoped and reasoned.  And I surfed around, searching for the copyright renewals.  I found that renewals for 1982 — when such a book must be renewed or become public domain — were accessible and searchable at  And a search for “mehmed  the conqueror” in the title brought nothing back!

Alas!  I rejoiced too soon. A closer inspection of the search page revealed curious features of the title search.  So I searched again on keyword.  And … woe … a record appeared.  A copyright claimant, a Sarah R. MacNeal, appeared, claiming to be the child of Charles Riggs the translator, and her claim was allowed.

Of course in 1982 the web was not thought of.  All that Mrs MacNeal wanted was to ensure that she got a share of whatever was going.  But now the work will be in copyright until 2049, when I shall be in my grave.  Not that this profits anyone.

But in the meantime, I consoled myself with a volume of poems by R. C. Lehmann.  He wrote light verse, and charms.  But in his portrait of a village, he gave this shrewd picture of the local squire, written in days when the class hatred and political spite of these days were unknown.  Read it aloud, so that you can hear the melody of the words.

He talked of his rights as one who knew
That the pick of the earth to him was due:
The right to this and the right to that,
To the humble look and the lifted hat;
The right to scold or evict a peasant,
The right to partridge and hare and pheasant;
The right to encourage discontent
By raising a hard-worked farmer’s rent;
The manifest right to ride to hounds
Through his own or anyone else’s grounds;
The right to eat of the best by day
And to snore the whole of the night away;
For his motto, as often he explained,
Was “A Darville holds what a Darville gained.”
He tried to be just, but that may be
Small merit in one who has most things free; …

My favourite among his verses is the Ramshackle Room, about remembering his college days.  My eyes too grow dim as I read it, for his thoughts are mine.

Meanwhile the last page is done, and the scanner is silent.  I must unplug it and place it back in my cupboard.  9 minutes, it took me.  Now to make my PDF.  Alas, that I cannot share it with you all! 

The library copy had marginalia written in pencil, in Arabic.  A first, that!


6 thoughts on “One evening

  1. “…Many of them were sold…” the context of this statement suggest it was done before the arrival of the Sultan, which raises the question who would be buying them in the midst of a ravaging occupation army that would be safe from that army? Even a proper auction in days following raises the question as to who the likely purchasers of books might have been? A study of known surviving texts might suggest paths of survivability? Don Diego Mendoza’s Polybius supposedly came through Suleiman suggesting many might have gone that route?

  2. Sorry about adding my comments to wrong post:

    From “The Manuscript tradition of Polybius” by John Michael Moore , p. 109

    “Graux discussed the library of Mendoza at great length, and records a Polybius, Books vi-xviii, which passed to Escorial, was numbered vi V 6, and lost in the fire of 1671. This is the only manuscript of Books vi-xviii which is recorded as having belonged to Mendoza…” and then later on the same page “…It is known that Suleiman I sent a number of manuscripts to Mendoza…”

    There’s some further discussion of sources in Moore’s book suggesting Turkish or possibly Corsican origin of the Polybius text but nothing there absolutely excludes Suleiman as the source, given his timing he could be expected to have inherited the spoils of Constantinople (his G-Grandfather Mehmed II lamented the destruction and loss in conquering it). The flourish of culture during Suleiman’s reign and the proximity of the Greek, Pargalı İbrahim Pasha, to his leadership certainly gives avenues for preservation. A study of the libraries of Suleiman might be interesting, as would a perusal of a translation of Charles Graux’ remarks on Mendoza’s library.

  3. In google books is “Essai sur les origines du fonds grec de l’Escurial: épisode de l’histoire de..” or “Essay on the origins of the Greek capital of El Escorial, episode in the history of…” It is in French,

    I find: “Report on a mission to Spain by Charles Graux. (From the Archives of literary and scientific missions, 3 Series, Volume V.)” Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, 1878, in-8

    Mendoza has a number of entries in the “Essai..” as the ambassador of Charles V to Venice. Haven’t had a chance to translate them yet…

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