An 1843 guidebook to Italy, Rome and the Papal states

Quite by accident I have stumbled across an old guide-book on Google books.  It was published in 1843 by John Murray, and is full of interesting details on how to travel in these now vanished lands.  On page 8 there are details of arrangements for carriage travel, and then something on inns, concluding with some very wise words:

In cases of this kind it would be absurd to carry English habits and prejudices so far as to expect the comforts and conveniences of the great cities.  Travellers never gain anything by exacting or requiring more than the people can supply and if they have sufficient philosophy to keep their temper they will generally find that they are treated with civility and kindness.

That advice still holds, in hotels in places like Egypt.

The arrival in Rome on p.247 descends into details of inns and rental arrangements, all clearly the product of much experience. 

The ordinary currency of Rome is the “paul”, which ran at about 50 pauls to the pound sterling of those undepreciated days. How much is that, one wonders?  The National Archives calculator reckons that a pound in those days is equivalent to 50 GBP ($75) today, which would make the “paul” about the same as a modern pound, or $1.50.  The numbers do “feel” roughly right, although probably a little on the low side.  But such conversions are really valueless, and the reader must assess comparative value for himself.

On p.254 we get a survey of Rome, which includes this:

To the south and east of this district are the Palatine, the Aventine, the Esquiline and the Caelian, all of which, though included within the modem walls, are little better than a desert; their irregular surface is covered with vineyards or the gardens of uninhabited villas and they present no signs of human habitations but a few scattered and solitary convents.

It is different today, of course.

Another difference may be found on p.297.

Close to the Coliseum is the ruin the conical fountain called the Meta Sudans, which formed an important appendage of the amphitheatre. It appears to have been a simple jet issuing from a cone placed in the centre of brick basin, 80 feet in diameter. It was rebuilt by Domitian and is supposed to have been intended for the use of the gladiators after the labours of the arena. It is represented on several medals of the amphitheatre of the time of Vespasian, Titus, Severus &c. The fountain was constructed of brick work in the best style; the central cavity and the channels for carrying off the water are still visible. It was repaired a few years since, but these modern restorations may easily be distinguished from the ancient work.

Sadly the remaining concrete core of the meta sudans was demolished by Mussolini in 1936A photograph from 1922 must be one of the last:

The Meta Sudans outside the arch of Constantine, ca. 1922

This one from the 1880’s gives an excellent impression of the fountain, and its surrounding basin:

The Meta Sudans, ca. 1880

There are many images of the meta sudans to be found in Google Images.


Michael Bourdeaux: Religious Ferment in Russia (1968) now online

By permission of the author (who is also the copyright holder), I have created a PDF of Michael Bourdeaux’s book, Religious Ferment in Russia: Protestant opposition to Soviet Policy, Macmillan, 1968.  It joins the other three books from the founder of Keston College.  These are all  here:

I have also made sure that the PDF of the original page images is present for all books.


The arch of Constantine, the meta sudans, and the arch of Titus in 1575

I suppose all of us have stood next to the colosseum and looked up the slope towards the arch of Titus, at the entrance to the forum.  Du Perac, in 1575, did the same.  His illustration of the scene shows the arch of Constantine to the left, as it still is (the colosseum is immediately to the left, out of view); before it, the vanished “meta sudans” (the concrete core of which appears in 1922 photos, before being demolished by Mussolini as part of a traffic widening scheme), and to the right, the view to the arch of Titus, still embedded in the remains of the medieval Frangipani fortress, exactly as the later cork model shows it.

Click on the image for the full size image (from the BNF in Paris).

It’s interesting that somehow the scene, with walls indicating people’s fields and property, is more “real” somehow than the rather institutional view that one gets today.


From my diary

I’ve done some more editorial work on the Origen book today, and I’ve sent the book — which is really starting to assume a book-like form now — to the translator for his input.  I’ve been staring at the pages for the best part of the last three days, and I think I’ll award myself the rest of the day off! 

I’ve also received two more old books on religion in the Soviet Union by Michael Bourdeaux of Keston College.  I might see if I feel like passing one of these through the scanner.

It’s dull and grey here, although we had flickers of sun at lunchtime.  It’s hard to wake properly, I find.  On a whim I went down to Pin Mill and had lunch in the Butt and Oyster pub.  I sat in the room with a bay window over the river.  The tide was out and the mud-flats were exposed.  Sunlight illuminated the woods and lawns of the large house across the river.  Nobody was about on the river.  A few large working barges were drawn up near the hard, as they always are.  Few people there, and the place looked little changed since my last visit, which was, I fear, probably a dozen years ago.  But it’s very mild — 12C at lunchtime isn’t bad for New Year’s Eve.


Coptic-Arabic gospel catena also known in Ge`ez?

This evening I found the following snippet in Google Books, given as in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1989, p.380:

… Ethiopia’s access to foreign commentaries (including that of Iso’dad of Merv and the other Syrian scholars) is through the Geez version of Ibn at-Taiyib’s exegetica and the Geez adaptation of Coptic-Arabic Catena….

Now call me daft, but this sounds as if the Coptic gospel catena published by De Lagarde, which was translated into Arabic, was then onward translated into Ethiopic, or more precisely Ge`ez.  And that someone out there knows this.  It’s in a book review of some kind.

Unfortunately I have no access to the article in which this appears.  Poking around the website for the JRAS of 1989, p.380 belongs to Michael Loewe, of “East Asian civilizations: a dialogue in five stages. By Wm. Theodore de Bary. (The Edwin O. Reischauer Lectures, 1986.) pp. xi, 160. Cambridge, Mass, and London, Harvard University Press, 1988. £15.95.”  That doesn’t sound right, nor does the abstract look right.  Cambridge University Press greedily demand 20 GBP to access the article, the swine. 

Wish I could find the article.  Anyone got any ideas?

UPDATE: I think the Google Books snippet must be in error in some way, probably in the page number?  I’ve found the book itself reviewed above, and it has nothing relevant in it.

UPDATE: Found it!  I took the snippet and pasted it into the general Google search, and up it came as a JSTOR review in JRAS 1990, p.379f.  The article is a review of Roger W. Cowley, Ethiopian Biblical Interpretation, CUP, 1988.  Now that sounds like an interesting book.  Amazon list it at a fantastic price, unfortunately.


Origen project update

The project to translate Origen’s exegetical works on Ezekiel has been dormant for so long than many readers will not remember it.  But again the idea is to commission a translation of these things, print them in book form with facing text, sell enough copies to recoup the cost of translation etc, and, once that is done, place the translation online where it can be freely available.  This kicked off in 2009.

The project was slightly torpedoed by the appearance of Thomas Scheck’s translation in 2010 in the Ancient Christian Writers series.  When the project started, there was no English translation of any of this material.

But our book is larger.  Origen wrote 25 books of commentaries — all lost, except 1 fragment in the Philocalia, 14 homilies (which exist only in the Latin translation by St. Jerome),  and scholia.  Substantial material by “Origen” is quoted in the medieval Greek bible commentaries, made up of ‘chains’ of quotations from the Fathers, (=catenas) on Ezekiel.  This includes parts of the lost Greek text of the homilies, plus material probably from the scholia, as well as spurious material.

We’ve done the lot.  We started with the material in PG 13, but the translator, bless him, searched out material in Mai and Pitra and elsewhere that isn’t in the PG13.

Once again we should be doing a service.  Scheck only did a translation of the homilies in Jerome’s Latin version.  We’re doing the lot; Jerome, the Greek, the fragments, everything we can find.  The Greek fragments have always been neglected.  De la Rue, in 1733, collected them; and no-one much has made any effort with them since.  There’s a text-critical project there, if someone would grab hold of it.

An evil thought has just hit me: I bet that there is material in Coptic, if we actually have any Coptic catenas on Ezekiel.  But here my knowledge stops.  I don’t know much about Old Testament catenas.  Hmmm.

Anyway today has been busy.  Up first thing and rushed to the laptop.  I’ve done a lot to the preface to the Greek fragments, although it needs revision by printing off and sitting down with a biro.  I’ve created a spreadsheet of all the bits, and marked the status of all of it.  And I’ve updated all the files that need revision with a banner at the top listing what needs to be done.

Which turns out to be … not much.

I’ve also heard back from the translator (who is on holiday, but still answering questions), that he has some time next week.

I think we’ll finish it off, at least as far as pre-editorial work is concerned, next week! 

I’ll send the translator a drop of the book in zip form at the end of today.  Meanwhile, I have stuff to write.


From my diary

I’ve written a new beginning to the introduction to the Greek fragments of Origen’s works on Ezekiel.  The existing introduction is full of good stuff, but starts off a couple of rungs above the ground level! 

It was tricky to do, as well.  My first effort didn’t work, and I had to try again before getting anywhere.

I’ve also moved the files for the book into a directory and placed them under version control (in SVN).  I did this for the Eusebius book, and, although I never needed to go back, it was a considerable comfort knowing that one could!

And … somehow the afternoon has gone.  That was 5 hours work. 


Searching for Lommatzsch

I’m going through the Greek fragments of Origen’s works on Ezekiel at the moment.  The first thing I need to do is to get straight in my head just where all of them come from.  The translator has done a marvellous job of assembling material, but I got very confused from the emails, both at the time and afterwards.  The fault was entirely mine, in that I didn’t gather all the primary materials myself.

The real source for most of them is Migne, PG 13 (1862), cols. 662-826.  Migne reprints an edition by the Maurist editor, Charles Delarue.  But … the GCS editor, Baehrens, who printed the Latin text plus some Greek fragments, had no access to Delarue.  So he used a reprint by Carl Lommatzsch. 

Confused?  That, dear friends, is a clear explanation, compared to what I started with this afternoon!

I’d like to look at these editions and make sure.  Google books has some volumes of Lommatzsch’s edition, but, bless them, have the lot!  Lommatzsch vol. 14 is, therefore, right here.  It looks exactly like Migne.

What I really want is De la Rue’s volume, but it doesn’t seem to be on Google books.


From my diary

Some days, nothing works.  Anything we attempt only gets us bogged down.

What we do then, however, depends on us.  I usually keep hammering away, getting more and more frazzled in the process.  By the time I’ve got past the obstacles — and, being a determined soul, I usually do — I’m too frazzled to care about whatever I was trying to do in the first place.

Interestingly a nice experience towards the end can change the whole mood.  I’ve just had this happen, and I mention it because it’s perhaps something that we need to look for.

Today my plan was to do some work on the Origen book.  In preparation for this, yesterday I printed off all the Greek fragments of Origen on Ezekiel, plus the translation.   I don’t want to spend my holiday doing this, but I have to, if the book is to move forward.  OK, I’ll grin and bear it. The print is about an inch of paper.  I then received an updated version of these files, which is good but means I have to print them again.

After lunch today, I went up to print out the new versions.  I got 10 pages and  then my laser printer informed me that it wanted a new toner cartridge.  Bother!  I don’t need to be distracted bby this, but I’ve no choice.  Hastily I look online for the Brother HL-2030, and find that the cartridge is a TN2000.  I gasp at the vast sum demanded.  But I don’t want to delay.  I need to do this now.  I’ll have to accept the rip-off.  So off I go to PC World.  They have one, and I buy it.  For some reason the sales assistant decides to play me up, but I get past that, although not without my stress level getting increased.

Back I come, open it, try to fit it, and … it doesn’t fit.  It nearly does — it’s exactly the same shape and size — but some plastic lug prevents it quite seating.  I look at the old cartridge and it says “TN-2005”!  I look at the printer, and it’s actually an HL-2035.  One character difference; and I’m 62 GBP out of pocket.  My haste has lost me time and money.  I recheck, more carefully.  Off I go, back to PC World.  And … they don’t have a TN2005.  Down to Staples instead, and they do, and I go to the ’till.

But then a miracle happens.  The card payment is slow, and so I joke with the assistant about this.  She — a sad-looking girl who plainly wishes she was elsewhere — comments how supermarket card readers are much faster, and, a joke or two later, both of us are smiling.  And I come out of there feeling happy again. 

I’m printing off the stuff as I speak.  And, funnily enough, I’m back in the mood to work on it.

I need to compile a table of all the Greek fragments, I think.  Then I can see what we have and where these are.