From my diary

If you can actually find anything on your hard disk any more — and I know that this can be difficult for many of us — then, sometimes, when you do, you get a little more than you expected.

Regular readers will know that I have arranged to get an electronic text created of the history of al-Makin.  He was a Coptic writer of the 13th century.  A Coptic correspondent knows someone in Egypt who will type it up, for money, if I can send some page images.  So I was looking for some PDF’s of manuscripts.  For most of al-Makin has never been published.

So I went searching for a PDF of a British Library manuscript of al-Makin.  To my deep delight, I discovered, in the folder where I keep the al-Makin PDFs that I have been gathering for some time, PDF’s of a pair of Vatican manuscripts.  I don’t even remember ordering these.  But there they were!  Let’s hear it for consistency in filing!

The PDF’s are of microfilms, and miserable low-quality productions they are too.  But I have them!  That means I have a copy of the first half of al-Makin.

I also found two Paris manuscripts.  I’d forgotten these too; but I quickly recalled what they were, when I looked inside.  The reproductions were of such poor quality that I complained, and, on being given the Gallic shrug, threatened to get my credit card company to block the payment.  I did get my money back in the end for these.  Sadly they were as poor as I recalled, and still unusable for any purpose.

It’s rather daft, but I don’t have any Bodleian manuscripts.  That’s because the blighters charge so much for them.  Indeed one scholar who obtained a copy from them recently had to pay $300 for some shoddy monochrome microfilm images.   I’m not paying that!  I’m willing to do something to get al-Makin accessible, but that is real money.

Anyway, the discovery of the Vatican manuscripts is a great blessing.  My correspondent, who is acting as middle-man between the Egyptian typist and myself, confirmed that the two PDF’s were of the first half of the work.  He also reminded me, gently, that a print version of the second half already exists – in Erpenius’ edition, and a modern French text (which I have!) that completes the work.  So this means I actually do own a complete text of al-Makin, and that means that I can get it typed up!

So suddenly we are go.  I have asked my correspondent to go ahead, and to ask the typist to create a text of the first half of the work.  If we do it in chunks of 10 pages, that should allow me to quality-control it.  Although I can imagine all sorts of things that might go wrong; but here’s hoping.

Nor is al-Makin all that I am thinking about.  Another kind correspondent has sent me some English versions of the life of Nicholas of Myra, mostly from Russian sources.  These are interesting, in that they give the general outline of the Life.  What I would like to find, however, is someone able to translate the Life by Metaphrastes, and materials of that date (9-11th century) from Greek into English.  Aren’t there monasteries full of these people somewhere?  I could pay something, to make it happen.

A kind gentleman is going to read the proof copy of Origen’s Exegetical works on Ezekiel for me.  I’m really sick of the work, and so I can’t really proof it.  I sent off an email about that this evening.

I was going to translate a further chunk of the life of Severus of Antioch this evening, but in the event I felt more like lying on the sofa and reading a novel which Santa brought me.  I think, on Boxing Day, that this is entirely right and proper conduct!


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