Another chunk of the transcription of al-Makin has arrived, making 70 pages in all, or around a quarter of Erpenius’ edition. This is going swimmingly!
One of the reasons why I wanted an electronic transcription of the text is so that I — as a non-Arabic speaker — can use Google Translate on it. Today I pasted the first chunk into it, to see what happened. Alas Google Translate for Arabic still has quite a way to go; but I got something. One interesting bit was the use of “Peace be upon him” at various points. This is, of course, the section of al-Makin devoted to Islamic rulers, and epitomised from al-Tabari; but it’s still unnerving.
A correspondent sent me a link to another collection of online books: the Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten – Netherlands Institute for the Near East. Most exciting of these — for me — was J.P.A. van der Vin – Travellers to Greece and Constantinople. Ancient Monuments and Old Traditions in Medieval Travellers’ Tales (PIHANS 49), 1980. [27 cm, softcover; IX, 751]. ISBN: 90-6258-049-1.
Unfortunately the PDF was incomplete. It omitted the notes (all placed at the end — aargh!) and indeed about half the book. I have written to the site, however, and already received a very kind reply, so I have hopes that it is merely a glitch.
Even so I found many statements of interest in it. Most notably, after 1204, nobody describes Constantinople as a “rich” city any more. The looting by the Latins clearly beggared the town. Likewise the population declined so that wide areas of the city were turned into farmland. I’d like to see the references for this; but I recall that Mesariotes in his very late Description of the Church of the Holy Apostles describes it as lying in the middle of farmland. Doubtless it was so. But I shall look into this once I can see the rest of the book.
UPDATE: The site fixed the book within 48 hours! Wow!