From my diary

This evening I emailed a correspondent, asking if he knew someone who might translate some works by Methodius out of Russian.  Knowledge of Old Slavonic would be good; and the translator must be a native English speaker, and familiar with Christian jargon.  I’ve had rough experiences when these last two were not present!

The enquiry may or may not produce results, but if not, I have another possible translator in mind.

I left work at 3:30pm this afternoon, to travel to Cambridge University Library.  Not, I might add, in order to use the books, but rather to perform a CETEDOC search of Latin literature for uses of the phrase “Sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros” – “His blood be upon us, and upon our children.”  Yes, it’s Matthew 27:25 again.

It took me almost 45 minutes to drive the 3 miles in question, thanks to the selfish attitude of those who control the roads policy of Cambridge council – which, I imagine, is the immensely rich, powerful and successful university that fills its town centre.  It took a similar time to get back.  The ill-maintained roads have received negligible care in 20 years, to my certain knowledge, and are full-to-bursting.  The university profits enormously from the economic activity that Cambridge enjoys; but invests none of it in the amenities of the town.

These same selfish people insist that an external reader like myself make that journey in order to use the electronic databases.  They can be used from anywhere, if you have a login; but they force ordinary people like me to physically travel there.  I grudge the hours of my life that these people stole from me.  May Minos sentence them to the fate of Sisyphus.

Anyway I performed the search, and saved the results in PDF for later investigation, and checked – of course – that it had saved.  I then did the search again, this time with a date range on it (to the end of the 5th century), and curiously the results were different.  Tertullian only turned up in the second search.  Anyway I saved the results of that search too, but didn’t check it.

Imagine, therefore, my rage on discovering just now that the PDF from the second search did not save the results; and merely saved the query parameters!  I lost two hours of my life for that; and, to get it again, I will have to endure the misery of that journey once more: all because of the selfishness of people who could perfectly well allow me access, but choose not to.

I’m not going to rage about how these databases are all paid for by me, through my taxes.  Instead let me observe something else which amused me rather.

A few weeks ago I advised the library to obtain the English translation of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Commentary on Isaiah.  Earlier this week I received notice that they had purchased the eBook.  So I went to look for it while I was there.

I was a little surprised to find that I couldn’t simply download a PDF.  Rather I was subjected to a horrible proprietary interface, which officiously told me that I could read n pages, or print m pages (the two numbers not being identical, of course).  I struggled with the thing a while, and then simply gave up.  A paper book could be used, but this was impossible.

I then looked at another “eBook”, three treatises of Cyril of Alexandria, in the Fathers of the Church series, and found the same idea.  Again I just gave up.  Give me a paper book rather than this.

Fortunately DeGruyter, in their GCS series, don’t do this, and I was able to get hold of the Greek text at least of this work, so that I can work out where the supposed reference to Acts 4:10 might be.

But the other two made me laugh.  I mean… these guys have already been paid, right?  The library has sloshed money at them, for access to the book.  But these creeps are so concerned about not getting paid even more, by people who might, like, save a copy, that they make all kinds of difficulties.  I found, in fact, that the expensive access that CUL give their readers gave me very little.

I also noted a sign of the times.  The CETEDOC database was in the Brepols online site.  But not even the world’s number two university could afford to purchase all of the options!  The Patrologia Orientalis collection was not available.

All this nonsense is only temporary, of course.  The racket whereby material produced by state-funded academics is then sold back to the state-funded universities at an extortionate price must collapse soon.

But I still feel sore about those hours on the road.  If the library was open later, I might drive over in the evening.  But it is only open from 9.00-19:15.

What I did find was some 68 references to that verse in Latin writers before 500 AD.  Some I already have.  But there were a number in voluminous commentaries in Latin.  These were mostly by Jerome, and it is interesting to see that most of these are untranslated.  How is it that, in 2015, the commentaries of Jerome remain untranslated?

All in all, therefore, it was a productive evening.


5 thoughts on “From my diary

  1. Thank you for all your hard work. I can certainly imagine the frustration. God be with you and strengthen you!

    On another note, after the research is done, perhaps one can also consider the parable of the prodigal son as a way to research another angle on the idea that the church fathers were “anti-Semitic” or not.

  2. I agree with Mina. Thank you for going through all of that work and frustration – it is certainly appreciated.

    As a side note, how can the library only be open until 19:15?

  3. Thank you for your kind words, both of you.

    It is weird that the library shuts so early, I agree. On the other hand I did give myself an idea while writing that post.

  4. Well, I love Jerome dearly and his Latin is beautiful, but he makes you work really hard. Everything is full of references to other Bible verses, or to things in history, or sometimes to classical poetry or Greek patristic authors. So if there isn’t a critical edition already which has all the references worked out,* it can take quite a while to do translations.

    But nobody really is going to do a critical edition just for the references, so anybody doing that is also going to have to do all that finicky manuscript comparison stuff and travel about, if not all the manuscripts are digitized in great detail.

    So that’s my guess – it’s the critical editions that are backed up.

    * After I finished doing the Proverbs 31 standalone portion of Bede’s Proverbs commentary, I found an old academic paper complaining about how barebones that particular critical edition of Bede was for his Proverbs commentary. All the other Bede critical editions done by the same guy are much more full of references.

    PS – I’m getting close to finishing and publishing Part 2 of Beatus, and I did publish my translation of De Vitoria’s On Magic, which had been sitting on my hard drive for years. My revision of Part 1 of Beatus is hopelessly snarled at the moment, which is a pain in the butt, but people who bought the previous version will just get it helpfully updated by the system when I get it done. But I keep finding new references! There’s just no end to it!

  5. The references are probably in the older Patrologia Latina edition? I don’t know what exists in critical editions. But I discovered today that the Italians are doing an Opera Omnia with facing Italian translation!

    Well done on Beatus!

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