From my diary

Autumn has arrived very early this year, with its quota of draughts in the office, and consequent colds and chills and air-conditioner wars.  I am rather preoccupied with some work-related nuisance of just this kind, so don’t expect too much from me for a bit.  But things are moving slowly forward anyway.

I’ve been corresponding with Dr Mary B. Cunningham of Nottingham University, who has translated a number of pieces by Andrew of Crete.  I had hoped that she might translate Andrew’s Encomium on St Nicholas of Myra, but sadly she is otherwise engaged.  That is perhaps unsurprising at the start of a new academic year!

However she has given me the name of a gentleman who might be interested and qualified to do it instead.  So I have written this evening to offer a commission to him.  Let’s hope that it works out.  The work is about 11 pages of Anrich, so far from huge (thankfully).

I have also commissioned a translation of another piece by Severian of Gabala: CPG 4201, “In illud: Quomodo scit litteras (John 7:15)”, text in PG 59. 643-652 = Montfaucon; Savile edition, vol. 5, 752-761.  This is rather more meaty.  But I am hoping to use the translator for the Greek side of several works by Methodius of Olympus preserved in Old Slavonic, so I do need to know that she can handle the task.

The application for grant money to translate two large works of Methodius of Olympus from Old Slavonic (and Greek where it exists) is stalled until I have sorted out a Greek translator.  However one query on the form was resolved this week by a query to the grant body.  But I need to revisit the form entirely – my answers are rather waffly at the moment, and not especially focused on answering the specific question.

Methodius “on the Leech” is still on my hard disk, and the subject of some debate between the translators of the Greek and the Slavonic.  I will try to finalise this in a few days, depending on the crud at work.

A prediction of mine, that the availability of online PDFs would lead to libraries selling off their physical books, appears to be coming true.  A correspondent drew my attention to this item. A book dealer in Oxford is advertising a complete set of the printed 19th century Patrologia Latina, all 221 volumes of it (!), for £6,000 (about $9,000).  The source is “an English cathedral library”.  The volumes have apparently hardly been opened; probably the library never allowed clergy to look at them without onerous conditions.  Now … they’ve been sold off.  Clerical libraries have often been knocked down for cash in times of decay, such as our own, to the rage and chagrin of subsequent generations, and it seems those days have come again.

But did they get very much money for it?  Well, I myself once sold a load of patristic books to that bookseller. I can tell you that I got really very little money for them (but I did get the blasted things off the floor).  We may sure that the cathedral got much less than the sum demanded; probably a couple of thousand, if that.  Ten pounds per volume?

But we may wonder who might have the shelf-space for such an item?  And … considering that they are all online, why would anyone buy it?

7 thoughts on “From my diary

  1. Last time I went to Mt Athos there was only dial up internet connection available, though granted it was many years ago. Monasteries in the middle of the wilderness and unreliable power and communications do have use for such books, though they would need to be made aware of their sale first

  2. Why? The careful scholar aware of even ‘modern’ books (including anything after hand-set type) as artefacts? (Nothing digital/online can as easily be determined to be a single artefact.) Or those who think online accessibility can easily go bad in all sorts of ways (different from those where actual books are concerned)? All things being equal, I would prefer to turn the pages of an actual book, or at least to have the advantages of both digital and actual searching, browsing, etc.

  3. I suppose I travel a lot and find a directory of PDFs of reference works more useful.

    On the other hand if you wanted to read through the PL then a shelf-load of actual volumes is what you want. You could take each volume to bed in turn as bedside reading. And wouldn’t you learn a *lot* by so doing?

  4. If only my languages were good enough – and I could keep awake (usually a question of posture rather than reading matter)! I am absurdly given to trying to look up things in Rahlfs or in Bauer’s Wörterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments lying on my back in bed…

    It is wonderful to have so much online that you would have needed a Deposit Library for not so very many years ago (I think of Documenta Catholica Omnia among many other examples), and I am grateful. And yet internet is in its own way so often a paean to the Primacy of Actual Three-Dimensional Books also in the form of Individual Copies.

  5. I think they would indeed – yet the prospect is daunting! I’m just reading Johan Huizinga’s biography of Erasmus: it’s impressive how quickly and thoroughly Erasmus mastered Greek in (young) middle age – and to what effect!

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