From my diary

Hmm.  I wrote a long post yesterday “From my diary”, and published it; and it vanished, and there is no sign of it.  That hasn’t happened before, or not for a very long time.   Deeply worrying when that sort of thing happens.  Let me see what I can recall of the updates that I posted…

Firstly, yesterday was the first day of the 2017 conference of the National Association of Patristics Studies (NAPS) in the USA.  My best wishes to the organisers and everyone attending, and I hope that it is fun as well as interesting.  If you have a twitter account – a great timewaster – there are updates from the conference.  Find them by searching twitter for “#NAPS2017”.

Meanwhile on this continent I am plodding away with the translation of Eutychius.  The material about the Muslim era is really rather later than I like, and it’s hard to take a lot of interest in it.  But in fact I have had more encouragement to proceed, from correspondents reading the Muslim sections, than for any other part of the Annals.  Anyway there are only five caliphs left, before Eutychius closes his account.

I started working on Eutychius in his chapter 10, with the events around the life of Jesus.  There is a very good reason for doing this, with any late Chronicle.  The “world chronicles” of the Byzantine, Syriac and Arabic worlds invariably start with Creation.  Unfortunately this means that you end up with many chapters of recycled crud from Genesis, interlarded with fairytales.  None of it is interesting.  It can be very hard indeed not to lose your motivation on this stuff.

Instead it is far better to start in Jesus’ time, and work forward through the familiar Roman emperors.  Once you get to the end, then go back to the beginning.  The material at the start will still be the tedious sub-Genesis stuff, but you will be motivated to trudge through it because you’ve already invested such a lot of time in the translation!  “Know thyself” is a good rule in life.

Will I go back to the start of Eutychius?  I don’t know.  Let’s see how I feel!

The Muslim-era stuff really needs copious footnotes.  After all, which of us knows who these people are?  But I have felt that the value of my translation – if it has any – consists in making the text of Eutychius accessible, and therefore better  known, by means of an English translation.  Once people start to work on Eutychius, we should get a proper translation, and with it, inevitably, notes and commentary.  If I stopped to worry about footnotes, I would lose all momentum.

I have finally recovered from the three-week long virus that I mentioned in previous updates.  I would like to thank everyone who prayed and wished me well.  While not serious, it seemed interminable.  Thank you everyone.

I have also reordered my library.  I find that a very large portion of my books consists of novels.  Many of these novels belong to a series.  What I have done is to gather together all the volumes of each series.  This means that, if I look for a book, and I know that it is part of a series of collection, then I don’t have to hunt through my shelves for one volume.  There will be several volumes, or a shelf or two, to locate.  It’s easier on the eyes.  The non-series material has been  gathered into a few shelves.  This too should make it easier to locate.

But with all this, I am forced to conclude that the original volume, for which I hunted in vain, is gone.  This was my 1980 paperback of C. S. Lewis, Voyage to Venus.  But thanks to the miracle of Abebooks, I have placed an order for that very same volume, and it will arrive sometime in the next week.

Abebooks is a miracle.  I remember the pre-internet days very well.  If you wanted to obtain a particular volume in this way, you had only two choices.

On the one hand, I could (and did) haunt second-hand bookshops.  The locations of these were not easy to find, even if you had a paper handbook like Driff’s.  This might give an idea of the sort of stock and location.  But usually your search would be futile.  On the positive side, you had the chance to drive to many a small country town on summery days, and the bookshops made a useful destination for such a drive.  I have many happy memories of driving through Norfolk, looking for this or that shop as listed in Driff.

On the other hand there were ingenious gentlemen who advertised a “book search” service – for a fee – in trade magazines.  I remember going into my local bookshop and asking them to find me a book, and they did so, using such a service.  No doubt I was charged several times the price  that the seller received.  These services probably made use of auctions in London.

But that was your lot.  Your chances of finding a particular edition were slim.  Indeed if your interests were specialised, your chances of finding an author were slim.  I always used to look for Tertullian, back in the 1980s.  I never encountered even one!

So services like Abebooks, which we take for granted, are indeed marvellous.  Indeed it was only through an online search that I acquired the extremely rare translation of Eutychius that I have been translating into English.

There is much bad news in the world, now as always.  But if we can step aside from the follies of rulers and ruled, we may remember that we live in an era of unprecedented plenty.  These are days of wonder, and we must be grateful.

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