From my diary

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.  Inevitably I found myself wondering what kind of ancient or medieval literary material there was about St Valentine.

I found very little.   What little there was to be found by a Google search suggested that it was all derived at many removes from the old Catholic Encyclopedia.  The article in this is vague too.

So off I went to the Acta Sanctorum.  Feb. 14, the feast day, is in February volume 2.  There wasn’t a lot, and this is one of the oldest volumes, from 1658.

I’ve been working on a Latin Life of St George lately, so I am very much “in the zone” to work on another Latin life.  So I thought that perhaps I would OCR the Latin text, and maybe look at translating it.

Abbyy Finereader 14 is an excellent piece of software.  It supports the Latin language properly, which makes it very useful.  Indeed I remember yearning for such a thing in days gone by.

I didn’t think that a 1658 edition, complete with long-s, would OCR that well.  So I looked for the Paris reprint of the 1850’s.  This I found without difficulty, as they are all in Archive.org; but the quality is not good.  Not even Finereader could make much of those grainy faint pages.

My next step was to find some more copies of the book.  As I indicated in my last post, I faintly remembered a Google spreadsheet full of links to PDFs of the Acta Sanctorum.  A kind correspondent found it, and it is here.  But … the links were all to the original edition.

So I’ve spent this morning trying to locate a better scan of one of the Paris reprint volumes.  Eventually I succeeded, in Google Books, in finding it here, in the 1864 reprint.  This, I was delighted to find, OCRs quite well.  The page layout is hardly designed for OCR, but if you manually move the text boxes around, the results are really quite decent.

Time for lunch now.  I think that I need to go out and buy the materials that I intend to cook, actually!  But I shall continue correcting the OCR after that.

Once I have a Latin text, I shall post it.  I shall then look at translating at least some of it.

I’ve yet to see any studies of the St Valentine literature, which is odd.  It must exist; if not in English, then in German or French or certainly Italian.  My search terms clearly are not good.  But I can try out some searches over lunch!

UPDATE:  Over a lunch a kind correspondent emailed me a link to an obscure German site where they have apparently uploaded the transcribed text of the whole Acta Sanctorum.  The German site itself is poorly designed, but I am assured that buried within is the entire text.  If so, of course, then there is no point in my doing it.  Once I’ve worked out how to use the site, I’ll write a post on it.

One thought on “From my diary

  1. There are scans of two editions of Orazio Marucchi’s Il Cimitero e la Basilica di S. Valentino in the Internet Archive (of which the 1904 one may be simply a reissue of the original February 1890 one – but I have made no real comparison) – with possibly useful information in text and footnotes up to 1890, at least:

    https://archive.org/details/ilcimiteroelabas00maru

    https://archive.org/details/ilcimiteroelabas00maru_0/page/n3

    And – also perhaps interesting in context of your paleography post – a scan of J. Armine Willis’s 1912 CUP translation of a 1910 book of his as Christian Epigraphy: An Elementary Treatise, with a Collection of Ancient Christian Inscriptions Mainly of Roman Origin, an internal search of which for Valentine discovered three references:

    https://archive.org/details/christianepigrap00maruuoft/page/n3

    In the scan of the Italian original, Epigrafia Cristiana: Trattato Elementare con Una Silloge di Antiche Iscrizioni Cristiane Principalmente di Roma, an internal search for Valentino discovered ten references:

    https://archive.org/details/epigrafiacristia00maru/page/n8

    And here is what I take to be the reference in William of Malmesbury noted by Herbert Thurston in his Catholic Encyclopedia article to “what was known to the ancients as the Flaminian Gate of Rome and is now the Porta del Popolo” then, in the Twelfth century, (still) being “called the Gate of St. Valentine” (in at least one edition of one of his works):

    https://archive.org/details/willelmimalmesbi02will/page/538

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