From my diary

Today I had to drive for three hours each way for a job “interview” of around twenty minutes.  I already had a job offer, but I thought it wise to have a face-to-face meeting, and it proved very wise indeed.  The job looks like a stress-fest.  Not for me.

But I redeemed the travel time somewhat.  The road passed close by Cambridge University Library, so I stopped off on the way.  The volume that I wanted was waiting, for I had ordered it last night using the internet.  This was the Bassetti volume, San Valentino e il culto, on St Valentine of Terni, to which I referred in this post.  My intention was to photocopy the key articles within it, which I did, and then went on my way.

The most important article was Edoardo D’Angelo, “La passio sancti Valentini martyris…”, which contains a critical text of the Life of St Valentine that I have been translating, together with a list of manuscripts and an attempt at a stemma.  I have extracted the Latin text  of the Life, this evening, using my trusty Finereader 14.  It will be most interesting to see how and where it diverges from the text as given in the Acta Sanctorum, which I have been translating.  I’ve not seen any obvious changes so far.

One deviation is regrettable.  D’Angelo has decided to number the individual sentences of the Life, which is fine. But he also decided to ignore the section/chapter numbers from the Acta Sanctorum.  This is not fine.  It means that anyone with his text before them cannot locate material mentioned in any prior scholarship; they will have to find the Acta Sanctorum text.  Likewise any subsequent scholarship using his edition and numbering system will force the reader to obtain access to an obscure Italian volume of collected papers, held in relatively few research libraries.

D’Angelo is not the only editor to commit this sin. A little while ago I found that Zacharopoulos, a modern Greek editor of Theophanes of Nicaea (see here), did exactly the same.  This was even more of a problem because the Sotiropoulos editio princeps is almost completely inaccessible without an international flight.

Every new edition should always indicate the divisions or page numbers of the very first edition, the editio princeps.  It’s only considerate towards those who will use your work.

For Valentine, I might see if I can rectify this problem myself somehow, by giving a concordance or something on this blog.

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It’s slightly odd to think that I have made brief raids up to Cambridge like this for more than twenty years now.  It means that I have witnessed a lot of change there.

In fact every time I visit Cambridge University Library something is different.  It is not always better.  For instance some strange person has moved the photocopiers out of a dedicated room and scattered them around the building.  Staff are becoming used to bewildered visitors hunting for a machine.

Likewise I am not an alumnus of Cambridge.  It is merely the nearest research library that I can use.  Because of this, I have to pay a fee to use the library, and outsiders like myself are second-class readers in many little ways.

This time the change was about photocopying.  In reception I asked to put some money on my library card in order to pay for photocopies at the machine.  To my surprise they deducted some odd amount, on the pretext of the VAT tax.  A notice in the photocopier room in the West Room informed me that university members got their photocopies ex-VAT.

I confess that I wasn’t aware that national taxes on the supply of goods and services do not apply if you are a member of certain universities.  This sounds unlikely, in fact.  I suspect that the taxman will take a dim view of this approach, once he becomes aware.  But of course he shall not learn it from me.

The other thing that made me smile was that they made me fill out a paper form, in order to add money to my card.  I suppose we must expect pettifoggery from library staff.  The more conscientious they are, the better for the books, but the worse for low-status readers like myself.

I confess that, in my exasperation at all this tomfoolery, I expressed myself less politely than I might have done.  Luckily there was no harm done this time.  But it is always a mistake, as well as uncharitable.

I shall see what Bassetti’s volume looks like tomorrow!


7 thoughts on “From my diary

  1. Had a moment of strangeness this morning. One of my old St. Albert the Great translation projects is no longer necessary, because a beautiful new scholarly translation, with tons of notes relating the book to its place in the works of St. Albert the Great and other contemporaries, got published two years ago in hardback from a big theological press. It is everything the book needed and which I could not give.

    But they did not put Albert’s name in the metadata, and it was published under a name for the book that was never used for it. So it has been sitting there looking beautiful for two years, not obviously in existence outside those who already know about it.


    Anyway, I do want to get On the Body of the Lord (new title). The translator, Sr. Albertine Surmanski, seems to respect the medieval format, although they seem to have left out the lovely tree diagram illustration. The notes look great!

    I think it is clear that the Dominican medievalists are pushing to translate all of Albert, albeit with varying degrees of scholarly enterprise and sympathy for his style. And that is great! He is a major writer and a lot of fun.

  2. It is extraordinary how people do this – publish a translation in a “hidden” way. Yours is not the only example I have come across tho.

  3. Actually, the situation was worse than I thought.

    Catholic University of America Press has the book as an ebook, but it doesn’t show up on the book’s main page, and it doesn’t show up if you search for ebooks. If you go to Ebooks and browse under Series, they claim to have only 2 ebooks from the whole series.

    But if you actually browse every book in the series, it shows up. With the author listed as “Albert Albert the Great”.

    You cannot buy the ebook on Amazon, it would seem. But then, I never searched for “Albert Albert the Great”.

    Sigh. I know it’s college kids and tired grad students doing the work, or very unworldly types making not a lot of money. But come on! I want to go to their offices, commandeer a desk, and fix their webpage myself!!!

    They used to have a very good webpage for selling books. I bet somebody retired or died. (Or got transferred, if they were in a religious order.)

    Anyway, I wanted the ebook and I’m going to get it, if it’s not too expensive. (Yeah, long loading times too.) But now I have more reason, because Amazon decided to deliver the book on Sunday, and they contracted with the Post Office to deliver it. And apparently Sunday package delivery for the local post office is handled by somebody new or unmotivated, because they claim they left the book in my mailbox and it’s not there. (At least according to the USPS lady’s tone of voice on the phone.)

    Nobody stole my mailbox package on Saturday, and various USPS drivers have had trouble sending mail to my house instead of to my neighbors with similar addresses. So I left notes with those neighbors and chatted with the post office lady who promised to find the package. If I don’t hear back by the end of tomorrow, I’ll let Amazon know about the screwup; but hopefully one of my neighbors has it and doesn’t want it!

  4. That always infuriates me. It demonstrates clearly that the price is arbitrary.

  5. The post office was able to verify that the package was dropped at the wrong address, but my neighbors don’t have it. Apparently somebody stole it. I am going to check the local used bookstores, but bleh.

    Amazon is sending me a free replacement copy, with a return label in case the first copy resurfaces.

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