From My Diary

When the sun is suddenly very hot and the sky is now a blinding blue, it’s hard to go into the study and work on the PC.  It seems rather a waste!  So I have been busy with other things.  The last day or so was spent in buying and setting up a mobile air-conditioning unit for a member of my family.  I shall spend this Friday driving around the countryside and the roads, taking a friend to see my mother.  We’ve meant to do this for years.  In this sort of weather it is good to be in the air-conditioned car with the open road ahead.

I do need to return to collating the text of John the Deacon’s Life of St Nicholas, but not today.  I have three early editions and nine manuscripts open, in PDF, in Acrobat.  Each one is positioned at my current location.  I have bookmarked each chapter as I reach it.  But I’m becoming a little frustrated at the way that Adobe Acrobat Pro 9 tends to simply crash if left open for long enough.  For of course, when Acrobat crashes, I have to reopen them all, and then tediously find the exact position again.  To avoid doing this, I tend to put the PC to sleep at night, rather than shutting down.  But after a day or three I tend to find that Acrobat has mysteriously vanished.  It’s usable, but could be better.  But all this really feels like a winter task.

Meanwhile I’m getting a fair bit of email correspondence, and doing my best to keep current.  Some of it relates to rather old posts, or material that I put online more  than twenty years ago!  It’s good to see that it still has value.

A little while ago I ordered a cheap second-hand copy of Paula Skreslet’s The Literature of Islam: A Guide to the Primary Sources In English Translation.  This has resided on my breakfast table since, and I am slowly working through it.  It is really a very good guide to early Islamic literature and where to find it in English.  Indeed it comes down to modern times also, complete with Muslim Brotherhood material, although that lies outside my interests.  It also gives useful information about Islam itself.  I had not realised that the Koran is only part of the source material for Islamic doctrine.  The life of Mohammed himself is, apparently, an example to be followed, as recorded in all sorts of sources, and transmitted from one identified person to another.  It is frustrating that such a useful source is not online.  Fortunately it is in print, for $38 for a paperback – although $64 for kindle (!!!).

Trying to read this at breakfast led to the unwelcome discovery that I badly needed new reading glasses.   Like most of us, I have worn glasses since the age of ten.  While working as a computer programmer I used to have two or three screens side by side.  This arrangement makes varifocals useless.  It was far better to get a very cheap pair of prescription computer glasses, for a few dollars, and just leave them by my terminal.  Indeed I got half a dozen and scattered them around the house, in my car, and in my suitcase.  They have served me well.  But sadly they are done; and I bought the first new set – again cheaply – last week.  I wear them as I type.  I shall order more.

Another second-hand book that I ordered, for a shamefully small sum, was a biography of Ritchie Blackmore, the Deep Purple guitarist.  I thought this might be interesting to read once, after seeing a quotation from it, and a hardback was cheaper, by a fluke, than a kindle download.  This was advertised with free postage, and even a small complimentary box of decaffeinated tea!  I’ve not read it yet, so it too sits on my table at breakfast, until I have finished with Skreslet’s book.

I saw online yesterday a claim that academics never read books; they only read the opening portion, and the conclusion.  I wonder if that is true?


Tertullian, De Baptismo – new text and Italian translation available online

Francesco Pieri kindly writes to let me know of a new edition and Italian translation of one of the works of Tertullian:

I have just edited a slightly revised edition of De Baptismo: it is fully available on line and free for download:

Looking at the site, I find this useful notice (I’ve tweaked the English version slightly).

Francesco Pieri , QSF Tertulliani De baptismo liber (Bologna 2023)

After an extensive historical-literary presentation of Tertullian’s treatise De baptismo, against the background of the main divergent doctrinal positions taken into account by the Latin apologist, the study provides a textual revision of the work, based on the readings of the two manuscripts, the Agobardinus (9th century) and Trecensis 523 (12th century), as well as on a certain number of the most significant ancient editions and all the proposals of modern editors. Compared to the most recent reference edition by Bruno Luiselli (1960), the text offered here presents a dozen correction proposals.

These cheap Italian editions are quite frankly a marvel.  You can find them anywhere in Rome, even in Termini, the railway station.  I am always utterly envious of the mass access to patristic texts that publishers like this make possible.  And in this case, they’ve even made it available in free PDF!

This is how it should be done.  Download it, and buy it in paper form!


Methodius of Olympus, De Cibis – critical edition in progress

Most of the works of the Ante-Nicene writer Methodius of Olympus (ca. 300 AD) do not survive in Greek.  Instead they are preserved only in Old Slavonic –  a language known to very few in the west -, plus a few catena fragments.  I became aware of this a few years ago, and Ralph Cleminson very kindly translated some of them for us, such as De Cibis.  The text used was a couple of digitised manuscripts which I accidentally became aware of.

So I was really delighted to read the following from George Mitov on Twitter a couple of days ago:

The first chapter of my MRes thesis already submitted (with an extensive section on the Slavonic reception of Methodius of Olympus). Next step: a critical edition of the Slavonic text of the De cibis ad Chilonam and an English translation of it.

I have already obtained digital copies of the manuscripts, about 20 in total, and have already started preparing the critical edition. It is fascinating that this text by Methodius is preserved only in Slavonic and yet no critical edition so far.  What we have so far is the German translation of the Slavonic text, based mainly on two mss, and published by G. Bontwesch and the English translation of Cleminson.

Hope I will be done with the critical edition by the end of the summer.

This is excellent news.  It sounds as if a whole load more manuscripts have become available.  Mr. Mitov gives his biography as:

MRes at @KU_Leuven; BA and MA – Sofia University (Bulgaria); Durham University (UK); Byzantine and Paleoslavic Studies, History, and Greek Patristics

Which sounds ideal.  Indeed an earlier tweet shows him:

Presenting a paper on a newly discovered Slavonic translation of a letter (Ep. 1959) by Isidore of Pelusium at the International Conference “Constantine of Preslav’s Uchitel’noe Evangelie and the South Slavonic Homiletic Texts (9th-13th century)” (Sofia, 25-27 April 2023).

All of this is excellent stuff.  Patristic texts in Old Slavonic translation is something that we all need to know more about.  Looking forward to whatever he produces!