Bits and Bobs 3 – More stuff from the inbox

Here are a few more items from my pending file.

There is a project dedicated to the Coptic Magical Papyri, which ran from 2018-2023.  The website is here.

Our goal is to advance the study of the corpus of Coptic “magical texts” – manuscripts written on papyrus, as well as parchment, paper, ostraca and other materials, and attesting to private religious practices designed to cope with the crises of daily life in Egypt.

There are about six hundred of these texts which survive, dating to between the third and twelfth centuries of the common era. The largest published collection to-date, Ancient Christian Magic (Marvin Meyer & Richard Smith, 1994), contains only about one hundred of these texts – about a sixth of the total number – while the remainder of those published are scattered in over a hundred books and articles, accessible to and known by only a few specialists.

I can’t find much in the way of an output, tho.

Also Coptic-related is the next item.  It seems that a new critical edition is underway of the Chronicle of John of Nikiu.  This will take account of two 19th century manuscripts written in Amharic, rather than just the couple previously used which were in Ge’ez.  Any find of additional sources for this text would be valuable, since it contains a massive lacuna just around the most interesting point, which covers the Muslim invasion of Egypt.  There is a useful article by the lady who is doing the work, Daria Elagina, “The Ge’ez Text And The Amharic Version Of The ‘Chronicle’ Of John Of Nikiu”, Rassegna di Studi Etiopici, 3a Serie, Vol. 1 (48) (2017), pp. 113-119 (JSTOR):

The Chronicle of John of Nikiu is a historiographical text composed by a Coptic bishop in the 7th-cent. Egypt, in the period of the Arab conquest. Originally written either in Coptic or in Greek, it was translated into Arabic at an unknown time. No material traces are left of any of these versions. At the beginning of the 17th cent., the text was translated into Ge’ez, presumably as a tool within the anti-Jesuits ideological struggle, and then in Amharic in unknown circumstances (Weninger 2007). Only manuscripts in these two languages are known so far, four of them in Ge’ez: London, BLOrient. 818 (= WR. 391), fols. 48-104 (Wright 1877: 300-309); Paris, BnF Éth. 123 (= ZOT. 146), fols. 62-138 (Zotenberg 1877: 223-41); Paris, BnF Abb. 31 (= C.R. 209), fols. 104-65 (Conti Rossini 1914: 207-208); Rome, Accademia nazionale dei Lincei C.R. 27, fols. 1-120 (Strelcyn 1976: 100); and two in Amharic: Paris, BnF, Mondon-Vidailhet 53 [240] (Chaîne 1913:34-35); Paris, BnF, Mondon-Vidailhet 54 [241] (Chaîne 1913: 34-35). The last two are still badly known, unedited and almost unstudied, although they are preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

… The importance of the Chronicle of John of Nikiu as a historical source could hardly be overestimated. While its first part presents a strong relation toother texts like those by John Malalas and John of Antioch, its second part is an account of the Arab conquest of Egypt, written down by an eyewitness from the Christian side. …

Besides the well-known Ge’ez text the Amharic version is still practically unknown. The two manuscripts with the Amharic text were brought to France by Casimir Mondon-Vidailhet (1847-1910) after his stay in Ethiopia in the years 1891-1897…

This Amharic version constitutes the core of my current PhD project supervised by Prof. Alessandro Bausi and the main goal of my work is to prepare a critical edition and translation into English. Both manuscripts date back to the 19th cent…..

And Daria Elagina is still busy with this project, or so I learn from here.  She defended her PhD dissertation in 2022, and a funded project has been created to produce a critical edition with English translation.  This is invaluable.

Back in 2017, an interesting article appeared in Wired by Scott Rosenberg, “How Google Book Search got lost”.  It’s still online, although obstructed by attempts to get us to pay to read it.  If you can access it, it’s worth reading:

When Google Books started almost 15 years ago, it also seemed impossibly ambitious: An upstart tech company that had just tamed and organized the vast informational jungle of the web would now extend the reach of its search box into the offline world. By scanning millions of printed books from the libraries with which it partnered, it would import the entire body of pre-internet writing into its database. […] Two things happened to Google Books on the way from moonshot vision to mundane reality. Soon after launch, it quickly fell from the idealistic ether into a legal bog, as authors fought Google’s right to index copyrighted works and publishers maneuvered to protect their industry from being Napsterized. A decade-long legal battle followed — one that finally ended last year, when the US Supreme Court turned down an appeal by the Authors Guild and definitively lifted the legal cloud that had so long hovered over Google’s book-related ambitions. But in that time, another change had come over Google Books, one that’s not all that unusual for institutions and people who get caught up in decade-long legal battles: It lost its drive and ambition.

Some will know that St George was put to death four times, but resurrected after the first three.  One of these executions involved the use of a windlass.  It’s seen (via Ian Ebbage, circled in 1) in the fresco of Christ with Ss Peter & Paul from the Catacomb of Marcellinus and Peter (2). It seems to be repeated almost as a decorative motif throughout the fresco and they seem linked to each other by a thread.

An English visitor to Palestine in December 15,1856 mentions incidentally how there were no more 150 Turkish soldiers in the whole of Palestine.  This by the Rev. Albert Augustus Isaacs in “The Dead Sea: Notes and Observations made during a journey to Palestine in 1856-7”, London (1857), p.9:

Although but little is known, and still less has been written, concerning this part of the land of Palestine, my determination to circumscribe the limits of this narrative will lead me to omit the mention of any but leading points. The Abou-daouk tribe were at this time at war with the Government. They had refused to pay the usual taxes, and in consequence they might at any time have been attacked by the Turkish soldiery. Although it was not likely that the indifferently disciplined and poorly equipped troops of the Turkish Government (whose number at that time, as it happened, was not one hundred and fifty throughout the land of Palestine) would venture to attack these Bedouins, yet it was expedient for them to guard against surprise. They accordingly were moving about from place to place, and at this time Sheik Hamsi did not know where Abou-Daouk was to be found.

I find that the catalogue of the medieval library of Glastonbury is still extant, and is preserved on folios 102-4 of Trinity College Cambridge R.5.33, which contains other  administrative material from Glastonbury Abbey.  And the MS is online!  Here’s the top of fol.102r.

Glastonbury Abbey Library Catalogue: MS. Trinity College Cambridge R.5.33, f102r

Something that may have escaped most of us, but the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique (Paris, 1899-1950) is online at  The French Wikipedia article lists the volumes and links here.  References to this massive work turn up in bibliographies.

I’m still finding that many old tweets have vanished, so I make no apology for reposting this from @KoineGreekcom, here:

In Byzantine Palestine, a πούς ‘foot’ was the same measure as today. In CIIP 3431, a law against sowing or planting w/in 15 feet of an ὑδραγώγιον ‘aqueduct’: το δε μετρον του ποδος υποτετακται τουτοις τοις τυποις ‘And the measure of a foot is appended below these engravings’

That’s enough for the moment, I think!


7 thoughts on “Bits and Bobs 3 – More stuff from the inbox

  1. I’m reading Daria Elagina’s 2018 dissertation. p. lv: “These three cases representing shared innovations lead to a conclusion that the Amharic translation was done from Zotenberg’s edition. His publication appeared in1883, and Mondon-Vidailhet went to Ethiopia in 1891-1892.”
    The JSTOR article was published 2017. This was before Elagina reached this conclusion about the Amharic.
    I don’t think the now-Dr. Elagina is going to be taking the Amharic seriously in a new edition of the Ge’ez.

  2. Your “Bits and Bob” series has been very interesting.
    I remember when Google proposed its Google Books project. It was a very exciting announcement. I don’t think they were going to make complete books available but would only give a link to where the particular book might be purchased. I guess the copyright holders did not trust Google to keep the books offline & start charging for access. With Google’s reputation this might have been a valid assumption.
    Did fill in the gap or did they quit putting books online?
    Anyway, thanks for posting your interesting comments and continued searching for translations that can be found online. This help we layfolks gain access to the writings of early authors that can be found only in history books.


Leave a Reply