Origins of the ANCL and US piracy of it

The well-known Ante-Nicene Fathers series began life as a series of translations of the Fathers undertaken by presbyterian Edinburgh publishers T. & T. Clark, and published on subscription as the Ante-Nicene Christian Library.  “The T. & T. Clark Story” by John A. H. Dempster (1992) gives some fascinating details.  A print run of 4 volumes in 1895-6 was  160 volumes.  Unit cost was around 2s. 3d. to produce, and the volumes sold at around 5s each.  Four volumes were issued a year, and the regularity of this was admired by the Bookseller (1 June 1869, p.470).

But on average the publisher only sold 11 copies of each volume in any one year (it may have been more initially, of course), so the series was very much a long term venture with a lot of money paid up front for limited return.  The same was true of their series of the works of St. Augustine (this was originally of 16 volumes but the last one, a Life of St. Augustine, by Robert Rainy, never appeared owing to other pressures on that busy man).  Clarks were therefore publishing at least in part for Christian motives, rather than financial ones.

Even in those days US sales mattered, because it allowed the print run to be extended (with a new title page featuring the US ‘publisher’!) and so reduced the cost.  But the US copyright law didn’t really protect foreigners, and piracy of British works was endemic.  Essayist Augustine Birrell salutes his many non-royalty-paying US readers in one of his collections of essays.  This situation affected the ANCL also.

It seems that US firms would announce their intention to pirate, and then try to force the UK publisher to accept some kind of financial deal, which gave the pirates sole rights for the US.  These would rarely be advantageous, but the victim was pretty much powerless.

In 1884 the Christian Literature Publishing Company (CLPC) began to produce a pirate version of the ANCL: the Ante-Nicene Fathers.  This was edited by the episcopalian bishop of New York, A. C. Coxe.  T. & T. Clark remonstrated, and pointed out the damage that this was already doing to their sales, but to no effect: ‘finding we had no escape from anyone who chooses to pirate, all we could do was to make the best bargain we could.’  A private letter to Philip Schaff makes plain that Clarks found it hard to understand ‘how Christian men — with Bishop Coxe at their head — could do such a thing.  It is sheer robbery.’ 

After various negotiations and changes of terms, CLPC agreed to pay T. & T. Clark $125 per volume as a flat fee.  This seems to have been paid and, curiously, it seems possible that T. & T. Clark actually did financially better from this than from their sales of the ANCL via Scribners, their US agent.

CLPC went on to appropriate material from other T. & T. Clark volumes, and indeed Oxford Movement volumes, to produce the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series (reviewed here in the 1887 NY Times).  This too was piracy, and again Clarks had to agree.  And thus a classic was born!


Quasten’s “Patrology” — new volume available!

Everyone knows that Quasten’s 4 volume handbook of the fathers of the church ends ca. 451.  Few know that the Italian edition has two further volumes.  I discovered on Monday that the first of these has been translated into English; I bought one on Tuesday while at the Oxford Patristics Conference, on seeing the publisher in a corner of a tent!  Get it from NOW!

The format is exactly as before; writers are introduced in chronological order, their life and works are summarised (with bibliography), their works are then discussed individually (editions and translations listed); finally for major writers their theology is discussed.

This volume covers Greek and oriental church fathers from 451 AD (Council of Chalcedon) to John Damascene in the 8th century, the last of the patristic writers.  It includes separate sections on Syriac and Coptic writers.

Frankly this is invaluable.  Prior to this one had to rely on scanty mentions in short works like Altaner’s “Patrology”, itself elderly.

It’s not as good as Quasten vol. 4, which was prepared by the same team.  The bibliographies are shallower.  Annoyingly instead of listing the edition, entries sometimes just refer to the entry no in the “Clavis Patrum Graecorum”.  No-one has that to hand, since none of us can afford it.  Likewise the translations are scanty.  It’s a bit odd that it is published separately, rather than as Quasten vol. 5 (which is what it is), but possibly commercial tussles are responsible.

But it’s still essential.  I’ve finally worked out who the Julianists were that Severus of Antioch denounces, for instance.  But then, I’ve only read around 60 pages so far.  It can be taken to bed and read sequentially, as an excellent way to access the story of those centuries.  And I will!  (Mind you, whatever will I do now with my copy of the Italian version?)

Sadly the translator, Adrian Walford, has died.  He did start on translating the other volume, on later Latin writers, but died of cancer before getting very far.  Let us hope that the Institutum Augustinianum find another English translator.


Philip of Side

Last weekend I located a copy of Henry Dodwell’s Dissertationes in Irenaeum (1689) which apparently contains the only publication of some bits of Philip of Side’s lost 5th century Ecclesiastical History, with a Latin translation and commentary. This reproduces a bit of Codex Bodl. Barrocianus 142 (14-15th century), which the Bodleian catalogue reveals to contain various church history texts, complete or excerpted. This bit is a list of leaders of the school at Alexandria, beginning with Athenagoras (writing “before Celsus”) down to Philip’s own time. The excerptor isn’t very accurate in what he says about Eusebius, so probably is no better on Philip. De Boor apparently published other fragments in TU, but I was unable to get these.

I learn also from Bruce Lincoln, Thomas-Gospel and Thomas-Community: A new approach to a familiar text. Novum Testamentum 19.1 (1977) p.69 n. 15 that the Coptic Gospel of “Thomas is mentioned by Hippolytus, Origen, Eusebius, Cyril of Jerusalem and Philip Sidetes.” (Although this may not be coptic Thomas, except in Hippolytus), but no ref. for Philip is given. It would be nice to collect all the Philip material.

I did consider getting a photograph of folio 216 recto and verso from the Bodleian, but the urge went away after I found that each photograph would cost $30, and was hedged round with further legally-dubious demands for money if anyone else saw it.