From my diary

I’ve been feeling guilty for not getting the August post out there from the Chronography of 354.  I have the draft materials on disk, but I do have to do some work, and I have had no time.  At least that is out there.

A correspondent wrote to me and mentioned Petrus Crabbe.  I wondered who he was, and drew a complete blank on a google search.  I located a version of the Franciscan Authors article behind a paywall, and had the sense to google the opening words.  This led me to an old version of their site, which in turn took me to the real thing.

I thought that it would be useful to those who come after if there was a brief Wikipedia article on Petrus Crabbe, so I drafted one.  It was stupid of me, I know, but I was a little curious.  But what a mess Wikipedia has become.  Once you just created the article.  Now you must now jump through endless hoops merely to start typing, and then your “draft” must get “approved” by somebody of unknown talents and learning.   Well, I wrote a few words, but needless to say this was promptly rejected by some uneducated deadbeat as “not notable”.  I don’t propose to waste life negotiating with such people.  But it shows how empty the claim “the encyclopedia that anybody can edit” now is.  If the internet as a whole had required website authors to seek approval before posting, it would not exist.  If Wikipedia had done so when it started, it would not now exist.  Silly people.  Luckily my own blog post (“unreliable source”, scream the muppets) should fill the gap.

These few days are incredibly hot, and it is really impossible to do anything here.  Fortunately I purchased some mobile aircon units a decade ago, and these are holding the heat at bay quite nicely.  Two days ago a venetian blind arrived, and is holding off the white heat of the afternoon sun quite nicely.

I found the plastic bag containing John the Deacon manuscripts on the floor, but I have transferred it to a cupboard.  One day I shall return to this.

I intend to let my old house, which I had to visit a couple of days ago.  Driving back, I passed the new crematorium that appeared a few years ago, down the road, a couple of miles away.  I remember driving past it and thinking rather morbidly that my ashes would most likely be buried there.  Now… clearly they will not.  What we assume is forever is often transitory.  I could never see how I would leave that house.  Yet here I am.

I have a feeling that the Lord has moved me out here, into a village in the countryside, for a reason.  I wonder what He is up to.  But “all things work together for good, for those that love God.”


Petrus Crabbe (Pierre Crabbé) – first collector of all the church councils?

Church councils tend to issue lists of regulations; or, in the jargon, “canons”.  These have been collected since antiquity, in all sorts of forms.  Once the era of printing arrived, inevitably the massive printed compilations followed, such as those of Surius, Mansi, and others.

Yesterday I learned of the work of Petrus Crabbe.  He was not an Englishman, as might be supposed, but a Frenchman named Pierre Crabbé.  He brought out the earliest major compilation of the councils known to me.  This was his Concilia Omnia, tam generalia quam particularia, printed in two volumes in Cologne in 1538.  The marvellous Franciscan Authors, 13-18th century site has this entry for this laborious man:

Petrus Crabbe (1470-1553)

OM & OFM. Belgian Friar from Malines (Mechelen) Studied theology in Louvain in and after 1489/90 (according to the old style matriculated on 28 February 1489, in the pedagogium De Valk), and joined the Observants before 1504. Lector and librarian in the Franciscan friary of Malines/Mechelen. Later also guardian, there and elsewhere, and confessor of the Poor Clares of Mechelen/Malines. Became an important editor of church council documents. After a search through almost 500 libraries, on which he embarked in and after 1532 at the request of the Popes Leo X and Clement VII, partly in collaboration with the clergyman Jan Heytmer from Zonhoven, the leader of the papal committee put together for this purpose, Crabbe published his Concilia Omnia, tam generalia quam particularia, in fact the first real scholarly edition of these church documents. It was widely used before the new collection of Mansi came out. Petrus Crabbe died in Mechelen/Malines in 1553 or 1554 at the age of 83. Crabbe apparently also worked on a bibliography of published works of classical writers, and he corresponded on this topic with the humanist Viglius ab Aytta. This was either never published and the manuscript version apparently has not survived.


Concilia Omnia tam Generalia quam Particularia ab Apostolorum Temporibus in Hunc usque Diem a SS. Patribus Celebrata et Quorum Acta Literis Mandata ex Vetustissimis Diversorum Regionum Bibliothecis Haberi Potuere, 2 Vols (Cologne: Petrus Quentel, 1538); revised in 3 vols (Cologne: Joannes Quentel, 1551) [including a provisional account of the early history and decisions of the Council of Trent]; revised in 4 vols, ed. Surius (Cologne, 1567). The author included biographies of the popes, the bulls and letters of whom he included. Crabbe’s collection of Councils and council decisions was avidly used by Catholics and Protestants alike. Several old editions of this work now accessible via the digital collections of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek and via Google Books.

Epistola ad Fridericum Nauseam (12 August, 1536), included in: Epistolarum miscellanearum ad Fridericum Nauseam (…) libri X (Basel: Joannes Oporinus, 1550), f. Z2r [179].

Some scholars also ascribe to Petrus Crabbe the imprint/edition of a twelfth-century sermon on the immaculate conception of Mary, supposedly written by Peter Comestor. See: Pius ac eruditus sermo Petri Comestoris, olim prebyteri Trecensis, de immaculata Virginis Mariae Conceptione (Antwerp: Willem Vorsterman, 1536). The work was later included in Petrus de Alva y Astorga’s Radii solis (…) pro immaculatae conceptionis mysterio (1666).


Juan de San Antonio, Bibliotheca Universa Franciscana II, 444; C. Chaillot, `Les principales collections des conciles. Editions de Crabbe’, Revue du monde catholique 16 (>>), 241-347; Dom H. Quentin, J.D. Mansi et les grandes collections conciliaires (Paris, 1900); D. Franses, `Petrus Crabbe en zijn Conciliorum Collectio’, Collectanea Franciscana Neerlandica 2 (1931), 427-446; W. Schmitz, Het aandeel der minderbroeders, 100-101; B. De Troeyer, `Petrus Crabbe’, Franciscana 17 (1962), 105-110; B. De Troeyer, Bio-Bibliographica Franciscana Neerlandica saec. XVI, I: Pars biographica (Nieuwkoop: B. De Graaf, 1969), 137-138, 163ff.; H.J. Sieben, Die katholische Konzilsidee von der Reformation bis zur Aufklärung (Paderborn, 1988), 226ff.; LThK 3rd ed. II, 1336;

We can see at once that this is full of good things.

Copies of his 1538 edition can be found online here:

His 1551 edition is here:

  • vol. 1. –
  • vol. 2. –
  • vol. 3. –

The edition of 1567, which no longer bears his name, but that of Surius, is here:

  • vol. 1. –
  • vol. 2. –
  • vol. 3. –
  • vol. 4. –

How useful these editions still are is unknown to me.  It would not be altogether surprising to find that there is material in here which later collections neglected.


Petrus Crabbe and an online bibliography of Franciscan authors (13th-18th century)

The earliest author of a big collection of the canons of church councils was a Franciscan chap called Pierre Crabbé, or rather Petrus Crabbe, according to the pleasant custom of the time.  In 1532 he undertook a search of more than 500 libraries for texts of the councils, and in 1538 he published a massive two-volume collection at Cologne under the title Concilia Omnia tam Generalia quam Particularia.  This was hot stuff, where the disputes of the period were concerned, and both Catholic and Protestant made use of it.  It was revised in 3 vols (Cologne: Joannes Quentel, 1551) [including a provisional account of the early history and decisions of the Council of Trent], and revised in 4 vols, ed. Surius (Cologne, 1567).

Apparently the Pope put him up to it.  There was some sort of committee formed by the Vatican, and no doubt they were the real instigators.

How do I know this?  For this morning I knew nothing of Petrus Crabbe and his pioneering work, until a kind correspondent mentioned him.

Well, it turns out that there are a couple of chaps named Maarten van der Heijden and Bert Roest, who have been working away on a massive biography of Franciscan authors from the 13-18th century.  Better yet, it is online.  The site, “Franciscan Authors, 13th-18th century: A catalogue in progress“, is accessible here:

The site is old-fashioned in design, but not a bit the worse for that.  On the contrary, it is far more user-friendly than modern designs.  Recommended.


The August Poems in the Chronography of 354

Finally!  At last we have more than one manuscript containing an image for August, the first month where this is so since March.

Here is the 4-line poem (tetrastich):

Fontanos latices et lucida pocula vitro
cerne, ut demerso torridus ore bibat.
Aeterno regni signatus nomine mensis
Latona genitam quo perhibent Hecaten.

Look for spring waters and transparent cups in glass,**
So that a thirsty man may drink with submerged mouth.
By the immortal name of a reign is the month designated,
In which, they maintain, that Hecate was born from Latona.

“vitro” is ablative singular, so I am not sure how that fits with the rest of the first line.  The reign mentioned in line 3 is that of Augustus.  On line 4, the Roman goddess Diana in one of her aspects took on the role of the Greek Hecate as goddess of the underworld. Her birthday was celebrated at Nemi on August 13th.

The 2-line verse (distich) is as follows:

Tu quoque Sextilis venerabilis omnibus annis
Numinis Augusti nomen †in anno venis†.

You also, venerable Sextilis, in every year,
(Under) the** name of the divinity of Augustus †in the year you come†.

The last words are those in the manuscripts, but Divjak and Wischmeyer suggest that they are corrupt; apparently the editions give various suggested emendations.   I don’t see how the nominative “nomen” should be understood – “under” is a guess.

The 16th century Vienna manuscript 3416, folio 29 (online here), gives us this clearly redrawn image:

Vienna 3416, f.29

The rather more authentic 17th century R1 manuscript, Vat. (online here) gives us this, including the tetrastich and the first line of the distich (the other is on the facing page):

R1 – Ms. Vatican Barberini lat. 2154, f.19r

The Brussels 7543-49 manuscript, f.201r, gives us this image:

B – August

From the Berlin copy, Berol. lat. 61, f.233 (formerly f.228) we get this:

Divjak and Wischmeyer explain all this, so I shall summarise what they tell us.

All these images represent the heat of August, unsurprisingly, and ways to cool off.  The image shows a naked man, thirsty from the summer heat, drinking from a bowl.  The chin is visible through the bowl, so this is a glass bowl, as the first two lines of the tetrastich indicate.  Around the man are three melons; a large vessel with a flame coming out of it; a flabellum (ceremonial fan) with peacock feathers atop a spiral pole; and a jacket with elaborate decoration, including fringes at the cuffs, perhaps associated with the .  In the Vienna manuscript the vessel has a coat of arms with “ZO” on it; the others show “ZLS”.  The Vienna manuscript omits the jacket.  The R1 manuscript shows the (surely original) frame.

The jacket is perhaps associated with the Vulcanalia of August 23, a festival when fires were lit.  At this time garments were hanged up in the sunlight, according to a poem by ps.Paulinus:

nunc omnis credula turba / suspendunt soli per Vulcanalia vestes[1]

They add that the ZO/ZLS means “ΖΗΣ(ΗΣ) / ZES(es), a formula that is very often found in connection with precious drinking vessels such as gold glasses.”

(For more information on this series of posts, please see the Introduction to the Poems of the Chronography of 354).

  1. [1]Ps. Paulinus, carmen 32 (CSEL 30), 138 f.

They walk among us

Yesterday the removal men emptied my old house and brought all the contents to the new.  This included many bags full of books.  My library is not that large, and most of it is novels.  For I usually prefer to have scholarly materials in PDF form.

On seeing the shelves set up to receive them, one of the men said, rather than asked, “You haven’t read all these books, have you.”

I told him that indeed I had, and more than once.  I do not keep books that I will never read again.

He said nothing, but disbelief emanated from him.  Later I heard one of his workmates ask him if he had ever read a book, and he freely admitted that he never had.

So much that we take for granted is not true.  We live, surrounded by a vast number of people for whom the life of the mind is not merely something that they do not participate in, but it is something that they do not even believe in, or believe that anybody else does.  It’s just a way of showing off, or something.

Such people are very many in number, and probably the overwhelming majority of those whom we meet in life.

Are we perhaps the aliens, then?


From my diary

It is day 14 of my house move, but I am still busy moving the accumulation of 24 years.  Most of my books are still at the old house, and 5 big book cases that I made when I was young.  I was busy removing books from the shelves yesterday.  Today my back has informed me that I won’t be doing any more of that for a while!   But I have bowed to the inevitable and asked a firm to quote for packing and moving everything still left in the house.  Nor will that be the end of the matter, since the old house must then be readied for letting, with various necessary works.  So my time is  more than fully occupied.

Looking through the books, pulling off the shelves and into bags, is an interesting process.  Do I still need this book?  Or this one?  The 14 volumes of the Wheel of Time novels – will I ever reread these?  What about this three-volume history of the Church of England?  I doubt that I will ever read the Three Musketeers again – but that copy came from my grandmother.  I never read any C. S. Lewis these days – his work has entered into my soul forever – but those little yellow paperbacks I bought at university from my slender grant money.  How can I let those go?  Will I return to Arabic Christian studies?  If not, do I need that five-volume copy of Graf, obtained at some cost and labour?

The question of what to do with the books is one that confronts every reading man on his retirement.  Doubtless I shall keep too many, and, when I die, my executor will call a house-clearance company and they will go off to a charity shop.

Yet I don’t really want to get rid of books.  I just wish they could vanish into some null-space area until called for, rather than occupying floor and wall space.  If Doctor Who ever decides to monetise his Tardis, I guarantee that a few of us will be very interested in this “larger on the inside” technology!

In a way, Kindle allows us to do that.  I have a library of novels on my smartphone, so I do not need to have them in physical form.

But I don’t really like Kindle.  Legally you don’t own your e-books.  Amazon take the high-handed stance that, on your death, you can’t bequeath them.  So really you just have a lease.  In fact I don’t trust our tech corporations one bit.  They could delete the book.  They could “suspend” access, as a means of political control.  This may sound paranoid, but I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more.

Even worse, electronic materials can be altered silently.  What if I go to read a book and find that it has been bowdlerised, not of obscenity but of truth?

Only yesterday I came across an example, when I consulted the NRSV of 1 Cor. 6:9-10 on the mighty Bible Gateway website and found that it had changed.  The text did not read as I remembered.

On investigation, I found that it really had changed. The NRSV is not public property, as bible translations should be.  It is owned by some group of decaying churches who have decided to remove the biblical condemnation of a certain vice.  And so it has come to pass!  The text is changed, a cynical footnote, “Meaning of Gk uncertain” is added, and that is that.  The bible websites have already been updated.  No-one can see what the old text was.  No doubt the other versions will be altered also, to conform.  Oldies will marvel, but young folk will not know that it ever said anything different.

The “KJV-only” cranks always claimed that the modern versions were deliberately corrupted.  It is sobering to see a text-book example, proving them right.

The next question that springs to mind is even worse. Is this just the start, or is this rather the endpoint of a long process of deliberate interference?

How far back does this go?  For some years Bible versions have been translating “ἀδελφοί” as “brothers and sisters” instead of brethren.  We’ve been lectured how this is an improvement.  This is not translation, but paraphrase, of course.  But now that we know for certain that bible translators are making changes to the bible text purely because they don’t like what it says, why would we believe them?

How far back does this really go?  All the modern versions prefer to render “αἱρετικὸν ἄνθρωπον” as “divisive person”, faithfully reflecting the liberal and ecumenical movement of the twentieth century, where the KJV renders it plainly as “heretic”.

I was rather dubious about the need for the ESV.  But how right they were, to establish the new version at that time, before the pressure was on.

Now if this can be done to the bible, it can be done to any book.  If all we have is kindle, then will we even know when things change?

Sobering stuff.

Meanwhile summer has arrived here with a vengeance, and we’ve just passed through some exceedingly hot days.  Luckily my mobile air-conditioning unit was one of the things that I brought over first!  But it’s like flying to the middle east – the first couple of days is just too hot to do much.  Let us lie back and enjoy it!


The July Poems in the Chronography of 354

The image for July is preserved once again only in a single manuscript of the Chronography, MS Vienna 3146, which never contains the text of the poems, only the pictures. So for the text of the poems, once again we are reliant on other, unillustrated, manuscripts, or the indirect tradition.

Here is the 4-line poem (tetrastich), with the draft translation that I made earlier in the year.  Comments are always welcome!

Ecce coloratos ostentat Julius artus
crines cui rutilos spicea serta ligat.
Morus sanguineos praebet gravidata racemos,
Quae medio cancri sidere laeta viret.

Look! July shows off his tanned limbs,
Whose reddish hair a garland of corn ties.
His reddish hair, to which he ties a garland of corn.
The glad mulberry, loaded down with fruit, offers blood-red berries,
It flourishes with joy  to hang down in the middle of the summer heat.
It is green in the middle star of Cancer.

I.e. in the heat of summer.

The 2-line verse (distich) is as follows:

Quam bene, Quintilis, mutasti nomen! honori
Caesareo, Juli, te pia causa dedit.

How rightly, Quintilis, you changed your name!
A pious motive assigned you to the honour of Caesar.
The honour of Caesar, O July, gives you a pious motive.

I can’t work out the syntax for the second line: honori is dative, of course, not nominative.  The sense is that the motive for the change of name is to honour Caesar.

Again the image is only preserved in the 16th century Vienna manuscript 3416, folio 27 (online here):

As usual with this manuscript, the image is in the style of the renaissance, not antiquity.  But probably the layout is much the same as the original.  From Divjak and Wischmeyer, I learn that the depiction shows a naked young man – an image of summer, holding a bag in his right hand with extra long tassels.  In his left hand he holds a flat round basket containing three bunches of fruit with leaves, perhaps mulberries.  By his right foot is some kind of vessel – a money bag? – filled with coins marked with crosses and other symbols.  Two conical vessels stand by his left foot.  The whole picture is of a good harvest with the resulting wealth.

(For more information on this series of posts, please see the Introduction to the Poems of the Chronography of 354).

UPDATE: Many thanks to those who sent in corrections!


From my diary

It’s been a busy couple of weeks.  I’ve been moving house, for the first time in 24 years.  I made the decision less than three weeks ago, the let of the property was only agreed about 10 days ago, and I took possession 5 days ago.  Today they installed an internet connection, which  took most of the day, and means that now I can connect properly to the web once more.

Of course I have had no time to pack, or do anything than the most immediate tasks.  A man in a van transported some basic furniture to the new house.

In fact I have only two books, which happened to be in my bedside cabinet at the moment of impact.  These are my bible, and a copy of Per Beskow’s Strange Tales About Jesus.

This slim volume consists of a series of chapters, each dealing with some specimen of “modern apocrypha”.  The term was coined by E. J. Goodspeed, who published two volumes of the same kind dealing with mainly American examples of the genre.  Beskow is Swedish, and discusses a few more.

Modern apocrypha are pretended books of the bible which were in fact composed in modern times.  Invariably they were composed in English, or the language of the country in which they circulate, for each country has its own stable of these things.  For the most part they are ignored by scholarship.

I’m not going to discuss the modern apocrypha here, however.  I am very tired and merely offering a few idle thoughts.  Concentrating on the frauds and follies of mankind is a narrowing experience anyway.  We are not the intended audience for “Jesus in India” and other such things.

The middle-aged engineer who came to install my broadband proved talkative, and it came out that he was fascinated by ancient Egypt and longed to travel there.  “I wish I had travelled more when I was younger,” he said.  He knew very little, but I found genuine enthusiasm.  He had been ensnared a bit by “how could the Egyptians have built the pyramids” stuff.  Of course I didn’t rain on his parade: only an oaf would have tried to correct his mistakes.  Instead I nodded along.

It is so important that we never crush the budding enthusiasm of others.  It can be hard to tell where the balance lies.  In person his sincerity was obvious.  Online, it might be mistaken for wrongheadedness.

Over the next month I hope to get my books over here, and get things set up.  It is very much quieter here, and such a blessing.  God leads us into things, and it seems that a new season is underway in my life too.

I’ll get blogging again once things settle down.


From my diary

Not much is happening.  The mundane “business” of living has taken over my life.  I’ve barely been able to keep up with correspondence. I apologise to those who had to wait for replies.

I had intended to post the poems for June, from the Chronography of 354, at the start of the month.  I had a few moments today and put the post together.  In future I must remember NOT to post translations done in a hurry.  I’ve been caught before like this, making awful errors out of sheer inattention, just trying to keep up.

Better news is that a kind correspondent sent me the first English translation of a letter by Severus Sebokht, the 7th century Syriac scientific writer.  It looks very good.  I’ve offered a few editorial suggestions, and I hope to be able to post it here in a few weeks.  It is very interesting!

On the other hand I’ve been unable to do any of the items mentioned in my last post about John the Deacon, two weeks ago.  In fact I’m just grateful that I did make a TODO list then.  If I had not, I am sure that I would not remember them now.

Isn’t it frustrating, when you plan to work, but cannot?  But it seems to be the nature of life.  The academic finds himself bogged down in pointless but unavoidable administration.  The amateur is always being called away.  The novelist never gets that much time at the typewriter.  Adam’s curse operates relentlessly to blight what we think of as our real lives.  The time today that I might have spent usefully was instead spent supervising a plasterer.  Thus our lives vanish.

It was J.R.R. Tolkien in “Leaf by Niggle” who showed me how this might be intentional, and indeed providential.  In the story, Niggle is continually hampered in his attempts to paint a landscape by the calls of his needy neighbour, Mr Parish, which in the end bring about Niggle’s death.  After death, he finds his vision realised in a real landscape.  But to his surprise, he finds that the needs of Parish brought out his best work:

Before him stood the Tree, his Tree, finished. If you could say that of a Tree that was alive, its leaves opening, its branches growing and bending in the wind that Niggle had so often felt or guessed, and had so often failed to catch. He gazed at the Tree, and slowly he lifted his arms and opened them wide.

“It’s a gift!” he said. He was referring to his art, and also to the result; but-he was using the word quite literally.

He went on looking at the Tree. All the leaves he had ever laboured at were there, as he had imagined them rather than as he had made them; and there were others that had only budded in his mind, and many that might have budded, if only he had had time. Nothing was written on them, they were just exquisite leaves, yet they were dated as clear as a calendar. Some of the most beautiful-and the most characteristic, the most perfect examples of the Niggle style-were seen to have been produced in collaboration with Mr. Parish: there was no other way of putting it.

May it be so for all of us, in whatever we do.


The June Poems in the Chronography of 354

Once again only a single manuscript of the Chronography contains an image for this month.  This is MS Vienna 3146, which never contains the text of the poems, only the pictures. So for the poems, once again we are reliant on other, unillustrated, manuscripts, or the indirect tradition.

Here is the 4-line poem (tetrastich):

Nudus membra dehinc solares respicit horas
Iunius ac Phoebum flectere monstrat iter.
Lampas maturas Cereris designat aristas
floralisque fugas lilia fusa docent.

June unclad then views the sundial’s time,
And shows that the sun is changing its course. Phoebus reveals that its path is changing.

The Lamp-festival marks Ceres’ ripe ears of corn,
And the scattered lily-petals show the fading of the flower.

“Phoebus” here means the sun. The reference to “Lampas”, a festival with torches on the solstice is also attested in the ps.Chrysostom, De solstitiis et aequinoctibus (translated elsewhere on this site), the “dies lampadarum” or “day of torches”, or, more briefly, “lampas”, “the torch”.

The 2-line verse (distich) is as follows:

Iunius ipse sui causam tibi nominis edit
praegravida attollens fertilitate sata.

June itself gives you the reason for its name,
Extolling having brought forth abundant fruitfulness.

Again the image is only preserved in the 16th century Vienna manuscript 3416, folio 25 (online here):

From Divjak and Wischmeyer, I learn that the depiction is of a naked youth carrying a torch, symbolising the solstice, a sundial on a pillar, and – indicating the harvest – a sickle, a basket of fruit, and a plant.

(For more information on this series of posts, please see the Introduction to the Poems of the Chronography of 354).