Who was St Austell?

Who was “St Austell”.  There is a town of that name in Cornwall, in the UK.

I am no expert on saints, and I would imagine that there are shoals of local saints in the Celtic regions of Britain.  But I did find a source.  Apparently the book to go to is Nicholas Orme, The Saints of Cornwall, Oxford (2000). Fortunately there is a Google Books preview, and it had an entry on page 67 for this St Austell.

Let’s see what we can make of this entry.  These sorts of handbooks are often stuffed full of abbreviations, so it can be hard.

Austell (Austoll)

(a) Austoll 10th (Olson and Padel: 59).
(b) St Austell: ecclesiam de Austol 1155 x c.1160 (Barlow: no. 74); sanctuarium de Sancto Austolo 1169 (1235) (PRO, C 53/28: m. 10); ecclesie Sancti Austol 1259 (Chanter 1: f. 6 V); ecclesias . . . Sancti Austoli 1281 (Oliver 1846: 43); de Sancto Austolo 1291 (Tax.); ecclesie… Sancti Austoli 1446 (Chanter X: f. 200r); S. Austelles (place) c.1540 (Leland 1907- 10: i. 201-2); Austel 1733 (Willis: 169); Austell 1742 (Ecton: 176); Austle 1782 (Jones: 98); Austolus 1846 (Oliver 1846:437), 1925 (Henderson 1925a: 23).

The 11th-century Life of Mewan, written in Brittany, claims that Austell was a priest and godson of Mewan who lived with him in his monastery at Saint-Meen (I.-et-V.), attended his deathbed, and died on 28 June (his subsequent feast-day), exactly one week after his master (Plaine 1884: 155-6; Doble 1939c: 4-11). Both saints were honoured at Saint-Meen. In Cornwall the parishes of St Austell and St Mewan adjoin one another, and have probably done so since at least the 10th century when the two saints occur together in the early list of saints (Olson and Padel: 34, 59). Austell’s Cornish parish, however, was much larger than Mewan’s, reversing their status in Brittany.

St Austell church is first mentioned distinctly in a document of the mid-12th century (above). Nothing is known about Austell’s cult there until the early 17th, when Nicholas Roscarrock wrote that local people believed that he and Mewan were great friends who lived together in the parishes named after them. Roscarrock refers to a statue of a bishop or abbot in a wall of St Austell church, which he supposed to commemorate Austell, and states that the saint’s feast was held on the Thursday after Whitsunday (Pentecost) (Orme 1992a: 56). This was perhaps to associate it with the holiday season of Whitsuntide. Since the mid-i9th century St Austell church has been regarded as dedicated to the Trinity, because the parish feast was then held on Trinity Sunday, but in medieval times the dedication was always to Austell (Orme 1996a: 69).

In 1173 Tywardreath Priory near St Austell was said to be dedicated to Andrew and Austell, implying that the priory had acquired the latter’s relics (Oliver 1846: 38). In Wales Llanawstl in Machen parish (Mon.) appears to mean ‘church-site of Austell’, but no church is recorded there and none is known to have been dedicated to him in Brittany (Loth 1910:12). See also Doble 1939c.

The main text is clear enough, but the opening material in smaller text looks like references to primary documents.  I can’t make much of this, except that “PRO” is clearly “Public Records Office”.  “Leland” is John Leland, the antiquarian of King Henry VIII.  He travelled all over England at the time of the Reformation, and his journal – he never published his finds – clearly was printed in a 1907 edition.  If I had the complete book, possibly these entries would make more sense.

It’s clear that this is a very obscure saint indeed.  There is no “Saint’s Life” for him; only a mention in the Life of St Mewan.

But Google comes mightily to our aid.  A preview of what is plainly an important book, S. Boardman &c, Saint’s Cults in the Celtic World, p.114, reveals in a footnote that the Life of St Mewan or S. Meen, is “Vita S. Mevenni: abbatis et confessoris in Britannia armoricana”, ed. F. B. Plaine in Analecta Bollandiana 3 (1884), 141-58.

I was unable to locate a downloadable copy, but it is at Hathi here if you have access.  The mention of St Austell is at the end, cc.19-20, on pp.155-6, where he is introduced: “Quo viso Austulos quidam presbyter, ejus filiolis, qui ei in monasterio serviebat humiliter,…”, “Seeing this a certain presbyter Austolus, his godson, who humbly served him in the monastery…”.

The Boardman book goes on:

The Life also, in its account of Meén’s death, introduces a certain presbyter named Austolus, his godson (filiolus), who is comforted by Méen’s prediction that Austol will join him in death within seven days. This indeed happens, and when Austol is taken for burial beside Méen, the monks find that:

“the saint’s body, which diffused a fragrant odour instead of the odour of corruption, had moved and was lying on the right of the grave facing the vacant space on the left, as if waiting for his disciple. They believed that this had happened by God’s appointment, and they buried the blessed godson by his blessed godfather. And thus the dead bones of the two saints declared the love which had ever united them.[137]”

137. Vita S. Mevenni, § 20: ed. Plaine, 156. Doble, Saint Mewan, 11.

Elsewhere we seem to be in a world of little antiquarian scribblers.  Thus “Doble” is Rev. G . H . Doble , Saint Mewan and Saint Austol , 2nd edn (Long Compton , 1939), who turns out to be a deceased Cornish clergyman.  None of those kinds of sources are online; they lie, buried in rural archives and libraries.

More promising is Olson and Padel, which turns out to be B.L.Olson and O.J.Padel, “A tenth-century list of Cornish parochial saints”, Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 12 (Winter, 1986): 33-71.  I didn’t try very hard, but this too seems offline.

The same sort of process would probably apply to anyone seeking information on a vast number of Celtic saints.  It reminds us that there is much still to do in getting the materials of scholarship online.

This information exists; but for how long, once libraries close down because “everything is online”?  There is work to do.

Finding online manuscripts

I wrote about my frustration in being unable to locate manuscripts online, despite having the shelfmarks.  Of course I am not the only one to encounter this.  A kind correspondent has made me aware of a list of links which helps enormously.  Compiled by Albrecht Diem, at the Monastic Manuscript Project, it is here.  I shall add it to the sidebar.

I have tested this out with the list of manuscripts of Wilhelm v. Boldensele, in this post.  The result was that I located a couple more manuscripts online, which I have linked.

It was still back-breaking work.  After a few libraries, I gave up.  But it was definitely an improvement.

Notes and news

Here are a few items that I learned about over the last couple of weeks.

  •  De Gruyter have published an edition of the fragments of the Ecclesiastical History of Gelasius of Caesarea, ed. Martin Wallraff &c, with a translation by Nicholas Marinides.  The De Gruyter item is here.  A “teaser” extract is now available on the translators Academia.edu page here.  This is, of course, a very welcome addition to historical sources for the period, tho at $150 a pop I shall not i invest.
  •  Less expensive – indeed free for download online – is a translation of Book 3, chapters 1-30 of the Histories of John Cantacuzene (given as “John Kantakouzenos”; why not Ioannes Kantakouzenos, on the same logic?).  It’s a thesis by Brian McLaughlin, and it’s great to have available, and is online at Royal Holloway here.
  •  Another bunch of free translations can be found at the St George Orthodox Ministry blog, http://www.stgeorgeministry.com/category/translations/.  Homily 67 of Severus of Antioch; indeed quite a bit of Severus of Antioch.
  •  Finally another commercial item, which I happened to find quite useful in my work on Nicholas of Myra legends: John L. Hoh, Santa Claus: Is he for your child? 2011, eBook.  It’s padded out with all sorts of stuff, but I found it a useful version of many of the popular stories.  Not recommending it, you understand; but I didn’t know people were still publishing such things.

Apologies for slow correspondence.  I’ve had a winter bug.  Hopefully I can start catching up now!

Josephus in the hands of Sir Roger L’Estrange

Sir Roger L’Estrange is probably mainly remembered today for his activities as a journalist and violent pamphleteer for the court during the reign of Charles II.[1]  As with others of Charles’ partisans, there was a strong element of ingratitude in all this.  L’Estrange had fought for Charles I in the civil war, but had received a pardon in 1653 from Oliver Cromwell, after which he had prospered under the commonwealth.  He was made surveyor of the press by the king in 1662, although the king did not see any reason to pay him a salary.

But how many of us are aware that this controversial figure was also a translator, and produced a translation of the works of Josephus?

A contemporary portrait of Sir Roger L’Estrange.

Yet so it is; the work appeared in 1702.  Even more interestingly, he became involved in a copyright dispute because of it!

The facts may be found in an old article by A.W. Pollard, “Copyright in Josephus”, in The Library 30 (1917), p.173-6.  Curiously Oxford University Press modestly ask for $44 in return for 24 hours access to this 101-year old item, here.

In 1609 a certain Thomas Lodge, “Doctor of Physick”, produced a translation  of The famous and memorable works of Josephus, based on the Latin and French.  This went through a number of editions, and a new edition appeared in 1676, revised against the French translation of Arnauld d’Andilly.

In 1693 a bookseller named Richard Sare advertised a new translation, by none other than Sir Roger L’Estrange.  On the 3rd April a bill appeared, signed by a number of booksellers, threatening legal action!

it being the Resolution of the Proprietors of the present English Copy, to use all lawful Means to vindicate their Right, and recover Satisfaction for the Damages they shall sustain by this New Undertaking; they and their Predecessors having been in just and quiet Possession of the same for near One Hundred Years, and having expended above Eight Hundred Pounds in amending their Translation by a Learned and Ingenious Hand, and in Printing a large Impression newly finish’d, now upon their hands.

Sare issued his own bill the next day, stating his intention to go on with it and disparaging the Lodge translation as “senseless”.

The new edition of Lodge did really exist, and really did appear in 1693, printed by Abel Roper, one of the signatories of the first bill.

The L’Estrange translation did not appear until nine years later, with the preface dated 28th January 1702, only a couple of years before L’Estrange’s death.  By that time the Glorious Revolution of William and Mary had come and gone.  The translator must have seemed like a ghostly figure from another age, as of course he was.

Pollard attributes the delay to bribery.  He points out that the owners of the Lodge translation had already made a substantial investment, even in their own terms, and paying off Sare or L’Estrange would have been worthwhile.  The claim to perpetual copyright in the translation is in keeping with the strange ideas of that age, and indeed was recognised by the old Common Law.  This somewhat vague right was reinforced, as was thought, by an Act of Queen Anne in 1710, giving copyright of 21 years exclusively to the publisher.

But what happened when the Queen Anne act expired?  There was a lawsuit, of course.  The essayist Augustine Birrell in “Authors in Court”[2], whom it is always a pleasure to read, recounts the matter.

These proceedings found their way, as all decent proceedings do, to the House of Lords — farther than which you cannot go, though ever so minded. It was now high time to settle this question, and their lordships accordingly, as was their proud practice in great cases, summoned the judges of the land before their bar, and put to them five carefully-worded questions, all going to the points — what was the old Common Law right, and has it survived the statute? Eleven judges attended, heard the questions, bowed and retired to consider their answers.  On the fifteenth of February, 1774, they reappeared, and it being announced that they differed, instead of being locked up without meat, drink, or firing until they agreed, they were requested to deliver their opinions with their reasons, which they straightway proceeded to do. The result may be stated with tolerable accuracy thus : by ten to one they were of opinion that the old Common Law recognised perpetual copyright. By six to five they were of opinion that the statute of Queen Anne had destroyed this right. The House of Lords adopted the opinion of the majority, reversed the decree of the Court below, and thus Thomson’s Seasonsbecame your Seasons, my Seasons, anybody’s Seasons.

Big money rested on all this.  Thomson the poet had sold his right for three of the Seasons to a certain Millar for a £242.  When Millar died in 1729, after selling the work for more than 40 years, his heirs sold the Seasons to a certain Beckett for £505.  Beckett himself sold the item also for more than 40 years.

All the same, claiming copyright on any English translation of an ancient author required quite a bit of impudence.

What did Sir Roger L’Estrange get for his translation?  For his folio volume of 1,130 pages, he received £300, plus a sixth part of the gross sales, plus 25 ordinary copies and 25 on royal paper.  The ordinary copies were priced at 25s, and the royal paper copies at  45s.  The edition was obviously a success, for a new edition in three volumes was accidentally destroyed in 1712 by a fire in the printer’s office.  There seem to have been reprints well into the 19th century.

I have not been able to locate a copy of L’Estrange’s work online.  It wouldn’t meet modern standards, I am sure.  But the tale is an interesting corner of the history of literature.

  1. [1]A short biography is here.
  2. [2]Res Judicatae, 1892, p.187, Archive.org here.

Brockelmann’s GAL translated into English??

Anybody who wants to know anything about Arabic literature must rely on the seven-volume textbook by Carl Brockelmann, Geschichte der Arabischen Litteratur.  The work lists the authors and their works from the beginning in the 6th century down to modern times, with a bibliography for each.  Unfortunately the work is a complete mess, with inscrutable abbreviations and so on, mainly because Brockelmann fell into the hands of a swindler who cheated him badly in the publication.  But it is all there is.  It is possible to find all of it online these days; but it is in German, and it is quite unreadable.  (Christian Arabic literature was omitted).

Imagine my delight, therefore, to hear from Prof. Joep Lameer, that he has been producing an English translation.  This is appearing through Brill.  Better yet, he is fixing some of the most baffling features:

The present English translation reproduces the original German of Carl Brockelmann’s Geschichte der Arabischen Litteratur (GAL) as accurately as possible. In the interest of user-friendliness the following emendations have been made in the translation: Personal names are written out in full, except b. for ibn; Brockelmann’s transliteration of Arabic has been adapted to comply with modern standards for English-language publications; modern English equivalents are given for place names, e.g. Damascus, Cairo, Jerusalem, etc.; several erroneous dates have been corrected, and the page references to the two German editions have been retained in the margin, except in the Supplement volumes, where new references to the first two English volumes have been inserted.

An introduction by Jan Just Witkam – who in a Brill reprint of Brockelmann explained finally why the GAL was such a mess – is a very welcome addition.

Dr Lameer has not tried to rearrange the material – a very wise decision.  Just getting it into usable form is quite a massive enough undertaking.  He writes:

I’ve been working about three years on this, full time. It was quite a job, I can tell you! I expect that by the end of Q2 2018 the whole thing will be done.

This marvellous undertaking may well spark a renaissance of studies of Arabic literature.  For the first time it becomes possible for ordinary people to get a handle on what exists.

So far there are 3 volumes on the Brill website; the first two volumes of the original edition, and the first volume of supplements.  But I understand from Dr. L. that a fourth volume is complete and with the publisher.

I would go and buy a set at once myself.  I would recommend that everyone do so.  Except… volume 1 alone is $210.  The ebook is the same, which is cheeky.  Online access is $3,500, although of course this is intended for libraries who get grants for such things.

If I understand how the project was structured then Brill are genuinely trying to recover some significant costs here.   That is quite understandable.  It is wonderful that the project has been undertaken at all.  But once those costs have been recovered, would it be too much to ask that they consider producing the volumes at $25 each in paperback?  Let a million copies be sold!

Universities Spend Millions on Accessing Results of Publicly Funded Research

Mark C. Wilson, a senior lecturer at Department of Computer Science, University of Auckland, writing for The Conversation (h/t Slashdot):

University research is generally funded from the public purse. The results, however, are published in peer-reviewed academic journals, many of which charge subscription fees. I had to use freedom of information laws to determine how much universities in New Zealand spend on journal subscriptions to give researchers and students access to the latest research — and I found they paid almost US$15 million last year to just four publishers. There are additional costs, too. Paywalls on research hold up scientific progress and limit the public’s access to the latest information.

Even better is that one university was paying markedly more for the same access than the others.

It’s just four companies, doing this.  How long will this cartel be permitted to plunder us all?

A translation of Basil the Great’s commentary on Isaiah is online!

A kind correspondent drew my attention to the fact that there is an English translation of Basil the Great’s Commentary on Isaiah accessible on Academia.edu here.  This is the page of the translator, Nikolai Lipatov.  Grab your copy now!

Origen, Commentary on Matthew, book 16 now online and in English

A kind message informs me that David Gohl’s translation of the remaining books of Origen’s Commentary on Matthew (which I discussed here) has now reached book 16.  He has translated this, and uploaded it for comment to Academia.edu here.

Excellent news!  Grab your copy while it’s hot!

Cambridge Ancient History (3rd edition) now online at Archive.org

A delightful discovery this week.  Cambridge University Press have released the 3rd edition of the Cambridge Ancient  History online at Archive.org!  All 19 volumes!  It’s here.

Those red-clad volumes were £40 each back in 1979.  I used to save up birthday money to buy a volume.  I still have them.  They were never as exciting as I wished they would be.  The 3rd edition was still coming out then.

Via Guy Chamberland.

Why have less than 5% of Byzantine scientific works been published?

A few days ago, I noted that only 5% of all Byzantine scientific works have managed to make it out of the medieval manuscripts and into a printed edition of some sort.  For translations the figure is worse still.  The figure is an estimate by Byzantinist Maria Mavroudi, who works with the subject and certainly would know.

But why is this?  I wrote to Dr Mavroudi and enquired as follows:

As a member of the public, I wonder if I might ask … why is this the case?  Is it simply fewness of hands, or lack of an audience?  Or lack of funding?

She very kindly replied at once, with this interesting answer:

The reasons are everything that you mention: lack of interest on the part of modern scholars, based on the conviction that there is anything worth the while there (the “good” stuff is ancient science, while its Byzantine counterpart is a pale imitation lacking in “original” contributions). Fewness of hands is also a serious problem (there are very few people able and interested in editing texts on ancient science which is admittedly more mainstream, although not exactly mainstream). Editing technical texts requires not only knowing the language and editorial techniques, but also understanding the content of what one edits. Too many skills, all time consuming to acquire, are required of one and the same person. Funding can be a problem, but it is last in the priority list, and can manifest itself in various ways (e.g. scholars on an academic salary do not need to be paid for the specific work of editing; but publishing is expensive, the editions of such technical texts will never be best sellers, and frequently publishers shy away from producing such editions because they project little or no financial reward).

I attach an encyclopedia essay that outlines some reasons for the lack of interest in Byzantine science.

The attached article was M. Mavroudi, “Science, Byzantine”, in: Roger Bagnall &c (ed), The Encyclopedia of Ancient History, Blackwell (2013), pp. 6063-6065.  The volume is not easily accessible to normal people unfortunately, although if the articles are all of this quality, then that really is a nuisance.  The article is mainly about asserting that Byzantine science is worth studying for itself, and has been distinctly undervalued:

In summary, what is currently known about Byzantine science is significantly less than what remains to be uncovered. In order to be properly appreciated, Byzantine science must be understood as a coherent system of thought taken in its own terms. Modern divisions separating scientific disciplines were not perceived by the Byzantines in the same way (Mavroudi 2006), though they have been applied to the Byzantine material in valuable scholarly surveys (e.g., mathematics and astronomy as categories distinct from astrology in Hunger 1978, 1994; “high” and “low” science in Pingree 1991).

The complex relation between tradition and innovation in the transmission and creation of new knowledge was neither experienced nor articulated by the Byzantines in our modern terms. Byzantine philosophical, cosmological, and scientific thought developed in dialogue with Christian theology and sometimes influenced the articulation of Christian doctrine (Magdalino 2006).

It is interesting to learn that funding is not the worst problem facing the discipline.  I understand that domain knowledge can be acquired by intensive short courses, e.g. in alchemy.  The cost of publishing may cease to be an issue with online publishing.  The link to patristic studies particularly catches the eye.

Perhaps some of the PhD students now frantically casting around for a teaching post should consider whether there is a career in Byzantine science?  Hardly anything has been done.  The challenge may seem daunting, but surely it is far better to use your Greek and patristics knowledge, than go and sell insurance?

I have been collecting materials, and I will write a post on the bibliography of Byzantine science next.