The Christmas-New Year holidays continue here, which is just as well as it allows me to get something worthwhile done. It also allows me to plan things for the year to come. After several dull days this morning was bright, sunny and full of light; and so, therefore, was I.
When household papers arrive on my desk, I tend to pile those which might be useful later into a pile at one corner. Naturally this grows. I last pruned it well over a year ago. I spent this morning doing so. I was rewarded by finding a shopping voucher that a previous client had given me, due to expire in a few weeks time. Sometimes virtue is its own reward.
This afternoon I have been dealing with three books in my “out” tray, scanning whatever I wanted from them. I’ll probably post some excerpts in another post soon.
The first was the autobiography of liberal theologian-turned-evangelical Thomas Oden. I found it rather thin, full of events that a better writer would have done more with. But it contains a slightly more interesting section that might concern us directly. He refers to the IVP “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture” series, which he created and edited. He mentions that his minions scanned the text of the 37 volume Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers collection of translations. Now my own interest in the fathers as a class was facilitated in the mid-1990s by finding online text files containing these volumes. They came from Wheaton college in the US, itself associated in some way with IVP. Were these text files the output from that process?
The second was an “anecdotal history” of IVP – Intervarsity Press – in the USA. This was frankly very dull. I do not need to know that in 1958 Mr Suit became head of carpets. Why do I, the reader, care about Mr Suit?
But I did learn from it why “IVP Academic” came into existence. While I value what they have done in making translations available, it has always seemed to me like a distraction from the college Christian ministry, to serve which IVP was founded. But all is revealed. IVP, like many Christian enterprises, is run on a shoe-string. Reference volumes are steady sellers, that help give financial stability to a firm. This, it seems, is why they grabbed the opportunity to do the series.
The third volume is also related to student ministry, although distantly. It is Tissington Tatlow’s official history of the Student Christian Movement, published in 1933, and more than a thousand pages long. It’s self-published, and unreadable. It is, in truth, the annual report of a dull bureaucrat, extended to the point of madness. Like all such reports any hint of irregularity is suppressed. So it is both long and meaningless. It does contain some interesting early photographs.
Unfortunately I have been obliged to break the volume and scan the pages using a sheet-feeder. I hate the idea of destroying books. But I am quite certain that, if I had opened every page and scanned it in turn, I would have been the first person to do so since the typesetter. Nobody can ever have read this torrent of sludge. It needs to be online, where it can be consulted. So in order to preserve the work, I have been obliged to kill a copy. I hesitated long. But I could not bring myself to spend a couple of days of my life on it. I apologise, but plead for mercy!
The thing is still going through the sheet-feeder as I write. This has been a productive day.
UPDATE: The Tatlow book is now on Archive.org here.