Valentine of Rome (BHL 8465) – extracts from the Passiones of Marius, Martha, Audifax and Abacuc (BHL 5543)

I mentioned that I would not be translating the “Passio” of St Valentine of Rome, priest (BHL 8465), because it was in fact just an extract from the Passiones of Marius, Martha, Audifax and Abacuc (BHL 5543); and that these had been translated rather splendidly by Michael Lapidge.[1]  But very few people will ever see the Lapidge volume, and the interest in Saint Valentine is renewed every year.  So perhaps I might be permitted to give the St Valentine portions of that text, without footnotes, here.

I have over-paragraphed it for readability online.  I’ve also inserted the start-position of each of the 5 lectiones from the Acta Sanctorum text, although I’ve not compared the two word for word, except at the end.

[Lect. I] 6. Then Claudius arrested a certain holy man named Valentine, a priest, and shut him in prison, bound with shackles and chains. After two days he ordered him to be brought before him in his palace near the amphitheatre. When he was brought into his presence, he said to him: ‘Why do you not make use of my friendship, and live with the commonwealth of our state? I hear marvellous things about your wisdom; yet although you are wise, you cause offence by your vain superstition.’

Valentine the priest said in reply: ‘If you knew God’s gift, you too would rejoice, and your state with you, if you were to reject demons and handmade idols, and to confess one God, the Father omnipotent, and Jesus Christ, His Son, the Creator of all things, “Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things which are in them”.’

A certain legal adviser (legisconsultor), who was standing near Claudius, replied, saying in a clear voice to Valentine, the priest: ‘What is your opinion concerning the god Jupiter, or Mercury?’

Valentine the priest said in reply: ‘I say nothing concerning them except that I know them to be wretched and foul men, who lived their lifetimes in filth and carnal delights and scorn of their bodies. And if you were to show to me their ancestry, you would see how foul they were.’

[Lect. II] The legal adviser replied out loud: ‘He has blasphemed the gods and the rulers of our state.’

7. On the same day Claudius was listening more patiently, and said in reply to Valentine: ‘If Christ is God, why do you not reveal to me what is the truth?’

Valentine the priest replied: ‘Let your majesty hear it. Listen to me, O king, and your soul will be saved, and your state will be increased, and your enemies will be eliminated, and in all undertakings you will be the victor; you will enjoy dominion in this life and in the future world. I admonish you in respect of one thing, that you repent for the blood of saints which you have spilled, and believe in Christ, and thus be baptized: and you will be saved.’

Then Claudius said to those standing near him: ‘Listen, Roman citizens and assembly of the republic, to what a sane doctrine is being revealed by this man.’

In reply, Calpurnius the prefect said aloud: ‘You have been deceived, Your Highness, by false teachings: but if it is right that we abandon what we have worshipped and adored from our infancy, you decide.’

[Lect. III] 8. At that same time Claudius changed his mind and in sadness handed him over to Calpurnius the prefect, saying: ‘Listen patiently to him, and if what he says is not sane counsel, do to him what the laws stipulate for sacrilege; if not, let his just petition be heard.’

Then taking Valentine the priest, Calpurnius the prefect handed him over to a certain Asterius, his chief officer (princeps), saying: ‘If you can reduce him by gentle persuasion, I will report your accomplishment to Claudius, and you will be his friend, and he will enrich you with riches and possessions.’

Taking him, Asterius led him to his own home. When he entered the house of Asterius, Valentine the priest fell to his knees and prayed, saying, ‘O God, Maker of all things visible and invisible, and Creator of the human race, Who sent Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ that You might free us from this world and lead us from the shadows to the true light, Who commanded us by saying, “Come unto me all who labour and are heavily laden, and I will refresh you”; convert this house, and grant light to it after the shadows, that it may recognize You as God and Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.’

[Lect. IV] 9. Hearing this, Asterius the agent said to Valentine the priest: ‘I admire your good sense, in that you say that your Christ is light.’

In reply Valentine said in a clear voice, ‘And truly, because Jesus Christ the Lord, Who was born of the Holy Spirit and Mary the virgin, is the true light, Who illuminates every man who comes into this world.’

Asterius replied, saying: ‘If He illuminates every man, I shall now establish if He is God; if not, I shall extinguish your folly. I have an adoptive daughter, whom I have loved since infancy, and suddenly two years ago she was blinded and disfigured by cataracts. I shall bring her to you; and when she is cured, I will do everything you ask of me.’ Valentine the priest therefore replied: ‘In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, bring her to me.’

Running off in some anxiety, Asterius brought the blind girl to Valentine the priest. Raising his hands to the heavens, Valentine, his eyes flowing with tears, said: ‘O Lord God Almighty, Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies, Who sent Your Son Our Lord Jesus Christ to earth, so that You could lead us from the shadows to the true light, I call upon You as an unworthy sinner. But because You save all souls, and wish no one to perish, I therefore beseech Your mercy, so that all people may recognize that You are God, and the Father of all things and their Creator, Who opened the eyes in a man born blind, and even raised up Lazarus from the tomb when his corpse was already rotting. I invoke You, Who are the true light, and the Lord of Principalities and Powers; let not “my will but Yours be done” over this girl Your servant, that You may deign to illumine her with the light of Your intelligence.’ And he placed his hand on her eyes, saying: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, illuminate Your servant, because You are the true light.’ And when he had said this, her eyes were opened.

[Lect. V]  10. When Asterius saw this, he and his wife fell at the feet of the blessed Valentine, and spoke as follows, saying: ‘Let us pray through Christ, through Whom we recognize the light, that you do what you know how to do, so that our souls may be saved.’

Valentine replied and said, ‘Do, therefore, what I say, and if you believe with all your heart, destroy all idols, and fast, and drop the charges against all (prisoners); let someone be baptized in making confession, and he shall be saved.’

Then he enjoined upon them a three-day fast. And because Asterius had many of the Christians in custody, he released them all. And when the three days of the fast were finished, and it was Sunday, Valentine baptized Asterius, together with all his household. And he summoned Callistus, the bishop, to him; when he arrived, he made the sign of the Cross on Asterius and his entire household—nearly forty-six persons of both sexes.

11. When Marius and his wife Martha, together with their sons, Audifax and Abacuc, heard of this event, that a blind girl had been illuminated by St Valentine and that as a result of the healing the entire household of Asterius had become believers, they came with great joy to the house of Asterius, giving thanks to God, and they remained there thirty-two days.

At the end of this time Claudius summoned Asterius, the chief officer (princeps). And it was reported to him that a girl had been healed of blindness in his house, and as a result of this miracle he had been baptized by Valentine in the name of Christ, together with his entire household.

Enraged, Claudius sent soldiers, and arrested all those whom he found in the house of Asterius. When they were brought before him in chains, among them being Marius and Martha, Audifax and Abacuc, all aristocrats from Persia who had come to pray at the shrines of the apostles, he ordered them to be separated from the assembly of other Christians, commanding that Asterius, with all his household be led in chains to Ostia, there to undergo trial with interrogation by means of torture.

…*

15. The emperor [Claudius] ordered that Marius and Martha, Audifax, and Abacuc should be kept for him, so that he could hear them in private audience; but he ordered that Valentine the priest should be beaten with staves and then undergo the sentence of capital punishment. He was beheaded on the Via Flaminia on 14 February. A certain matron, named Savinilla, recovered his body and buried it in the same place where he was beheaded; ** the Lord performs many miracles there, to the praise and glory of His name.

The section that I have omitted from the Passio of Marius etc, marked with *, is likewise omitted from the extracts.  But the text of the Valentine material does change, after the **.  Instead of the “the Lord performs many miracles there, to the praise and glory of His name.”, we have:

accipiens coronam vitae, quam repromisit Deus diligentibus se. *** Ibi postea a Iulio Papa fabricata est ecclesia in honorem S. Valentini Presbyteri et Martyris, [ei ecclesia construitur.] et mirifice decorata, in qua devote petentibus beneficia Domini praestantur usque in hodiernum diem.

receiving the crown of life, which God has promised to those devoted to him.  *** There afterwards a church was built by Pope Julius in honour of St Valentine, priest and martyr, [the church was constructed for him] and adorned marvellously, in which the blessings of God for those who seek them devoutly shine forth until our own day.

Even in this, there are variations.  The text above is given only in the “Roman” manuscript used by the Acta Sanctorum editors; many of the breviaries that they used have yet another piece of text instead:

capite plexum iuxta pontem Milvium, ubi postea S. Theodorus Papa ecclesiam Martyris nomine aedificavit, multisque locupletavit donis.

capite plexum near the Milvian Bridge, where later Pope Saint Theodore built a church in the name of the martyr, and enriched it with many gifts.

Not sure what “capite plexum” can mean – is it something about the head being buried there?

All this chopping and changing suggests that this “St Valentine” text, BHL 8465, being merely a set of extracts, was amended as those copying it saw fit.  But then we are not dealing with a literary text here, after all, but a hagiographical one, where such tampering is routine.

Returning to the main text, it is interesting to see that the Latin “Seductus es” is rendered as “You have been deceived”.  I’d wondered how to render this myself, perhaps as “You have been led astray”?

It is notable that in this text also, there is no romantic element.

  1. [1]Michael Lapidge, The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary, Oxford University Press (2017), 420-435.

How to approach translating hagiography; St Valentine of Rome; and why I won’t translate his “Life” (BHL 8465)

I pressed “Publish”.  My post with my translation of the Passio of St Valentine of Terni shot out onto the internet.  What now?

I found myself thinking about the “other” St Valentine, Valentine of Rome, the priest.  I went back to the Acta Sanctorum, February vol. 2, for February 14th, and looked at the material there.  I obtained the electronic text, including introduction and footnotes, and created a Word file; then fixed up the Latin by getting rid of ligatures, and the Word file by setting the paragraph margins to zero, left and right.

The text was in five Lectiones.  It was printed from two manuscripts and a breviary.  There was reference to a “Ms. Ultraiectinum S. Salvatoris”.  After a bit of guesswork, this turned out to be the church of St Saviour, part of the Cathedral of Utrecht.  Another manuscript was mentioned, which I could not identify.

But clearest of all was that this “passio” was merely a selection from a long work, the Acts of Marius, Martha, Audifax and Abachum, printed in the Acta Sanctorum under January vol. 2, for January 19!  If so, why bother with it?  No wonder it was just extracts from breviaries.  It would be better, surely, to translate the full Acts.

So off I went to the January vol. 2, and did the process again with the Acts of Marius &c.  Luckily for me, the electronic text that I had found had the BHL number for the work at the top – the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina index number, which was BHL 5543.  Had it not been there, of course, the BHL volume is at Archive.org, for it is a century old.

Now once I have a BHL or BHG number, I always google for it.  It’s always a good idea to see what is out there.  Has somebody written a study on it?  Can I get an idea of its contents, its age, the scholarship?

So off I went and googled “BHL5543”.

Initial results were discouraging.  All dross really.  But I have found by experience that I need to keep going through several pages, and even redo the search in Google Books.  So I did.  And…. boy did I get this right.  I hit jackpot.

In fact I found this: Michael Lapidge, The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary, Oxford University Press (2017), present on Google Books preview here.  It contained 800 pages of pure gold: translations and commentary and a sterling introduction to every single Passio relating to a Roman martyr.  This included a full translation of the Acts of Marius, Martha, Audifax and Abachum, complete with the bits that are about St Valentine of Rome.

So there is in fact no need for me to make a translation of this work at all; Dr. Lapidge has done it, and with the aid of his publisher probably better than I could.  The only fly in the ointment is the extraordinary price of the volume – $140 at Amazon, and £115 at Amazon UK (discounted from a p***-taking £140).  This places it firmly outside of the hands of the general reader.

It is a remarkable book.  The sheer labour in translating 800 pages of passiones is awe-inspiring.  But that is only part of what it achieves.  This is not just a translation but a study.

I learned – from what I could see of the introduction – that it soon becomes clear that all these Roman passiones correspond exactly to places of pilgrimage in Rome!  There is a church dedicated to each and every one of them, all of much the same period.  The conclusion, that the passiones were composed by the clergy of these churches is hard to resist.  But without working on the entire body of saints for Rome, Dr. L. might never have noticed this.

Likewise the clearly fictional nature, and even the stereotyped nature of the stories becomes clear.  Flicking through the introduction, I found page after page of solid hard information about hagiographical literature, about why it was written, when it was written, the history of printing them, and much else.  It’s almost a primer on hagiography, although at 42 pages, all too short, and one studded with up-to-date bibliography.  To read it is to feel the crying need for workers in this field.

But …. it is a book that nobody can afford to read.  I wish I had a copy.  I have a feeling that it would repay reading right through.

St Valentine – his “Passio” (BHL 8460) now online in English

St Valentine’s Day is February 14.  But who was St Valentine?  Well, he was bishop of Terni, or Interamna.  His (fictional) “Life” or “Passio” is now online in English.  This has the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina (BHL) number 8460.  The work probably dates from the 6th century AD.  It’s fairly short, and it has – sadly – nothing to do with romance.  The romantic connection with St Valentine’s Day goes back no further than Chaucer.

I’ve also included the Latin text and a short introduction.  As usual, the material is placed in the public domain – use it as you like.

Here it is:

I’ve also placed the files at Archive.org here.

There is another Life of a saint Valentine on 14th Feb – a “St Valentine of Rome”, who was a priest.  He might be the same chap, actually.  The Life is not so well attested, or widely known.  I might look at translating this next.

Update (15/07/2019): Via this site I learn that an Italian translation does exist of BHL 8460: E. d’Angelo, Terni Medievale: La Città, la Chiesa, i Santi, l’Agiografia, Spoleto (2015), p.243-7.  But this I have not seen.  I have updated the files and re-uploaded them.

Still working on the translation of the “Life” of St Valentine of Terni

The two pages of the medieval Life of St Valentine have taken me rather more time to translate than I had realised.  But we’re getting there!

When I decided to make this translation, I first located the text in the Acta Sanctorum (AASS) volume for February 14.  I was preparing to transcribe this, but I was then was directed to an online transcribed version.

I split the text into sentences, sometimes phrases, and interleaved it with the output from Google Translate for those same phrases.  Google Translate is not that good for Latin, but it often picks up when the text is that of scripture, and generally offers some vocabulary.  This works best for short bits of Latin, which is another reason why I proceeded as I did.

Having created this file in Word, I proceeded to work through it, translating each bit, and looking up words in QuickLatin or other tools.

On getting to the end of the first pass – a few knotty bits aside – I had intended to revise.  But in fact I then obtained a copy of the modern critical text by D’Angelo.  I could hardly ignore this, so I scanned this to create an electronic version.  Then I coloured it red, and interleaved it into my working document, placing D’Angelo first, the AASS next, and my draft translation after that.  This gave me something like this:

It was, inevitably, tedious to go through the whole thing comparing three lines at each point.  But I have just reached the end of this.

My principle, naturally, was to use the modern text wherever possible.  I found, in fact, very few differences, and almost none that made any significant difference to the meaning.  A couple of examples appear above, but these were rare.  This validated D’Angelo’s remark that the AASS text was basically sound.

I did modify D’Angelo in a couple of ways.

Firstly he used strange medieval spellings, like “nichil” for “nihil” and “michi” for “mihi”.  He admits that the spelling of the author’s copy is not recoverable, so I could see no reason to preserve the corruptions of the copyists.  His policy led him, in fact, to give the name “Ephebus” in two different spellings, which is simply confusing.  These features would merely be a barrier to any seeking to read the Latin.  I normalised the text, therefore.

Secondly he followed the modern practice of replacing “v” with “u”.  This fad came in during the early 20th century, and was justified on the grounds that no such letter ever existed in lower case Latin.  But this is the same issue.  Roman books were written in capitals, without word division or punctuation.  There were no lower case letters.  There is no obvious reason to reproduce this today.  We do not reproduce the incompetent spellings and renderings of the age of Shakespear or even Jane Austen in our modern editions, because to do so is to interpose a barrier between the text and the reader.  The old approach is of interest to specialist scholars, but to nobody else.  My purpose is always to encourage the general reader to look at the text.  Such a reader has no interest in the oddities that we have discussed.  So once again I restored a more normal spelling.

The process of reading through the whole translation again was useful in improving it.  It was burdensome to do, but it did produce real improvements.  We have to allow for the fact that translators get tired, and make mistakes; and a second pass will pick these up.

The translation document at the moment is as shown above.  The next stage is to produce a proper word document, and read through it all again, looking for bugs.  We’re not too far away, I feel.

Manuscripts and text of the Vita S. Valentini: a review of the article by Edoardo D’Angelo

I’ve started to look at the photocopies that I obtained three days ago of articles in the Bassetti volume of papers about St Valentine.[1]  Naturally my first interest is the paper by Edoardo D’Angelo, “La Passio sancti Valentini martyris (BHL 8460-8460b): Un ‘martirio occulto’ d’età postcostantiniana?” (p.179-222), as it contains a discussion of the manuscripts and a new critical edition.

The first thing that struck me about the paper was its position.  If I were doing a volume of papers centred around a single literary text, and one of those papers was a critical edition of the text, then I would most certainly place it at the front.  I would also insist on a translation.  Doing so would be the natural way to begin such a volume and present it to the public.  Instead it is the seventh paper in the volume, and relatively one of the shortest.

The paper starts with a list of manuscripts containing the work, which is really very useful considering the small space in which it has to appear.  There are 118 manuscripts in all, and two of a slightly modified  version of the text identified as BHL 8460b.  Seven of these date from before 1000 AD, two before 900; and a further thirty-seven from before 1200.  These are all given.[2]  The remainder sadly are not; but of course there is no space.

The origins of each manuscript are not given, but we learn that nearly all of these are Italian, and all of the early ones.  D’Angelo infers from this that the text has an Italian origin.  It is always risky to argue from survivals, but it is not improbable in any way that the Life of St Valentine of Terni should originate close by, in Lazio.  The other content of the manuscripts likewise relates to Umbrian saints.

The 37 manuscripts include a manuscript from South Africa, from the “Grey collection”.  I don’t think that I have ever before seen reference to a medieval manuscript held in South Africa.  I would hope that the remaining South Africans are photographing the manuscripts as fast as they can before the barbarian rulers of that unhappy land destroy them.

The wide diffusion of the text and the Carolingian date of some of the copies tends to suggest an early date.  The quotation of two sentences verbatim by Bede in his Martyrology (CPL 2032) in the early 8th century provides a terminus antequam.  The text is most likely therefore of the 6-7th century.

The standard reference edition of the text is still that of the Bollandists in the Acta Sanctorum (AASS), under February 14.  This was printed in 1658, yet D’Angelo tells us that “Tale edizione seicentesca, fondata su una base decente di codici, ha retto tutto sommato all’urto del tempo e dell’avanzamento della ricerca.” (“This seventeenth century edition, founded on a decent base of manuscripts, has all in all survived the impact of time and the progress of research”), which is fair comment.  The AASS introduction states that it was based on five mss plus the Mombritius edition; but the footnotes to the text come from three manuscripts; “S. Maxim.”, “Regium.” and “Gladbas.”, six breviaries, and two printed editions, the Mombritius and Surius.  D’Angelo has clearly not had the chance to pursue this very far, but suggests that the “Regium” must be one of the 8 mss in the Royal Library in Brussels – reasonable, considering that the Bollandists were working in that area – and the “Gladbas” is probably ms. 72 in the library of the Bollandists, previously from the monastery of St Vitus Martyr in Gladbach.

The editor has produced his new edition based on the earliest manuscripts, plus a handful from the next 37, which he believes to be from the same geographical area.  This is reasonable up to a point; but what we do not see is proper stemmatics.  We all know that late manuscripts can contain truth which is not found in surviving earlier manuscripts.  There is also the problem that this is not a literary text, but a hagiographical one, where the copyist may feel free to alter the text.  The article is not nearly long enough to explore these questions properly, and so the new edition is not really as critical as it could be.  All the same it involves various small changes to the text printed by the Bollandists.

One decision made by the editor seems to me to be absolutely mistaken.  He has not normalised the spelling: we have “michi” rather than “mihi”, for instance.  The logic here seems to be faulty: we are told that the mss vary wildly, that we have no idea what spelling the author might have used (although I do not see why we care), and so he has compromised between the spellings of the manuscripts, in order to avoid “alle pericolosissime tentazioni di classicizzazione forzata” (the most perilous temptations of forced classicization”).  But we do not do this in our literary editions.  The variable spelling of Shakespeare, or even Jane Austen, are not respected in modern editions.  Spelling was not standardised in the past.  This was an evil, not a good, and it was a barrier to communication.  The editor should have used the standard spellings, and noted anything he felt was significant in the apparatus.

Short though the paper is, the author has also been obliged to discuss whether the content of the Life of St Valentine is in some way historical.  The attempt is made to show that it might be.

We learn that many people suppose the events in the story to belong to the reign of Claudius II Gothicus (268-270), because that is the setting for the martyrdom of Valentine the Roman in the Passio Maris et Martha, which may or may not be the same saint as our St Valentine of Terni.  The logic of this is poor: there may be two separate St Valentines, or they may be the same one.

The Prefect of the City of Rome in the Life is given as “furius Placidus”, “the furious Placidus”.  The Bollandists treated this as a joke by the author, but D’A. identifies him as a certain absurdly named Marcus Mecius Memmius Furius Baburius Cecilianus Placidus, praetorian prefect from 342-4 and prefect of the city from 346-7.  Other not very distinctive names are adduced to suggest that the story should be set in the same period.  None of this seems much more than speculation.  Nothing compels us to believe that these are anything but coincidences.

  1. [1]M. Bassetti &c, San Valentino e il suo culto tra medioevo ed età contemporanea. Uno status quaestionis, Terni, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-8879885713.
  2. [2]The numeral for the shelfmark for the early MS in the Arch.Cap.S.Pietro has been omitted; unfortunate considering that there are 470 such mss.

From my diary

Today I had to drive for three hours each way for a job “interview” of around twenty minutes.  I already had a job offer, but I thought it wise to have a face-to-face meeting, and it proved very wise indeed.  The job looks like a stress-fest.  Not for me.

But I redeemed the travel time somewhat.  The road passed close by Cambridge University Library, so I stopped off on the way.  The volume that I wanted was waiting, for I had ordered it last night using the internet.  This was the Bassetti volume, San Valentino e il culto, on St Valentine of Terni, to which I referred in this post.  My intention was to photocopy the key articles within it, which I did, and then went on my way.

The most important article was Edoardo D’Angelo, “La passio sancti Valentini martyris…”, which contains a critical text of the Life of St Valentine that I have been translating, together with a list of manuscripts and an attempt at a stemma.  I have extracted the Latin text  of the Life, this evening, using my trusty Finereader 14.  It will be most interesting to see how and where it diverges from the text as given in the Acta Sanctorum, which I have been translating.  I’ve not seen any obvious changes so far.

One deviation is regrettable.  D’Angelo has decided to number the individual sentences of the Life, which is fine. But he also decided to ignore the section/chapter numbers from the Acta Sanctorum.  This is not fine.  It means that anyone with his text before them cannot locate material mentioned in any prior scholarship; they will have to find the Acta Sanctorum text.  Likewise any subsequent scholarship using his edition and numbering system will force the reader to obtain access to an obscure Italian volume of collected papers, held in relatively few research libraries.

D’Angelo is not the only editor to commit this sin. A little while ago I found that Zacharopoulos, a modern Greek editor of Theophanes of Nicaea (see here), did exactly the same.  This was even more of a problem because the Sotiropoulos editio princeps is almost completely inaccessible without an international flight.

Every new edition should always indicate the divisions or page numbers of the very first edition, the editio princeps.  It’s only considerate towards those who will use your work.

For Valentine, I might see if I can rectify this problem myself somehow, by giving a concordance or something on this blog.

    *    *    *    *

It’s slightly odd to think that I have made brief raids up to Cambridge like this for more than twenty years now.  It means that I have witnessed a lot of change there.

In fact every time I visit Cambridge University Library something is different.  It is not always better.  For instance some strange person has moved the photocopiers out of a dedicated room and scattered them around the building.  Staff are becoming used to bewildered visitors hunting for a machine.

Likewise I am not an alumnus of Cambridge.  It is merely the nearest research library that I can use.  Because of this, I have to pay a fee to use the library, and outsiders like myself are second-class readers in many little ways.

This time the change was about photocopying.  In reception I asked to put some money on my library card in order to pay for photocopies at the machine.  To my surprise they deducted some odd amount, on the pretext of the VAT tax.  A notice in the photocopier room in the West Room informed me that university members got their photocopies ex-VAT.

I confess that I wasn’t aware that national taxes on the supply of goods and services do not apply if you are a member of certain universities.  This sounds unlikely, in fact.  I suspect that the taxman will take a dim view of this approach, once he becomes aware.  But of course he shall not learn it from me.

The other thing that made me smile was that they made me fill out a paper form, in order to add money to my card.  I suppose we must expect pettifoggery from library staff.  The more conscientious they are, the better for the books, but the worse for low-status readers like myself.

I confess that, in my exasperation at all this tomfoolery, I expressed myself less politely than I might have done.  Luckily there was no harm done this time.  But it is always a mistake, as well as uncharitable.

I shall see what Bassetti’s volume looks like tomorrow!

From my diary

Yesterday and today I’ve been working on a translation of the “Saint’s Life” of St Valentine of Terni / Interamna.  I started this a few months ago, and then got diverted.  It’s only ten chapters in the Acta Sanctorum, two sides of a page.  It is mildly incredible that nobody has translated this.

Anyway this evening I got to the end of chapter ten.  So the first pass all the way through is complete.  However I think that a few scattered sentences were left uncertain last time, so I need to produce a draft for these too.

After that, I shall have to read through it, and revise it.  I also need to read the prefatory material, and take a look at modern material, in order to write a short introduction.  This will probably happen next week, so the Life will go online when that happens.   I have engagements Monday-Wednesday so probably this will be at the end of the week; but who knows?

I never did gain access to Bassetti’s volume on St Valentine.  I think that, for 80 dollars, I can live without it.

An email late last night invited me to investigate the background to the text printed in Migne as Athanasius’ Exposition on the Psalms.  The “work” is actually a collection of catena extracts, assembled by the Maurist fathers in the 18th century.  They went through the 11th century catena of Nicetas of Heraclea, and copied each extract that Nicetas ascribed to Athanasius – a risky proceeding.  If I had nothing else to do then I might look into it, but of course I do.

My time at home is probably coming to an end.  I started applying for contracts a couple of weeks ago, and I now have an interview with an old client, plus four other irons in the fire.  I would expect to start work in July.  I suspect that it will be good for me to get back to work, surrounded by busy people with things to do.  But I expect that it will be quite a shock to the system, after almost five months at home.   It does mean that I need to get my projects to a suitable point to stop.

From my diary

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.  Inevitably I found myself wondering what kind of ancient or medieval literary material there was about St Valentine.

I found very little.   What little there was to be found by a Google search suggested that it was all derived at many removes from the old Catholic Encyclopedia.  The article in this is vague too.

So off I went to the Acta Sanctorum.  Feb. 14, the feast day, is in February volume 2.  There wasn’t a lot, and this is one of the oldest volumes, from 1658.

I’ve been working on a Latin Life of St George lately, so I am very much “in the zone” to work on another Latin life.  So I thought that perhaps I would OCR the Latin text, and maybe look at translating it.

Abbyy Finereader 14 is an excellent piece of software.  It supports the Latin language properly, which makes it very useful.  Indeed I remember yearning for such a thing in days gone by.

I didn’t think that a 1658 edition, complete with long-s, would OCR that well.  So I looked for the Paris reprint of the 1850’s.  This I found without difficulty, as they are all in Archive.org; but the quality is not good.  Not even Finereader could make much of those grainy faint pages.

My next step was to find some more copies of the book.  As I indicated in my last post, I faintly remembered a Google spreadsheet full of links to PDFs of the Acta Sanctorum.  A kind correspondent found it, and it is here.  But … the links were all to the original edition.

So I’ve spent this morning trying to locate a better scan of one of the Paris reprint volumes.  Eventually I succeeded, in Google Books, in finding it here, in the 1864 reprint.  This, I was delighted to find, OCRs quite well.  The page layout is hardly designed for OCR, but if you manually move the text boxes around, the results are really quite decent.

Time for lunch now.  I think that I need to go out and buy the materials that I intend to cook, actually!  But I shall continue correcting the OCR after that.

Once I have a Latin text, I shall post it.  I shall then look at translating at least some of it.

I’ve yet to see any studies of the St Valentine literature, which is odd.  It must exist; if not in English, then in German or French or certainly Italian.  My search terms clearly are not good.  But I can try out some searches over lunch!

UPDATE:  Over a lunch a kind correspondent emailed me a link to an obscure German site where they have apparently uploaded the transcribed text of the whole Acta Sanctorum.  The German site itself is poorly designed, but I am assured that buried within is the entire text.  If so, of course, then there is no point in my doing it.  Once I’ve worked out how to use the site, I’ll write a post on it.