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.

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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; 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.