A plea for prioritisation of translation of foreign literatures

The world is wide and the languages within it, living and dead, are numerous beyond counting.  None of us can know enough to read more than a fraction of what has been written.  But if the texts are not in English, then few of us will ever read any of them.

The first step in understanding any culture is to read the primary sources.  In particular, we must read the histories written by themselves, and any catalogues of their own literature.  From there any study can broaden out.  But these are the pathways into the land.  Without them, any explorer finds himself in a pathless jungle.  This means that, for most of us, these texts must be translated into English, our own language.

This is not a profound observation.  I would hope that it is pretty obvious.  Yet whenever I come to look at some new language group or culture, even one studied widely, I find that this basic principle is neglected.

When I came to look at Arabic Christian studies, I learned that there were five major historical texts; Agapius, Eutychius, al-Makin, Bar Hebraeus, and one other.  I quickly found that not one of them existed in English.  Translations did exist of the first two, into other western languages.  It has been left to me, an amateur with no Arabic sitting in a bedroom, to prepare an Engish version of these.  The third item, al-Makin, has not even been printed.  Yet there are quite a few scholars of Arabic Christian literature.  They do a  valuable job.  Yet … what the heck is going on here?  Why has the edition and translation of these texts not been prioritised?

Yet Arabic Christian literature is a small subject.  Much may be excused to scholars working in a severely underfunded subject.

But what on earth can excuse the failure to translate the historical literature of China?  This evening I find that the Hou Hanshou, the “Book of the Later Han”, does not exist in English other than in short excerpts.  I have not conducted any serious biblographical search, but it looks to me as if it doesn’t exist in French or German either.

Why does it not exist in translation?  Our universities swarm with scholars of Chinese.  There are a billion chinese out there, a very large percentage of whom can speak at least some English.  Western nations, laughably, even give the Chinese regime cash under one pretext or another.  Western megabusinesses draw heavily upon the manpower and factories of China.  It can hardly be argued that the problem is one of resources!

Some of this may be due to scholarly malfeasance.  I can think of one scholar whose career has involved writing books about patristic works for which no modern-language translation exists, without ever creating one. It is perhaps good to be the expert on a book that nobody has read.  I doubt that this man is alone.

Some of this is certainly due to academic culture.  To create a translation is to open yourself to the sneers of your peers.  To be identified as a “translator” is to degrade oneself, to be seen as someone incapable of “serious research”.  The funding model in some nations indeed actively discourages those who create the tools by which scholarship can be done.  It is not that long since that a bright young scholar created the first ever handbook on the ancient scholia, only to be punished by losing her post and being forced to emigrate to England.  Yet her work was of infinite value.

I have no influence over how the world is run.  But if you read these words, and you do, please do what you can.  We need complete translations of all the key texts in major language groups.  Without them we are all in the dark.


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.


Bits and bobs

Here’s some stuff that’s wandered into my in-tray.

Google is becoming a useful tool for biblical quotations.  While checking some of these by googling, I found myself looking at archive.org at several volumes of the critical text of the Vetus Latina.  A search on Vetus Latina brings up quite a number here.  I hope that Archive have checked the copyright tho.

How people find the energy to scan books I do not know.  I’m sitting here with a volume of St Augustine, and having to pause for breaks.  I know that I did a lot of this ten or twenty years ago.  How on earth did I do it?

It’s been a while since I get out my Plustek Opticbook 3600, and I couldn’t remember if it worked with Windows 10 or not.  At first try it didn’t work.  Looking at the manufacturer site did not look good either.  But there was a Windows 8 driver, which I installed.  Still nothing.  Anyway I rechecked the cables and… um, the cable was half-unplugged at the scanner.  When pushed in firmly then it all worked.  I’m using it with Finereader 12 at the moment.

Next up is a photograph of one of the lost streets of Rome, the Via Bonella, from 1907.

The now-lost Via Bonella, with the so-called Pantani Arch. Photo taken in 1907.

I plucked from here this modern image:

The columns are those of the forum of Nerva, to the left of the temple of Mars Ultor.  The modern street behind the arch, running left-right, is the Via Tor di Conti.  The orange building behind the arch is today the Forum Hotel, complete with a rooftop restaurant at which I had a terrible dining experience on my only visit to the building.

I do quite a bit of translating, so I was interested to come across an article, Translating for a Digital Archive.  This shows how the professionals do it, rather than people like me, alone in a room with a pile of dictionaries.  The project is to put British Library Arabic manuscripts online, and make the titles etc searchable in either Arabic or English.

As part of the BL’s [British Library] translation team, I work to produce and edit the Arabic language content for the QDL [Qatar Digital Library]. While the collection items themselves are displayed solely in their original language, all of the portal’s supporting and descriptive content is translated, as are the expert articles, meaning that the catalogue can be searched and used just as easily in Arabic as in English.

Our Toolbox: Translation management software

Like many large-scale translation projects, ours involves multiple translators, and several rounds of proofing and quality checks to ensure accuracy and consistency. To manage this, we use a piece of software called memoQ that includes two essential tools: a translation memory (TM) and a term base (TB). The TM functions as a bilingual database of previously translated segments of text; it works by storing pairs of original source-language content alongside its approved translation. When a new text is imported, memoQ breaks it into smaller segments on the basis of punctuation and line breaks, and automatically conducts a search for exact and partial matches. These are then presented to the translator for approval and/or review.

While a human expert still has the final say on whether to accept any suggestion from the TM, frequently only a minor edit is needed to make the old translation suitable for the new context. This serves the double purpose of saving time and maintaining consistency across the catalogue as a whole. Translation memories tend to prove their worth the larger they are and the more repetition there is in the content. Having grown over the years since the start of the project, our TM now routinely recognises a third of content in a new file, and often much more.

While the TM grows organically over time by compiling and storing translation segments, the term base is maintained manually. It works as a glossary for key terms, allowing us to suggest preferred equivalents for individual words or phrases, and/or to blacklist translations that should be avoided. As the TB is visible to all parties at all stages of translation and proofing, it helps to ensure the consistency of these terms in Arabic.

Authorities: making the most of memoQ

The TB has proved especially useful when it comes to translating authority files. An authority record serves to identify and describe a person, corporate body, family, place name, or subject term that is featured in a catalogue description. Each term is authorised and unique. As every record and every expert article on the QDL is linked to at least one authority file, they form an index through which users can search for all the content related to a specific term.

Read the whole thing.  I was unable to find an author’s name on it, curiously.

This idea of “Translation Memory Tools” sounded interesting to me.  I quickly found that several seem to be proprietary and expensive.  I did come across OmegaT, which is not, here.  But I suspect that none of my projects are large enough for me to use it.

Another interest of mine is hagiography, about which I know very little.  So I was interested to come across a seminar description (Seminar VII: Hagiography) at Lancaster University, with bibliography, and the following interesting introduction:

Hagiography, the historical genre which is the subject of this week’s seminar, comprises narratives concerned with the saints and their achievements, especially the miracles which God has performed through them and on their behalf. Six basic types of hagiographical ‘story’ or ‘scenario’ may be distinguished:

  • first, the vita, the story of the achievements that a saint performed in his or her lifetime;
  • second, the passio, similar to the former, but about a martyr who has died a violent death for the faith or for some other God-arranged reason;
  • third, the inventio or revelatio, the story of how a new saint or more often a saint’s bodily remains were discovered;
  • fourth, the translatio, the story of how a saint’s relics were brought to a church or moved to a new shrine;
  • fifth, the visio, the story of how a saint appeared to someone in a vision;
  • and sixth, the miraculum, the story of how a miracle was performed on the saint’s behalf by God.

Miracula are typically concerned with the wonders that were performed after the saint has died and become a resident of the heavenly kingdom. A hagiographical text might well combine many of these stories or ‘scenarios’. Many vitae continue on, for example, well-beyond the scene of the saint’s death to describe how his or her corpse was lost, re-discovered and then brought and enshrined in the church where it now rests. In these texts the true climax comprises the saint’s translatio and enshrinement. Miracula, furthermore, were often combined to form libri miraculorum, ‘books of miracles’, which sometimes (but not usually) extended beyond the usual few dozen items to encompass hundreds of episodes.

In its various manifestations hagiography was the mode of historical discourse most frequently deployed in the Middle Ages, generating many thousands of vitae and miracula and contributing substantial passages to many chronicles and rhetorical histories. The similarities (and sometimes, the lengthy verbal affinities) between these narratives naturally lead to the suspicion that most, if not all, instances contain much that has been borrowed from earlier examples or which has been re-fashioned so as to resemble the scenes found in key archetypes—such as the late fourth-century Life of St Martin of Tours by Sulpicius Severus—which exerted great influence over the development of the genre. This conclusion seems inescapable; but the process might sometimes involve an oral phase, prior to the writing up of the legend, in which the hero’s story assimilated many standard elements or was gradually re-fashioned with each act of re-telling, bringing it ever closer to the recognised archetypes. The few texts which admit importing episodes from the lives of other saints invariably claim that the story was true of some saint if not of the saint with whom the text is chiefly concerned or that there is so little doubt about the subject’s sanctity that the mis-attribution of a few stories will scarcely make any difference to his or her cult. As such admissions show, hagiography’s claim to authority rested, as in the case of ecclesiastical history, on its claim to record actual events—actual moments of divine intervention in the world.

I’d like to know which texts include those admissions of borrowing material.  I wonder how one could find out.

That’s enough for now.  I find that I have 197 items in my backlog folder, so perhaps I should have a push on getting them out!


Paying more for translations

Over the last few years I have commissioned various kind people to make translations for us of ancient texts.  But in that time prices have not remained static; yet I have tended to offer the same money.  I only realised this last night.

Inflation is a curse, because it creeps up on you.  “Quantitative easing” is the current weasel-phrase for printing money, which makes every coin in circulation suddenly worth less.  The official inflation statistics continue to give ridiculously low figures, which tells me only that they are being fixed.

What is the real rate of inflation?  It’s much higher.  In the last few years prices have increased quite a bit.  But it’s hard to know how much, other than by feel.  This is why the dishonest inflation rates are such a curse.

But I do know that petrol in 2007 was 87p a litre in the UK on average; in 2012 it is now 134p a litre, an increase of 65%!   That feels much more like the real change in prices in my weekly grocery bill.  In the UK, admittedly, the government taxes this essential heavily; but an overall increase of 50% seems reasonable.  I only wish my income had increased by a similar amount!

I think, therefore, that I will apply a 50% increase to the money that I pay for translation.  That’s only fair to the translators.


Translations from Greek into Georgian

1. Introduction.[1]
2. The translations from Greek.
3. Conclusion.
4. Bibliography.

1. Introduction

1.1 Georgia and the Georgian language.

Georgia is located at the southern foot of the Caucasus and represents the country which the Greeks called Colchis in the west and Iberia in the east. The Georgian language belongs to a group of southern Caucasian languages which are not Indo-European, nor Semitic, nor Uralo-Altaic.

1.2 Alphabet and litterature.

The Georgian language is the only one in its group to have a literature which has been written for fifteen centuries. The Georgian alphabet, which must have been created to facilitate the transmission of the Christian faith, consists of thirty-eight characters. In the absence of a Georgian historiographical tradition concerning the creation of the alphabet, we are reduced to an internal and comparative analysis: the latest study is that of Gamkrelidze (1989). This alphabet has been unsuited for other languages before the modern era. It has permitted the transmission of a rich literature, both original works and translations. The oral translation had already a very long history, since Strabo (1975, 54) seems to imply interpreters for seventy or even three hundred languages at Dioscurias, the terminus port for the Greek merchants. Furthermore, the southern and Indo-European Caucasus had important contacts, as has been shown by T. Gamkrelidze and V. V. Ivanov. In early Georgian, the majority of literary works were translations, and the majority of the translations were translations from Greek. On the language and literature, one may consult Deeters (1963, 1-79, 129-137).

2. Translations from Greek.

2.1 Direct or indirect translations.

It seems that the first translations of biblical books into Georgian were carried out using an Armenian model, which itself was derived from Syriac, a translation from the Greek; another hypothesis is that it was a translation from the Greek with recourse to the Armenian in difficult passages. Briefly a revision against Greek models was carried out, the first step in a long process of revision which was completed definitively at Athos in the 11th century, resulting in a “vulgate” version of the Bible. A series of problems remain to be studied, as was signalled by J. N. Birdsall (1983, 317). From the 5th to the 8th century, regular work permitted Georgians to enrich their own literature with the treasures of the religious literature in the Greek language, whose immediate models were either Greek or else Armenian translations of Greek texts. It seems to be accepted that very few texts passed directly from Syriac into Georgian. From the 8-9th centuries, the Georgian monks of Palestine also translated from Arabic. This permits us knowledge of Greek texts today lost, or to improve the editions of known texts (Van Esbroeck 1975, 240-285).

2.1.1 Content of translations.

The texts translated covered all the requirements of the new Georgian Christianity: the bible, biblical commentaries, liturgical texts, hagiographical texts (Kekelidze 1957, 115-211), poetry, canonical texts, apocrypha, patristic texts (Kekelidze 1957, 3-114). It does not seem that in the early period there was a particular interest in the great historical syntheses; texts considered as secular do not appear in the written literature until the 12th century. For the Christian faith an entire vocabulary had to be created (Chelidze, 1996, Melikišvili, 1999). This was accomplished in two ways; direct borrowings: ek’lesia from ekklh/sia, “church”; and calques: xucesi = presbuteroj, “elder”, semantically extended to mean “priest”. We should note that the new Christian literature contributed to making of the second rank the rich pre-Christian traditions, which persisted essentially in the mountainous regions far rom the centre (the myth of Prometheus: Charachidze 1986, 322-342). Nevertheless oddities remained, which led the Georgians to be accused of heresy by the Greeks.

2.1.2 The translators.

The lack of Georgian historical texts relating to the invention of the Georgian alphabet is also a feature of the whole early period of translations from Greek; all that remains to us, from this period, is a few names of translators: Set, who worked at Jerusalem; but the text which he translated — of which only two lines remain — is no longer identifiable. We know only that it was of a hagiographical nature (Garitte 1956, 38-39, 45); Datchi, who translated from Armenian — no doubt in Tao-Klardjeti — around the 9th century a part of the Commentary on the Psalms by Theodoret (under the name of Epiphanius); in Tao again Gregor of Ochki translated from Greek one (or maybe two) treatises of Gregory Nazianzen; in the 10th century Stepane of Tjqondid translated some hagiographical texts, as did Chavcheti, and David of Tbeti, who also translated some discourses of Gregory Nazianzen.

2.1.3 Places of translation.

From the 5th century, some translations from Greek were made at Jerusalem, among them that of the Lectionary, a monument which has vanished in the Greek language. Later, at Mar Saba, translations were made from Arabic into Georgian, one part of the Arabic texts being themselves translations from Greek, for example some very rare texts like the Shepherd of Hermas (Outtier 1990-1991, 211-215). Mount Olympus in Bithynia, Mount Sinai, the Black Mountain, Constantinople and into what is now Bulgaria (Petrisoni / Bačkovo) as well as Georgia proper were all centres of the activity of translation.

2.1.4 Techniques of translation.

Starting from the 10th century, the situation changed. Euthymius the Athonite (955?-1028) was the first of a glorious phalanx of monks who were translators from Greek. But we can also credit him with the translation into Greek of the edifying novel Barlaam and Josaphat (the Georgian text being a translation from Arabic),. We obtain a good appreciation of Euthymius’ technique of translation from van Esbroek (1988, 73-107). George the Athonite begins the reflections on the techniques of translation. “The Life of George” suggests that the retranslations of Greek texts already translated from an Armenian version was for theological reasons (1967, 123), Another copyshop, the Black Mountain near Antioch, shows us that the Georgian translators did not hesitate to use multiple different Greek manuscripts in order to establish a base text of the best possible quality (Outtier 1974, 119). It is also in the circle of Ephrem Mcire (11th c.) that the attempt is made to model Georgian on Greek, to the point of introducing a grammatical feminine, an attempt which was unfruitful. The remains of the translations of Ephrem make known to us his principles in the matter of translation. The glosses have to be placed in the margin, without ever being recopied into the text itself; the punctuation also has to be carefully respected (van Esbroeck 1988, 83-95). But there has come down to us a treatise on the Greek article, which has no exact equivalent in Georgian, and so could cause confusion in the translation: Shanidze (1990). Ioane Petritsi (11-12th c.), disciple of John Italos, represented the most extreme of this hellenophilia in his translations of the philosophers in particular. Another remarkable aspect is the translation of hymn collection texts, respecting the number of syllables in the lines, in order to preserve the melody of the original text; a system of neumatic notation accompanies the translations. This stimulated the creation of original Georgian compositions, in particular of hymns, but also of hagiography and sermons. The decypherment of the neumatic notation remains to be done.

2.1.5 Limitations of the translations.

We have already seen (2.1.4) that the tendency towards a more and more literal technique did not cease to gain ground until the 12th century. In fact the genius of the Georgian language possessed a number of its own twists and turns, on the one hand. On the other hand it is impossible to be too literal without becoming artificial, for example the Greek participle in apposition to a verb in the personal mode (on these questions see Brière 1977, 199-214).

2.1.6 Georgian translations of texts now lost in Greek.

The phenomenon of the impregnation of a culture by Greek culture is of great significance. In the case of Georgian literature it is redoubled by another interest. In Georgian some texts come down to us where the Greek original has disappeared. Great attention must also be paid to the existence of Georgian translations of Greek texts of which we no longer have any except much later recensions; the Georgian allows us to approach the original Greek much more nearly. But there is still much to do to catalogue all these texts, to publish them — it is also necessary to have corresponding critical editions of the Greek, which is rarely the case — to study the method of translation and finally, to give a translation into a western language. The researcher who does not know Georgian must generally make do with the adaptation of Kekelidze (1923-1924) by Karst (1934) or Kekelidze (1941) by Tarchnišvili / Aßfalg (1955). Here are some indications of texts lost in Greek, but preserved in a Georgian version: Barsabas of Jerusalem, “On Christ and the Churches”; according to the editor (Van Esbroeck, 1982, 203), this text may go back to the 2nd century; Hippolytus, “On the blessings of Isaac, of Jacob and Moses”, “On David and Goliath”, “On the Song of Songs” (Garitte 1965; Briere 1954); Letters of St. Anthony (Garitte 1955); two letters of Macarius (Ninua 1982, 109-156); two early forms of the “Transitus Mariae” (Van Esbroeck 1973 and 1974); nine homilies of Meletius of Antioch; two texts of John Damascene, as a first selection. The list could be greatly enlarged (Outtier 1993, 276-285).

3.1 Conclusion

Georgian literature welcomed the best of Greek Christian literature. From the 11th century, the effort of translation was constant and very organised. Often the Georgians have preserved for us texts today lost in Greek, in particular the Greek literature composed in Palestine. It gives to us one part of the treasures with which it enriched itself, along with its own treasures and those which it borrowed from others in the neighbouring oriental worlds: Persia, and the Armenian, Syriac and Arabic worlds. There remains much to do to publish the texts — and their models — and to bring into the light the evolution of the processes of translation, the schools, the contending influences of monastic milieus and princely courts.

4. Bibliography

Birdsall, J. Neville(1983). “Georgian studies and the New Testament.” New Testament Studies 29: 306-320.

Brière. M. (1954). Hippolyte de Rome. Sur les bénédictions d’Isaac, de Jacob et de Moïse. Eds. Brière Maurice. Maries Louis.. Mercier Basile-Charles. Paris.

Brière, M. (1977). “Limitations of Georgian representing Greek.” The early versions of the New Testament. Bruce M. Metzger. Oxford. 199-214.

Charachidzé, G. (1986). Prométhée ou le Caucase. aris.

Chelidze, E. (1996). Ancient Georgian Theological Terminology. (in Georgian). Tbilisi.

Deeters, G. (1963). Armenische und kaukasische Sprachen. Leiden/Köln.

Gamkrelidze. T. (1989). Alphabetical writing and the old georgian script, (in Georgian, with an abstract in Russian). Tbilisi.

Gamkrelidze, T./Ivanov. V.V. (1984). Indoevropejskij jazyk i indoevropejcy. Tbilisi; English transl.: Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans. Berlin. New York, 1995.

Garitte. G. (1955). Lettres de saint Antoine. Louvain.

Garitte, G. (1956). Catalogue des manuscrits géorgiens littéraires du Mont Sinai. Louvain.

Garitte. G. (1965). Traités d’Hippolyte sur David et Goliath, sur le Cantique des Cantiques et sur l’Anté-christ. Louvain.

Karst. J. (1934). Littérature géorgienne chrétienne. Paris.

Kekelidze. K. ( 1923-1924). Histoire de la littérature géorgienne. I-II. Tbilisi. (in Georgian).

Kekelidze, K. (1941 ). Histoire de la littérature géorgienne. I-II. Tbilisi. (in Georgian).

Kekelidze, K. (1957). Études d’histoire de la littérature géorgienne ancienne (in Georgian). Tbilisi.

Melikisvil, D. ( 1999). De l’histoire de la terminologie philosophico théologique en géorgien ancien, (in Georgian). Tbilisi.

Ninua. G. (1982). La version géorgienne des œuvres du Pseudo-Macaire (in Georgian). Tbilisi.

Outtier. B. (1974). «Les recueils géorgiens d’œuvres attribuées à S. Ephrem le Syrien.» Bedi Kartlisa XXXII: 118-125.

Outtier. B. (1990-1991). «La version géorgienne du Pasteur d’Hermas.» Revue des études géorgiennes et caucasiennes 6 -7: 211-216.

Outtier. B. (1993). «Langue et littérature géorgiennes.» Christianism orientaux. Introduction à l’étude des langues et des littératures. M. Albert et al. Paris. 261-296.

Shanidze. M. (1990). Discourse on articles. An old georgian grammatical treatise. (in Georgian). Tbilisi.

Strabon (1975). Géographie. t.VIII. éd. François Lasserre. Paris.

Tarchnišvili. M. /Aßfalg. J. (1955). Geschichte der kirchlichen georgischen Literatur. Città del Vaticano.

Van Esbroeck. M. (1973). «Apocryphes géorgiens de la Dormition.» Analecta Bollandiana 91: 55-75.

Van Esbroeck, M. (1974). «L’Assomption de la Vierge dans un Transitus pseudo-basilien.» Analecta Bollandiana 92: 125-163.

Van Esbroeck, M. (1975). Les plus anciens homéliaires géorgiens. Etude descriptive et historique. Louvain-la-neuve.

Van Esbroeck, M. (1982). Barsabée de Jérusalem. Sur le Christ et les Eglises. Patrologia orientalis XLI : [1]—[112]. Turnhout.

Van Esbroeck, M. (1988). «Euthyme l’Hagiorite: le traducteur et ses traductions.» Revue des études géorgiennes et caucasienne 4: 73-197.

Vie de Georges, Abuladze et al. (1967). Monuments de la littérature géorgienne ancienne, II (in Georgian). Tbilisi; traduction latine: Peeters, P. (1917-1919). «Histoires monastiques géorgiennes.» Analecta Bollandiana XXXVI-XXXVII. 74-159.

Bernard Outtier, Lavau (France)

  1. [1]The following article by Bernard Outtier I found online here, quite by accident, and I have ventured to translate it into English since none of us can possibly afford the price of the book.  Few of us, I imagine, know any of what the article tells us.  I had never heard of Bernard Outtier, but the bibliography makes plain that he is doing excellent work.  The reference is: Bernard Outtier, Traductions du Grec en Georgien,  in: Kittel, Harald; Frank, Armin Paul; Greiner, Norbert; Hermans, Theo; Koller, Werner; Lambert, José; Paul, Fritz: Übersetzung – Translation – Traduction. 2. Teilband, De Gruyter 2007, p.1186-1189.

Priscilla Throop and the two translations of Isidore of Seville’s Etymologies

The Etymologies of the last writer of antiquity (in the west), the 7th century Isidore of Seville, seem really rather interesting.  I’ve been browsing through book 6 at Lacus Curtius, and it has brief but useful notes on all sorts of things.  So I began wondering if I could get hold of a translation.  It’s much easier to skim read for interesting stuff in English, after all!

Rather to my surprise I find not one but two translations.

First, there is Priscilla Throop’s two volume hardcover version (at Amazon, vol. 1, vol.2,  at Amazon.co.uk: vol.1vol.2), from January 2006, at $28 per volume.  It turns out that Mrs Throop self-publishes her translations through Lulu.com, and she has made quite a number of translations of medieval texts, as may be seen on Lulu.  There is an Amazon preview of the Isidore, and the opening pages all look very good and professional.

Then there is the single volume by Stephen A. Barney plus a team of translators (Amazon here, at Amazon.co.uk here), published in hardcover by Cambridge University Press for the enormous price of $205 in June 2006, and published in paperback at 20% of the hardcover price — just below the combined price of the two Throop volumes, which is rather mean of CUP —  in 2010.  It also has an Amazon preview, also looks good.  Curiously it advertises itself as the first English translation in the preface.  Did the translators not know of the Throop version?  Did CUP not know?

There is a Google Books preview of the CUP version here.   BMCR seem only to have reviewed the CUP version, here.

Naturally one feels for the underdog, the little guy up against the mighty combine and marketing machine of CUP.  But which to choose?  If one or the other had offered a download version, I might go for that.  But neither does, as far as I could tell, although possibly an electronic version of the CUP one exists through one of their university-online book access schemes.

The Non Defixi blog comments on the two here, and Way of the Fathers also has a post on it.  Sadly the CUP version is likely to be quoted by other scholars.

I suspect that the Throop version has been rather more widely purchased by real people spending their own money.  Let’s hear it for the little guy!


Translations that ought to exist

What untranslated ancient texts deserve to be translated?  Here is a list of texts that I have thought about translating, which I feel ought to exist in English.  Of course there are many others that probably deserve attention too — these are merely ones where I have given some serious thought to it.  It’s a wish-list, in a way.

The fragments of Philip of Side.*  He wrote a massive universal Chronicle which is now lost.  But there’s a miscellaneous manuscript in the Barocci collection in the Bodleian which has excerpts from various texts, including a biggish chunk of Philip.  It was published a century ago with German translation.  It includes an otherwise unknown chunk of Papias.  But surely we’d like to have this?  Not so expensive to do, either.  Maybe more chunks exist in other mss?

Gelasius of Cyzicus.  His history of the Council of Nicaea in three books has a critical edition in the Berlin GCS series, but no modern language translation.  It’s the only text on Nicaea written within a century not translated.

Cyril of Alexandria, Contra Julianum.  Massive 10 book refutation of Julian the Apostate.  Should be just as interesting as Origen, Contra Celsum.  Probably 100,000 words, or say $10,000 to get translated?

Cyril of Alexandria, De recta fide.  “You need to think like this” says Cyril, in three works of this title.  A German translation exists of the first.  They’re all crucial to understanding the Nestorian split.  Not that long, really.

Eusebius of Caesarea, De Pascha*; Commentary on Luke*.  Two short fragmentary works.  I’ll probably try and do these.

Eusebius of Caesarea, Commentary on the Psalms.  Massive text with no proper text available.  Someone should attack this.

Chrysostom, Against the Jews*.  Wendy Pradels found part of Oration 2, which had been lost.  This has been published with German translation, but never in English.  The rest has twice been translated, but offline.  We really need a good quality, non-PC version.  He also did a sermon against Jews and Pagans, which needs doing.

Chrysostom, On the Nativity*.  Two sermons, often referred to at Christmas time.  One has been translated but is only available in a PhD thesis.  The other not.  Probably wouldn’t cost too much to do.  Only a Migne text available.

Al-Makin.  Big 13th century Arabic Christian chronicle.  We urgently need the bit about Josephus from it.  The text has never been edited or translated.

Bar Hebraeus, Chronicon Ecclesiasticum.  A massive who’s who of Syriac Christianity.  Amazing that this hasn’t been done.  Probably another $10,000 job, but… I have great difficulty getting translators from Syriac.

Syriac fragments of Eusebius from the Mingana library.  I have photos of these.  Not very long; but same problem as Bar Hebraeus.

Thomas of Edessa, On the Nativity, On Easter.  The text of the first was published in a thesis with Latin translation.  I have photographs of both from the Mingana.  Probably each is around 10,000 words, or about $1,000 for a translation.  The first is interesting for a reference to 6th century sun-worship in Syria; and if we’re going to do the first, we should do the second.  But… I can’t get translations made from Syriac.

Quite a list, isn’t it?  How to proceed…!

UPDATE: 9th February 2013.  Coming back to this, I find that we have made some progress.  I have added an asterisk to items that have been done, either by myself or Maria D. (see comments).  Which is good news, actually!


Bringing projects to an end

The recession is biting, and I need to reduce my outgoings.  Luckily the Eusebius is all but done, the al-Majdalus is done, and I have a promise of the Cyril text for a week hence.  I’ve cancelled the translation of letters by Isidore, and decided not to commission a translation of the medieval biographies of Hunain ibn Ishaq.

I have enjoyed doing all these things, but I don’t have a guaranteed source of income, and so must be prudent in hard times.  At the moment I don’t know where my income will come from after March.  This is by no means unusual, but this year there may be no business in April.  It was nervous enough this time last year, when I spent three months hunting for work.    Let’s see what the new financial year brings.


Isidore of Pelusium: some newly translated letters

Here are the draft translations that I commissioned of four letters.  I don’t know whether any have been translated into English before.  Now that I have paid for them, I can share them with you!

After reading the Turner article, it is clear that the letters are numbered 1-2000 in the manuscripts, and the Migne “books” are imaginary.  So I’ve given the number in the collection as found in the mss, followed by the Migne book/letter reference. Anyone wanting to look at the Migne Greek can find it here.


If you are trying to gain the kingdom of Christ — may persistence unworn away crown this –, and the prize of immortality that God gives to those who administer it honestly, blend authority with mildness and lighten yourself of the weight of wealth by the necessary dispersion of it, for a king is not saved through ample power, nor does he escape the impiety of idolatry by keeping for himself abundant wealth.


Liking cannot see far ahead, while dislike cannot see clearly. So if you wish to remedy both of these sight problems, do not spout out such vehement statements, instead be more fair in your accusations. Even God All Knowing, before his birth, thought it best out of his love for man to come down and see the boisterousness [1] of the Sodomites, teaching us a lesson in fully inquiring. Many of the people who have come to Ephesus (are) ridiculing you for acting out of personal enmity and not for the doctrine of Jesus Christ. “Here’s this nephew of Theophilus, they say, imitating his way of thinking. Like him, he falls into a rage against the God-loving John, inspired by God, and he desires ever so much to lecture, even though there is a great difference between the people (who are) deciding.”

[1] There should be a better word for this.

1106 (3.306) TO THE BISHOP CYRIL.

Just as the emperor is subject to the laws, the law having a life of its own, so a priest is subject to the laws of the Lord, the canon being untouchable. [1]

[1] The Greek actually says the canon is “apthoggos” meaning that you can’t utter any words of protest against it.

1582 (5.268) TO THE BISHOP CYRIL.

Once the hierarchy used to correct and temper the office of emperor when it stumbled and fell, but now it has fallen beneath it, losing not its own rank, instead possessing ordained men unlike those in our ancestors’ time.[1] Previously when those crowned with a holy office lived the evangelic and apostolic life, naturally the office of emperor stood in awe of the hierarchy, but now it is the hierarchy of the office of emperor. In my opinion, the office of emperor is following its natural course, since it has not intentionally meant to assault the hierarchy, which it reveres like a god, but avenge it of the assaults on it and temper the people not conducting themselves as they should toward it.

[1] Note the euphemism for the not so perfect bishops.

Comments and corrections are welcome!


Eusebius, Agapius project news

Long term readers of this blog will know that I commissioned a translation into English of Eusebius of Caesarea’s book about differences between the gospels and their solutions (Quaestiones ad Stephanum/Marinum).

The Greek remains of this text are now almost entirely translated.  The last few fragments from catenas remain; but almost all of the mass of fragments in Migne (reprinted from Mai, which is what we are using) are done.

There is no progress on the Syriac or Coptic front, tho, which is disappointing.  I’m considering asking my Greek translator to do the other minor works of Eusebius — the epitomes of the Commentary on Luke, On Easter — while we wait.

Once the work is complete, the intention is still to publish it myself and sell copies to people to cover the translation costs; and, when that is done, to make it available online.

I think a book about problems in the gospels and how to overcome them ought to have a popular market as a paperback among Christians.  Not sure what to call the book, tho.  Maybe:

Eusebius of Caesarea
Commentary on the Gospels
A fourth century writer resolves differences between them

What do people think?

I’ve also begun to translate the first half of the world history of the 10th century Arabic Christian writer, Agapius.  This looks very likely to be of considerable interest.