Texts online

The present entry is inspired by two posts in the blog by Alin Suciu, which raise different issues in regards with the transmission of texts and manuscripts through the Internet.

The first entry was posted on October the 4th. Suciu promoted the English translation of the Wizz codex to be published by Paul Dilley. In the initial form of his post he had included a transcription of an English translation of that codex prepared by George R. Hughes, member of the Oriental Institute (OI) of the University of Chicago who had conducted the excavations at the site of Qasr el Wizz in 1965.

During our works at the OI with Artur Obluski in September 2011, in the frame of a project that sees to the publication of the archaeological record from this important site,  we had of course come across a couple of printed copies of this translation. They were all stamped with the indication “not for publication”. We discussed with our colleagues at the museum of the OI how to treat this and the decision was not to republish it in the volume on Wizz, but to simply refer to it, in respect both of the work of Hughes and of his wish that the draft of that translation remains disclosed. Naturally, Artur, who is responsible for the publication of the Wizz archive, reacted to the presence of a transcribed copy of this document and Alin kindly accepted the comments and retrieved the text.

Now, the funny part in this story is that there exist two published translations of this text, one in Hungarian and one in German, both prepared by the Hungarian scholar Peter Hubai who published the codex in the previous decade! However, the purpose of a further translation in English is understood given the much larger public that the English language is accessible to.

Moreover, there are two points worth discussing further.

First: although the text is interesting by itself and therefore it has attracted the attention of Paul Dilley – who does not only publish a translation of course, but also a most welcome commentary in combination with a translation and commentary of the Old Nubian Stavros Text – it makes in our opinion best sense when seen in the context of the entire archaeological record of the site.

Second point: the use of the Internet for promoting the disciplines that each one serves should be done with a just equidistance from related projects. It cannot be that a translation and commentary upon a single work excuses overseeing a project that prepares for publication the entire site from where this single manuscript derives. This shows simply the lack of communication between archaeology and epigraphy, Coptic and Nubian Studies etc. in an era that – also, if not especially, with the help of Internet – claims to have an interdisciplinary character. Let alone that there are online announcements of the Wizz publication project that anyone could have googled and located…

Let me give a further example: when I published the three papers of the Miscellanea Epigraphica Nubica in Collectanea Christiana Orientalia nos. 7, 8, and 9, I contacted prior to my work the persons responsible for the material that I wished to present, so as to make sure that I am not disturbing the work of some other researcher who was already preparing these small texts in the frame of a larger – or not – publication. And in all three cases the reactions were welcoming to my work.

So, although we are not certain how are defined legally the (copy)rights to Hughes’ translation, it would have been a profit for everyone if Suciu had obtained permission by the OI for publishing the transcription that he surely spent some time preparing. In any case, the interest to this work allows us to reconsider including a copy of Hughes’ translation (with notes and commentary) in the 14th volume of OINE where all the archaeological record from the monastery of Qasr el Wizz will be published – including the more than 200 fragments of parchment and papyrus unearthed… And then set online as is the practice in the OI – and as we also like it, since we are active in this game of pixel-shaped presentations of the past!

In the meantime, and more precisely on Saturday, Alin Suciu added another precious reference to Nubian texts to the few that exist online: he presented a very interesting publication, namely Robert de Rustafjaell’s The Light of Egypt from Recently Discovered Predynastic and Early Christian Records (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1909), which is known as the seller to the British Museum of the first long texts in Old Nubian published: the Miracle of Menas and the Canon of Nicaea. His post included the first online images (two from the Miracle and one from the Canon) of these texts too! For the rest of the Nubian texts that can be seen online, see HERE.

A note: it remains a puzzle why were these two texts bound together. Alin’s post allowed me to check them closer once more and I came up with the following idea: perhaps the reference to NIKEAEIO in the Old Nubian version of the Canon of Nicaea confused (?) the compiler of the codex, given the origins of Saint Menas from Nikiu!?!

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