Online Introduction to
Eusebius Pamphilus: His Ten Books of Ecclesiastical History,
Faithfully Translated and Abridg’d from the Original, by Samuel Parker, Gent.
The Typographical Trappings :
The reason I picked this particular Book to put on the internet was because it is the history of the period of early Christianity by an early Christian historian, translated into English, for only the third or fourth time, by a non-academic non-Catholic, and it is now the earliest English translation online. The period is covered by very well-known early non-Christian historians. The details differ.
Normally I steer clear of the subject of Religion, especially by those who have a vested interest in glorifying it, but I happened to run across this book which promised that it was History, and an abridgement without the ecclesiastical clutter. In the brief online sales' description, the bookseller also promised that Eusebius was humorous at times. That sold me.
So onward I typed, wading through that miserable time, and the unavoidable-though-brief scattered bits of self-serving apologia. Ten abridg'd chapters later, I can safely say that there were two, maybe three, times that I saw any trace of wit in our author at all. Of course, I was vastly grateful for those. Still, a few more wouldn't have hurt!
If you have not dozed off or your eyes glazed over by the time you get to them, you too will smile, nay, chuckle with relief, with those two too brief comic touches, clad in darkly satirical robes. I won't tell you what they were. That would be mean. But when you run across them, let me know. Perhaps you may find others that I was too bored or too mad to catch.
The other reason I put this up was to preserve the spellings and punctuation used in 1701, along with some of the typographical tricks of the time. I did not use the long "s" found in the real text though. The web has only invented one form for them and it's ugly. Plus, the unfamiliarity of it can cause errors in comprehension for a lot of people. You have to really concentrate on translating what looks like an "f" to an "s". So basically I did that translation for you by using the modern version. Why slow anybody down that makes the valiant attempt to read this book for enlightenment?
Just like today, the Index has the most errors. The body of the text had a few, but not as many as can be found in many other books of that century, or this one for that matter. Relying on spell-check, or out-sourced ESL proofreaders, has deservedly tarnished the reputation of many a "learned" modern scholar (a-hem!) and academic publishing house (a-hem, a-hem!). In the Index, after the variant entry, I have put the word that was used in the text after it in [brackets], (or "crotchets" as they were called in the 19th century). In the text, any pure typos have been corrected and you can check the source code and find the original there. Sometimes, the different spellings were purposeful, I think, to use a name more familiar to us than the one Eusebius used.
The biggest problem, although really just a trifle, was the erratic italicizing of proper names and the peripatetic capitalization of nouns, as well as the occasional adjective, adverb and verb. I settled for always italicizing, and sometimes capitalizing, the words that were italicized or capitalized in the first five chapters, but weren't in the last four, because the poor printer just got too tired to keep up with it, I expect. My self-imposed task with a keyboard was a little easier than having to throw one of at least four possible types, for every letter to be used, on a rolling press, so I just figured I was helping the guy out. Although, even this much flat wore me out, too, and so I probably missed a bunch of chances to lend a hand. Nevertheless, it is a little more even stylistically now.
One inconsistency I did not fix was the spelling of counsel in the first half, which changed to council by the second half. Maybe that was the period when the new spelling arose! A fantastatically illogical (but romantic) conclusion, I know, but I left it because it does show that both spellings were in use then, and struggling for primacy.
Third to last comment: Some of the few Greek words given in the text used Greek symbols for letters that were totally unfamiliar to me, (and I can still rattle off 30 lines of Homeric Greek in my sleep, from the ancient period when I read the first three books Books of the Iliad, teaching myself the language along the way). I have also put up bits of Greek from several other 19th century texts without a bit of a problem. But Parker's Greek almost did me in. I actually wondered if the printer had been so stressed by all the italics that he had over-guzzled at nuncheon, as was his contractual right (just ask Ben Franklin). Fortunately, I have a very, very smart friend, Bill Thayer, who immediately recognized my poor written description of the illegible words as the Byzantine equivalents of our modern Greek letters. Who woulda thunk it! Anyway, he solved the mystery, and corrected one mis-spelling in the Greek text on top of it. And at some point, these were in common enough use to have type made for them. For those who are still in the dark, some Byzantine Greek squiggles can be seen here.
Winding down, I promise. The engraving of Eusebius that decorates the text is almost certainly not an exact likeness! It was also originally black and white, and anonymously created but the paper had become very tanned with age, after 300 years on a library shelf. Bill said that the imaginative portrait of him looks like an iconic Russian Patriarch, and that the picture cried out for colorization. So I let him have his wicked way with it, and it is real purty now, (and far beyond anything I can do). Join me in kissing his toe in thanks, please.
Last, and the very best reason to read this book, is to see the word clancularly used in a sentence. A fabulous lost word recovered! (And as my mother, of happy memory, would say, "Look it up yourself!") Let us all re-introduce it into the language.
The Frontispiece and Title Pages to:
Eusebius Pamphilus: His Ten Books of Ecclesiastical History, by Samuel Parker, Gent.