Online Introduction to
De Die Natali, by Censorinus
Life of the Emperor Hadrian, by ‘Aelianus Spartianus’
Translated by William Maude
William Maude was the first person to translate De Die Natali, into English. It is an account of the history of chronology up to the time he wrote it, in 238 A. D. He did it for a "natal day" gift, or a birthday present, for a friend or patron of his. I cannot vouch for the quality of the translation, but it is certainly readable. There is some discussion about the lengths of the year and the months in different periods and places. Maude omitted the first eleven chapters, because it was about matters only of interest to a "physiologist." Thus it is only 42 pages long, which is about all I want to read on the subject!
If you are interested, however, the complete Latin text, and a French translation, of De Die Natali can be found on Bill Thayer's site.
Bound in with this book is his translation of the Life of Hadrian, by Aelianus Spartianus. This Latin author is fictitious, and his name was one of several, that some unknown person invented who compiled the Historia Augusta, or the Augustan History. It was thought for many centuries that ‘Spartianus’ wrote it about 300 A.D. The fact that there were no such writers was not determined until after Maude wrote the book, so his mistaken assumption was shared by the rest of the world at that point. This book is even shorter than the first one, and more interesting, to me at least.
The original Latin text, Hadrianus, by the pseudo-Spartianus, in the Historia Augusta, is also on Bill Thayer’s site, as well as a German translation plus another English translation.
The most challenging part of this online production was the Bibliography. In more ways than one. It turns out that this Bibliography is exactly the same as the bibliography used in at least five of Alexander Del Mar's works published by the same company, The Cambridge Encyclopedia Company, in New York. At the top of the Bibliography, in my book, is the statement:
(The following list of books is to be read in connection with the lists published in the author’s previous works. The numbers at the end of each title are the press marks of the British Museum library.)
So the author mentioned could either be Del Mar or Maude!
I can find very little about Maude on the internet. He may have assisted Del Mar in his researches. Del Mar was a mining engineer in Spain, and then later an economist, politican, and author. He wrote several books on the history of money and financial systems. Maude also translated a work on the history of gold price fluctuations by Alexander Humboldt, which he may have done to help Del Mar in his work. I am assuming here that they knew each other since the output of the publishing company was not very great at the time this book was published. The book ads at the end of the book show that the company published, at that point, in 1900, eight books by Del Mar, this one by Maude, and twelve other books or pamphlets. One of the books was The History of Yachting, which include pictures by Frederic Schiller Cozzens, the son of my favorite: Frederic Swartwout Cozzens. He was a very famous marine painter. This book is not for sale anywhere online (at this moment), and it has not been scanned by Google. Most of the other books listed cannot be easily found for sale either, except for several of Del Mar's, but not all.
It was interesting to me to find out that Alexander Del Mar had 15,000 books which he left to the library of the American Banking Association, after his death. They called it the Alexander Del Mar Collection. If the bibliography for this book, which includes many old and rare editions was part of his collection, then those bankers are lucky fellows. I do not know where the Library is. I have e-mailed a person at their site, who is in charge of online research, and we will see if he can tell me. I will update this if I find out. If the collection contains material from rare and underappreciated books that support some of his theories then that would be important and good to know. If they will give me a higher interest rate on my microscopic savings account and a lower interest rate on my credit cards I will catalogue them for them!
There has been some recent revival and resuscitation of Del Mar's reputation as an economist in some quarters. Maybe somebody will read his histories anew, (most of which are online at Google), for a fair assessment of his value as a historian.
Del Mar did know a lot of obscure morsels of information. See for yourself: I put a sample online, an article of his called The Name of America, published in “Watson's Jeffersonian Magazine,” which was printed monthly in Thomson, Georgia.
Anyway, the Bibliography appears to have been shared or it was bound into Maude's work, as a matter of course, when the other books were being published. How much they collaborated, and how much translation work or research could have done by Maude for Del Mar, are both unanswerable questions at present.
The Bibliography has an astounding number of typos, some I even noticed in other languages. Bill Thayer helped me find about 50 more, in languages I don't know. Hopefully, neither Del Mar or Maude knew how awful it was until too late. Even today, bibliographies are written by people other than the authors. Today, even proofing is done in other countries, sometimes where the primary language is different from that of the author. So bibliographies are frequently riddled with goofs. This was exceptionally awful, or my standards are higher after typing a few others.
However, the biggest typo is in the title. Thanks again to Bill, who told me that the proper title should be "De Die Natali,” not De Die Natale. The error is made in the title and in the text, where it is used a couple of times. Bill says mistakes in titles are one of the biggest mistakes by printers and proofreaders out there, along with bibliographies, indexes, and footnotes. And, as I know proofreading the text is a challenge even in one's native language. The writer (and transcriptionist,) often misses the biggest mistakes out of familiarity and so the proofreader's job is to point them out! This mistake in the Latin has been repeated by several others with more famous credentials and Bill is at a loss to know why. Maybe the proofreaders are not experts in the language used. See Queed's salutary experience Chapter VII: In which an Assistant Editor, experiencing the Common Desire to thrash a Proof-Reader, makes a Humiliating Discovery; and of how Trainer Klinker gets a Pupil the Same Evening.
Once upon a time the typesetters had to know how to spell, in the days of handset type. I don't know enough to have any opinon about Maude's mistake, except my usual, which is to blame drunken typesetters for everything in old books by authors that I like. See Ben Franklin on this subject. (This does not apply to my site, though, which is because I do my own proofing and don't pay myself to do it, and so "I get what I pay for.")
In the dark ages of printing, the type for each 'page' on sheet was set by hand. One sheet could consist of 1, 2, 4, 8, 12 pages, sometimes more, but rarely. When that sheet was printed, the printing press was reset with the next type combinations for the next sheet, and so on. Every new edition had just as much a chance of mistakes as the previous because they had to be reset completely.
What you may not know is that publishing books on later presses required etched plates for each sheet. These were expensive, however, they could be used again and again to make more copies. But it was costly to correct a mistake, since the plates were expensive. Some authors would get the plates for their work and reissue their books at different presses, or keep them to prevent unauthorized use, it seems. I am vague on all the details here, since this is only a general sort of apologia to prove I am empathic to the horrors of fixing mistakes in books in the olden time. That is also why little notes with "errata," are mentioned in old book listings. Errata are notes of mistakes found after the book was printed. These were included in later copies that were sold, and were "pasted" slips, or a separate page, inserted into the copy of the book, after the batch was printed. This was the case in the very old days, say 100 years ago.
It is not that hard in later periods as the technology improved, but it still not a cinch. Even today, correcting mistakes in written books costs a litte bit of time and trouble, but this is miniscule in comparison, you change the page in a pdf file and they take a new picture and put it into the press. Now this does not make it okay that a reprint of a book done in 1960, with a price tag seventy percent higher today does not fix its previous mistakes! And that is why you will buy a fancy new book re-issued and find you paid to see the same old typos — because both the publishers and authors have no personal pride or respect for you, the literate consumer. Forget new and improved. They did not even have to fix every page, just the (hopefully) few with the mistakes. This abuse of us trusting peons occurs in both academic and lay publishing houses.
With online books and articles it's easy as pie for the page publishers to fix boo-boos. But will they? This is why you should only read books and articles for free, on sites by people who will fix errors when they find they have flubbed, or when typos spontaneously metamorphosize onto a previously perfect page. (This is the Thayer-Eason Theory of ethernet typo-generation.)
IF you tell ME I made a typo, I will fix it dang-near immediately (usually), and then thank you! Try telling some big online publishing group that their ad-plagued site makes them look like morons for errors of content or spelling (WebMD) and see what response you get. Don't ask me, I'm still waiting for a reply (one year and counting).
What a meandering, peripatetic not-so-little introduction! It's not my fault. I have been imbued with the spirit of Charles D. Strode, who wrote Cornfield Philosophy, which I just put online. He loves digressions, and thinks they are important and entertaining, even if only for him, but he thinks that digressing is noble. In one essay, Whither are we drifting?, he describes a digression from that stated subject of his essay this way:
If a boy starts out to pick blackberries in Jones’ woods pasture, and tells his mother he’s going to Jones’ pasture, and tells the boys and everybody he meets that he is going to Jones’ pasture, and then in going along Smith’s fence he finds so many berries he fills his pail, and does not go to Jones’ pasture at all, he has not done unwisely. He might have passed all those berries and when he got to Jones pasture have found none.
So some men, had they written a head “Whither are we drifting?” are such slaves to custom and conventionality, that they would have gone straight to that subject, looking neither to the right nor left, paying no attention to the berries in the fence corners.
I am no such slave to custom and conventionality as that, and if I filled my basket before getting to Jones’ pasture, I am glad of it."
I can only agree wholeheartedly. You did not want to hear a discusson on the pros and cons of the Julian year anyway.
But to stagger back to the subject:
Both translations were bound together in one book, each has its own title page. There is a general title page at the start, listing both titles. The Bibliography, is not mentioned on any of the title pages or in the List of Chapters to De Dei Natali, which is the only one that has a table of contents. Therefore I included a link to the Bibliography on the common Title Page to both works, so you can access all three from there, or just move sequentially through the pages on the BACK and NEXT links on the top and bottom of each page.
Interestingly, the book I have contains a book label which states: “League for the Larger Life, Circulating Library, presented by Eugene Del Mar.”