Sunday, August 19, 2018

St Thomas Christians

Adolphus E. Medlycott - India and the Apostle Thomas (1905)

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Edavalikel Philipos - The Syrian Christians of Malabar: otherwise called the Christians of S. Thomas (1869)

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Richard Collins - Missionary Enterprise in the East, with especial reference to the Syrian Christians of Malabar (1873)

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Michael Geddes - The History of the Church of Malabar (1694)
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W.J. Richards - The Indian Christians of St. Thomas : otherwise called the Syrian Christians of Malabar (1908)

Hathi Trust link


The way I heard the story is that late in the 15th century Vasco de Gama made his first major voyage, intending to open new trade routes to India.  In 1498 he landed on the southwestern tip of India (modern Kerala) and was surprised to discover that there was already a thriving community of Christians there, moreover ones practicing older beliefs.  In my mind I somewhat imagined this like the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the knights reach a castle, ask if the inhabitants want to join the quest for the Grail, and are dumbfounded to receive the answer that the inhabitants already have one.

This group is called St Thomas Christians after the story that the apostle Thomas visited in 52 CE and established their church.  (They're also called Syrian Christians after early Syriac speakers who immigrated and settled there.)  Though the story about Thomas seems likely to not be true there's just enough plausible evidence that it can't be dismissed out of hand.  There are even claims that his tomb is nearby - you can visit it (or at least one possibility).  Vasco's landing prompted the arrival of priests a couple of years later which threw the St Thomas Christians, who were fully organized and well functioning, into turmoil that seems to have never entirely settled.  You can read a recap at the Brittanica or a detailed one with more history and theology at the Catholic Encyclopedia.

In any case, the story I heard was only part of it.  The St Thomas Christians weren't completely unknown in Europe since there had been European visitors in late antiquity and the middle ages.  Marco Polo even made a short report about them and there were Church travellers in the 14th century.  In fact I have a suspicion that the Vasco story may not be completely accurate because I've only seen it repeated in second-hand sources but don't have time to check biographies or the voyage journals.  There should be much more detail in N.M. Mathew's St. Thomas Christians of Malabar through Ages: A Fresh Look into Biblical and Historical Evidences (2003), Benedict Vadakkekara's Origin of India's St Thomas Christians: A Historiographical Critique (1995), Peter C. Phan's Christianities in Asia (2011), Em nome de Deus: The Journal of the First Voyage of Vasco da Gama to India, 1497-1499 (2009, edited by Glenn J. Ames) and Nigel Cliff's The Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages of Vasco de Gama (2011).





Sunday, July 29, 2018

Ready for French Cooking?

Lucy H. Yates - The Profession of Cookery from a French Point of View (1894)

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Eveleen De Rivaz - Little French Dinners (1898)

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Auguste Mario - Easy French Cookery (1910)

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French Cookery for American Homes (1901)

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One main book and then a few supplemental ones.

The Yates book is both an explanation and a guide.  Her point was to help the British both understand French cooking and to adopt more economical practices.  As an example, she describes the French demand for soup (compared to what she says is a British reluctance) as giving a warm start to the meal but also reducing the need for liquids (specifically mentioning wine and the money that saves) and in some cases adjusting for the possible lower quality of following dishes.  These soups are also light with meat and therefore more economical.

Things like that can still be adopted to some degree today though very few of us will install brick ovens into our kitchens.  (Though Yates is only explaining, not recommending.)  She discusses how the French serve vegetables, the butchering of pigs, the use of sauces, how to construct soups, differences in frying techniques, and so on.

She then ends each chapter with some actual recipes, most still quite useful and often familiar.  (Though a Briton would find her pickle-less "cheese sandwich" not quite the thing.)  I'm half-tempted to make the mushroom ketchup ("there is no more useful ketchup for kitchen use").

Lucy H. Yates (1863-c1935) was a British journalist who wrote about cooking and housekeeping, producing many books on that subject (Handbook of Fish Cookery, The Model Kitchen, Marriage on Small Means).  She was a suffragist and did some BBC broadcasts.  There's more info at Persephone Books.

The others are a mixed group. 

The De Rivaz book has thirty menus, generally on the pattern of a soup, fish course, meat, vegetable and a dessert.  The receipes are valid but it's interesting to see how the meal is constructed.

Mario's book is divided into categories (eggs, sauces, roasts) with a short suggestion of menus at the end.  The recipes are a bit more simple.

French Cookery for American Homes is very similar to the Mario book.










Sunday, July 22, 2018

A sequel to Homer

Quintus Smyrnaeus - The Fall of Troy (4th century)

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The Iliad closes with Hector's funeral - this work by Quintus opens with that event before proceeding to continue the story of the Trojan War.  It's the only surviving epic from this century.

Written roughly 1200 years after Homer, The Fall of Troy (also called Posthomerica) covers the same ground as some of the lost works in the Trojan War cycle.  Did Quintus have access to those works and base his own on them?  The introduction to this 1912 Loeb claims that even if he did use those works then the very scanty evidence suggests he completely reworked them.  I haven't found more recent scholarship so don't know if that still stands.

(A brief 1879 book by F.A. Paley called Quintus Smyrnaeus and the "Homer" of the Tragic Poets makes a claim that Quintus did draw from the cyclic epics but also that what we know as the work of Homer did as well and what early classical writers called "Homer" was in fact not the texts we know today.  I'd guess this claim has not stood up.)

If you're seriously interested in this work then you will probably want to see the new Loeb edition by Neil Hopkinson.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Investigating saints and martyrs

Hippolyte Delehaye - The Work of the Bollandists through Three Centuries, 1615-1915 (1922)

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Hippolyte Delehaye - The Legends of the Saints: An Introduction to Hagiography (1906)

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As a companion to the last post about martyrs here is a history of the Bollandists, a long-lived group dedicated to compiling and evaluating original documents related to saints and martyrs.  It sounds somewhat routine but what was originally planned as 18 volumes is now running 80 and not yet finished (after four centuries!).  Perhaps more importantly one result of this work (called the Acta Sanctorum) has been to trim apocryphal and unreliable stories and even persons.  For more see the extensive entry in The Catholic Encyclopedia.

Delehaye covers the history as indicated in the title and is well-written (at least in translation) and fairly quick moving.  Those of us fascinated by book hunting, philology, textual editing, religious legends and the like will be drawn to this.  I doubt anybody else has read this far into the post.

Hippolyte Delehaye (1859-1941) was a Jesuit scholar and himself a member of the Bollandists.  Though he's described as a quiet scholar, in 1916 he was arrested for anti-German propaganda.  His work was highly regarded and he received numerous honors, including an honorary doctorate from Oxford.  There's an extensive appreciation and overview by Thomas J. Heffernan in Medieval Scholarship: Biographical Studies on the Formation of a Discipline (1998, edited by Helen Damico).









Sunday, July 8, 2018

Martyrs, martyrs, martyrs

John Foxe - Acts and Monuments (aka Book of Martyrs) (1563-1583)

Archive.org direct link (Vol 1)
Archive.org direct link (Vol 2)
Archive.org direct link (Vol 3)
Archive.org direct link (Vol 4)
Archive.org direct link (Vol 5)
Archive.org direct link (Vol 6)
Archive.org direct link (Vol 7)
Archive.org direct link (Vol 8)

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Online variorium edition

This is one of those books, like Froissart's Chronicles or The Augustan History, that's rarely encountered in its full state so I'm posting an 1836-9 edition that appears to be basically a complete reprint.  (More on that below.)  This rarity of the full text is understandable since it's both an enormous work and one with a structure that allows easy excerpting.  The current edition from Oxford World's Classics, for instance, contains mostly British martyrs.  But there are numerous other editions over the centuries that reduce the size for one purpose or another, simplify the language, change the text and sometimes update it.  An edition on Gutenberg.org includes an account of martyrs during the French Revolution.

John Foxe (1516-1587) was an academic who become a Protestant and then was caught up in the religious controversies of the period.  When Mary I gained the throne Foxe moved to Frankfurt and Basel before returning during Elizabeth I's reign.  His Actes and Monuments was written over a period of years as an attempt to chronicle Christian martyrs.  It was hugely popular, at least partly because it tied into or was at least used for anti-Catholic sentiment.  And also popular of course because of the sometimes lurid subject matter.  I'm sure there's much more to this but I've only read a few bits of the book and not much actually about it.  However my library has copies of Elizabeth Evenden & Thomas S. Freeman's Religion and the Book in Early Modern England : The Making of Foxe's "Book of Martyrs" (2011) and John N. King's Foxe's Book of Martyrs and Early Modern Print Culture (2006) so those sound much more up my alley.

So about the edition above.  It's also not exactly a true reprint since it reprints the original fourth edition (the last during Foxe's lifetime) but adds material from the previous editions.  Latin text has been shifted to notes.  The one thing that's not quite clear to me is that there's mention of a supplement that is either not scanned or is actually the Vol 1 linked above (which carried an 1841 date).  The preface mentioning that also discusses some revisions that sound like they could be editorial changes to correct Foxe's errors but is not as clear about that as I would like.






Wednesday, July 4, 2018

American folklore from Charles Skinner

Charles M Skinner - American Myths & Legends (1903)

Archive.org direct link - Vol 1
Archive.org direct link - Vol 2
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Myths & Legends of Our Own Land (1896)

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Myths & Legends of Our New Possessions & Protectorate (1899)

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no Open Library page


Myths & Legends Beyond Our Borders (1899)



Myths & Legends of Flowers, Trees, Fruits and Plants (1911)



For the Fourth of July here are some collections of American folklore.  These are more interesting, for me anyway, because they're not just tall tales but include ghost stories, monsters, hidden treasure and similar stories.  The first couple are two-volume sets that appear to have been fairly popular at the time.  Skinner continued with another book on Canada and Mexico (Borders) and Caribbean and Pacific (the somewhat imperialist-minded Possessions).  Just for completeness I've included his book about botanical stories.

Charles Montgomery Skinner (1852-1907) was a long-time journalist and editor for the Brooklyn Eagle.  He also wrote a few plays and naturalist works.  His bibliography includes the promising sounding American Communes but this turns out to be a 30-page pamphlet published by the newspaper that hasn't been digitized.

The most information I can find about Skinner is a piece by Richard M. Dorson in American Folk Legend: A Symposium.  He largely focuses on an overview of the work but does say that even though Skinner didn't source his materials much of it seems to be actual folklore and not invented stories.








Sunday, July 1, 2018

A first peek at Machado de Assis

Isaac Goldberg (ed) - Brazilian Tales (1921)

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Librivox audio

To mark the long-awaited publication of The Collected Stories of Machado de Assis (which doesn't have all of his stories, only the ones in his seven published collections) here is the book with his first translation into English.  More of Machado's work wouldn't appear in English until 1963.  Three of his stories are included here along with one each from other writers barely known outside Brazil.  In fact for the other writers these still appear to be almost their only works translated into English.

Isaac Goldberg (1887-1938) was born in Boston and educated at Harvard.  He was a reporter during the first world war, after which he released several biographies and critical works.  These include Six Plays of the Yiddish Theatre, The Man Mencken, Studies in Spanish-American Literature, George Gershwin: A Study in American Music, Havelock Ellis, and numerous translations from Hebrew, Yiddish, Spanish and Russian.

In fact, there doesn't appear to be a Goldberg bibliography but I ran across mentions of several items that could be subjects for further research, as they say.  He did an introduction and notes for a 1937 edition of Alice Stone Blackwell's Some Spanish American Poets (1929), a thick anthology of 80 poets.  In 1920 he co-translated Pax (1907) by Lorenzo Marroquin, described as "a satire on the degraded politics of Columbia".  In the May 1919 issue of The Stratford Journal (which he co-edited) Goldberg translated two stories by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez and gave an overview of that writer's career.  In 1918 he co-translated Nine Humorous Tales by Chekhov.