Sunday, February 25, 2018


The Virus of the Present

Marc Bloch (1886-1944), The Historian's Craft, tr. Peter Putnam (New York: Vintage Books, 1953), p. 38:
In truth, whoever lacks the strength, while seated at his desk, to rid the mind of the virus of the present may readily permit its poison to infiltrate even a commentary on the Iliad or the Ramayana.

En vérité, qui, une fois devant sa table de travail, n'a pas pas la force de soustraire son cerveau aux virus du moment sera fort capable d'en laisser filtrer les toxines jusque dans un commentaire de L'Iliade ou du Ramayana.


Charms of Zois

Auguste Audollent, Defixionum Tabellae (Paris: Albert Fontemoing, 1904), p. 138, number 86 = Eric Ziebarth, Neue Verfluchungstafeln aus Attika, Boiotien und Euboia, number 22 (from Boeotia, now in Athens, National Archaeological Museum, Inv. 9363), tr. Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World, ed. John G. Gager (1992; rpt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 85-86, with footnotes:
(Side A) I assign Zois the Eretrian, wife of Kabeira, to Earth and to Hermes— her food, her drink, her sleep, her laughter, her intercourse,1 her playing of the kithara,2 and her entrance,3 her pleasure, her little buttocks,4 her thinking, her eyes ...
(Side B)5 and to Hermes (I consign) her wretched walk, her words, deeds, and evil talk ...

1. The Greek term sunousia could be used of social or sexual intercourse.
2. A common musical instrument, related to the zither.
3. The Greek term parodos might mean "entrance" or "passage," thus designating a particular way of entering a room. But it was also used as a technical term in Greek theater and could refer to public recitation. Here it may also have sexual overtones.
4. The Greek term pugeón generally referred to the buttocks but might also be used of certain kinds of dancing, which seems to fit well here where other aspects of performance or entertainment are in focus.
5. The writing on Side B is quite fragmentary.
The Greek:
A.1 παρατίθομαι Ζο-
ίδα τὴν Ἐρετρικὴν
τὴν Καβείρα γυναῖκα
[— τ]ῆ Γῆ καὶ τῶ Ἑρμῆ, τὰ βρώ-
ματα αὐτῆς, τὸν ποτᾶ, τὸν ὕ-
πνον αὐτῆς, τὸν γέλωτα,
τὴν συνουσίην, τὸ κιθ{φε}άρισ[μα] {κιθάρισμα}
αὐτῆς κὴ τὴν πάροδον αὐ-
[τῆς], τὴν ἡδον<ὴν>, τὸ πυγίον,
[τὸ] <φρό>νημα, {ν} ὀφθα[λμοὺς]
— —ααπηρη(?) τῆ Γῆ.
B.1 καὶ τῶ Ἑρμῆ τὴν
περιπάτη<σι>ν μοχθη-
ρ[ὰ]ν, ἔπεα [ἔ]ργα, ῥήματα κακὰ
καὶ τὸ — — —
Some discussions:
Who commissioned this curse tablet? Some think it was a romantic rival for her husband Kabeira's affection, others that it was a fellow musician seeking to upstage her and acquire her business clients. Maybe it was just another woman, envious of Zois' charms. Her naughty way of sashaying around (περιπάτησιν μοχθηρὰν) and entering a room (πάροδον) was quite fetching, I suspect, especially with her diminutive derrière (πυγίον). For some reason I'm reminded of Horace's "dulce ridentem Lalagen amabo, / dulce loquentem."

Saturday, February 24, 2018


Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson (October 27, 1951 - February 18, 2018)

Someone should do for my dear departed friend Ian Jackson, author and antiquarian bookseller, what he recently did for one of his friends, namely write a detailed account of his life and achievements — see Bernard M. Rosenthal, 5 May 1920 - 14 January 2017: A Biographical and Bibliographical Account by Ian Jackson in the Style of Pierre Bayle (1646-1706) (Berkeley: The Wednesday Table, 2017). I don't have the knowledge or skill for such a tribute, but now that the initial shock of Ian's passing is starting to wear off, it would be disloyal and ungrateful of me not to say a few words, however inadequate, about this remarkable man. I was going to wait until his obituary appeared in the newspaper before writing anything, but news of his tragic and untimely death has by now already appeared elsewhere.

Ian first swam into my ken (he would have immediately caught the allusion and, I hope, pardoned the cliché) in June of 2011, when I received in the mail a package from him filled with books, articles (by himself and others), and a charming letter of introduction. It was to be the first of many such packages. Everywhere I turn in my house I see gifts given to me by Ian, from pictures on the walls to books (hundreds of them) on the shelves.

It was also in June of 2011 that the acknowledgement "Hat tip: Ian Jackson" first appeared on this blog. Ian, polymath and polyglot that he was, should have had his own corner of the World Wide Web from which to disseminate witty observations and remarks on his extensive reading, but he chose instead to favor me with much of his Lesefrüchte. I still have boxes of unused material which he sent me, and so "Hat tip: Ian Jackson" will continue to appear in this space, despite his death.

Ian Jackson was born in Montreal, the son of physicist John Jackson and Barbara Cook. He attended the University of California at Santa Cruz, in his words "attracted by the fact that it was then still possible to graduate essentially by reading in the library — with the aid of sympathetic professors, chiefly British expatriates with mere M.A.'s, in the twilight years of that Golden Age before the 'Ph.D. incubus' barred many a delightful eccentric from the academic world." In 1973 he received the degree of B.A. in Classics. That might have been the end of his formal education, but he soon became through self-tuition an immensely erudite independent scholar, spending two or three hours a day reading in local academic libraries (primarily at the University of California at Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union).

His knowledge of foreign languages and literatures was exceptional. A native Frenchman said of him, "Ian speaks excellent French — the French of the 18th century." Among his many unpublished works is a wonderfully idiomatic translation of Roland Cailleux's La Religion du Coeur (Paris: Bernard Grasset, 1985), in which various minor characters give their version of the Gospel narrative. Ian never studied Italian in school, but picked it up from listening to opera and from his knowledge of other Romance languages. Another unpublished work is Lettres à une Inconnue, an English translation of Leo Spitzer's letters, over a hundred in all, written in Italian to a young woman.

Many of Ian's works appeared in self-published limited editions under the imprint "Ian Jackson Books." With his wife Ann Arnold (artist, book illustrator, and fascinating and attractive figure in her own right), he published such titles as The Chaste Mouse and the Wanton Mouse (Lunenburg: Stinehour Editions, 2016) and Addie & Zika (Berkeley: Ian Jackson Books, 2017). Under the anagrammatic pseudonym Jan Cosinka, he wrote Teach Yourself Malkielese (Berkeley: Ian Jackson, 2006), a study of the idiolect of the Romance philologist Yakov Malkiel. The speech of his own father was the subject of another book, Mathein Pathein: A Thesaurus of the Idiolect of John David Jackson (1925-2016) (Berkeley: Ian Jackson, 2016). These are just a few of his many books.

Ian contributed articles, book reviews, and obituaries (in English, French and Italian) to periodicals such as Landscape, Fine Print, North American Pomona, Garden History, The Bookplate Journal, The Independent, The Book Collector, Bookdealer, Petits Propos Culinaires, Archives of Natural History, Pacific Horticulture, The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, Conférence, Belfagor, and Taxon. Just to compile a list of his writings would in itself be a worthy act of pietas, but the materials to do so are currently unavailable to me. I have some of his books, and I have started to make a collection, for my own use, of his Belfagor and Taxon articles from the JSTOR repository.

That such a man chose to make me his friend is a high honor, and I will do my best to perpetuate his memory in whatever small way I can. Although we never met in person (he didn't drive, and I rarely leave home), I have several photographs of Ian. Here he is, surrounded by some of his favorite things, shortly after being diagnosed with the cruel disease which took him away from family and friends much too soon:

I would be very glad to receive (megilleland AT and perhaps to publish reminiscences from Ian's other friends.



Peter Gay (1923-2015), My German Question: Growing Up in Nazi Berlin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), p. 44:
In my fond imagination I had thought of rage as a fixed quantity. The more I released, the less would be left. But it soon appeared that my fury was being fed by a subterranean stream that continuously refilled the reservoir I thought I had emptied.

Friday, February 23, 2018


We Are Not Smart Enough

Wendell Berry, What Are People For? (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2010), p. 209:
For a long time now we have understood ourselves as traveling toward some sort of industrial paradise, some new Eden conceived and constructed entirely by human ingenuity. And we have thought ourselves free to use and abuse nature in any way that might further this enterprise. Now we face overwhelming evidence that we are not smart enough to recover Eden by assault, and that nature does not tolerate or excuse our abuses.


Pater Noster

Erasmus, Complaint of Peace 18 (tr. Betty Radice):
Tell me, how can the soldier during divine worship pray in the words 'Our Father'? What impudence, to dare call on God as Father, when you are making for your brother's throat! 'Hallowed be thy name.' How could the name of God be less hallowed than by your violence towards each other? 'Thy kingdom come.' Is this how you pray, when you are planning so much bloodshed to get a kingdom for yourself? 'Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.' But God's will is for peace, and you are preparing for war. Do you ask for daily bread from our common Father when you burn your brother's crops and would prefer them to be lost to you rather than to benefit him? And then, how can you say 'Forgive us the debts we owe, as we forgive those who are indebted to us,' you who are hurrying to murder your kin? You pray to be spared the danger of being put to the test, but you risk danger to yourself so that you can endanger your brother. Do you beg to be delivered from the evil one while you are plotting the worst of evils against your brother at his prompting?

Quaeso, quid in hisce sacris orat miles, Pater noster? Os durum, audes eum appellare Patrem, qui fratris tui iugulum petis? Sanctificetur nomen tuum. Qui magis dehonestari poterat nomen Dei, quam istiusmodi inter vos tumultibus? Adveniat regnum tuum. Sic oras, qui tanto sanguine tyrannidem tuam moliris? Fiat voluntas tua, quemadmodum in coelo, ita et in terra. Pacem vult ille, et tu bellum paras? Panem quotidianum a communi Patre petis, qui fraternas exuris segetes, et tibi quoque mavis perire, quam illi prodesse? Iam quonam ore dices illud? Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris, qui ad parricidium festinas? Deprecaris periculum tentationis, qui tuo periculo fratrem in periculum pertrahis? A malo liberari postulas, cuius instinctu summum malum fratri machinaris?


The Byunskis

Peter Gay (1923-2015), My German Question: Growing Up in Nazi Berlin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), pp. 179-180:
My father did his best, in fact, to be a good citizen-to-be. When he encountered complaining refugees, whom he disdainfully called "the Byunskis," he was pitiless with them. This unlovely epithet was loosely based on an invidious comparison popular with a number of German Jews who had not adjusted to the United States: Bei uns in Deutschland war alles besser, they would say, "At home in Germany everything was better." Though not normally a preacher, my father would give little sermons on the text of gratitude. Emigrés ought to be glad to be alive and to have landed in the hospitable, democratic United States.


Odium Theologicum

Erasmus, letter to Leonardus Priccardus (July 1, 1519; tr. R.A.B. Mynors):
I know quite well, my learned friend Leonardus, that men of this kidney are never idle; their chief resource lies in fluent falsehoods and brazen innuendo. For my part, I am already hardened to all that; I can only marvel that persons who are distinguished by their profession of the religious life should feel themselves free to do something which conflicts above all with true religion. They wish it to be thought an unpardonable sin if they eat meat; and yet it is virtuous to rain the poisoned arrows of their hellish language on a fellow Christian, even on one who has done them some service, although no sort of venom could be more utterly abominable.

Sciebam, eruditissime Leonarde, genus hoc hominum nusquam cessare: summum illis praesidium in mendacibus linguis atque impudentissimis sycophantiis positum est. Ego vero iam ad ista occallui: tantum admiror homines professione pietatis insignes id sibi permittere quod omnium maxime cum vera pietate pugnat. Inexpiabile scelus haberi volunt, si carnibus vescantur; et sanctum est fratrem, etiam de ipsis bene merentem, linguae spiculis Tartareo veneno tinctis confodere, cum nullum sit veneficii genus execrabilius.
Related posts:

Thursday, February 22, 2018


Tante Hede's Motto

Peter Gay (1923-2015), My German Question: Growing Up in Nazi Berlin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), p. 27 (on his maternal aunt):
Her motto was, "Unfortunately, I am always right," and she meant it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


National Divisions

Erasmus (1466-1536), Complaint of Peace 22-23 (tr. Betty Radice):
The English are hostile to the French, for no other reason than that they are French. The Scots are disliked by the British, solely for being Scots. Germans don't agree with French, Spaniards don't agree with either. What perversity — for the mere name of a place to divide people when there is so much which could bring them together! If you are British you are ill-disposed to a Frenchman. Why don't you wish him well as another man and a fellow-Christian? How can something so trivial weigh more with people than so many natural ties, and so many bonds in Christ? Places divide bodies, not minds. In times past the Rhine separated the French from the Germans, but the Rhine does not divide Christian from Christian. The Pyrenees are the mountain-barrier between the Spaniards and the French, but they do not destroy the communion of the church. The English are cut off from the French by the sea, but this does not break up the unity of faith.

Anglus hostis est Gallo, nec ob aliud, nisi quod Gallus est. Scoto Britannus infensus est, nec aliam ob rem, nisi quod Scotus est. Germanus cum Franco dissidet, Hispanus cum utroque. O pravitatem, disiungit inane loci vocabulum. Cur non potius tot res conciliant? Male vis Britannus Gallo, cur non potius bene vis homo homini, Christianus Christiano? Cur res frivola plus apud istos potest, quam tot naturae nexus, tot Christi vincula? Locus corpora dirimit, non animos. Separabat olim Rhenus Gallum a Germano, at Rhenus non separat Christianum a Christiano. Pyrenaei montes Hispanos a Gallis seiungunt, at iidem non dirimunt ecclesiae communionem. Mare dirimit Anglos a Gallis, at non dirimit religionis societatem.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Fragrant Belches

Theophrastus, On Odors 12.59 (tr. Arthur Hort):
It is to be expected that perfumes should have medicinal properties in view of the virtues of spices: for these too have such virtues. The effects of plasters and of what some call 'poultices' prove what virtues they display, since they disperse tumours and abscesses and produce a distinct effect on various other parts of the body, on its surface, but also on the interior parts: for instance, if one lays a plaster on his abdomen and breast, the patient forthwith produces fragrant odours along with his eructations.

Εὐλόγως δὲ τὰ μύρα φαρμακώδη διὰ τὴν τῶν ἀρωμάτων δύναμιν· καὶ γὰρ τὰ ἀρώματα τοιαῦτα. δηλοῖ δὲ τά τε καταπλάσματα καὶ ἃ δή τινες μαλάγματα καλοῦσιν οἵας ἀποδείκνυται δυνάμεις τά τε φύματα καὶ τὰ ἀποστήματα διαχέοντα καὶ ἄλλα πλείω τῶν κατὰ τὸ σῶμα διαλλοιοῦντα, ἐπιπολῆς μὲν ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ ἐν βάθει, οἷον, ἄν τις καταπλάσῃ τὰ ὑποχόνδρια καὶ τὸ στῆθος, εὐθὺς σὺν τοῖς ἐρυγμοῖς ἀποδίδωσιν εὐώδεις τὰς ὀσμάς.


Bar Codes

Ian Jackson, "The aesthetic bane of bar coding," a review of Mécènes et collectionneurs, 2 vols. (Paris: Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques, 1999), in Taxon 49.2 (May, 2000) 355-356 (at 356):
No director of an art museum would dream of attaching a bar code to the blank margin of a Rembrandt etching, however convenient it might be for regulating the supply of study material to art historians in the print room. Yet many an herbarium custodian has done just that, even to historic specimens, so that they may be checked in and out in bulk, like tins of soup at a grocery store. These administrative barbarians have not even the taste to place the discordant label on the backs of sheets, presumably so that they may be copied with all essential data present, like a police mug shot.

This may seem to be a small thing to complain of, but the bar code is insidious. It is perhaps the greatest failure in industrial design of the 20th century. Someday (when the last taxonomist is dead?) expensive teams of archivists may spend years in removing bar codes, as art restorers now remove grotesque over-paintings.


The Greatest Cheat

Xenophon, Memorabilia 1.7.5 (tr. ‎Amy L. Bonnette):
And he called no small cheat anyone who would deprive another of money or equipment, taking it by persuasion, but he called by far the greatest cheat the one who, although not worthy, deceives others through persuasion that he is competent to lead the city.

ἀπατεῶνα δ᾽ ἐκάλει οὐ μικρὸν μὲν οὐδ᾽ εἴ τις ἀργύριον ἢ σκεῦος παρά του πειθοῖ λαβὼν ἀποστεροίη, πολὺ δὲ μέγιστον ὅστις μηδενὸς ἄξιος ὢν ἐξηπατήκοι πείθων ὡς ἱκανὸς εἴη τῆς πόλεως ἡγεῖσθαι.

Monday, February 19, 2018


The Two Most Fascinating Subjects in the Universe

Brigid Brophy (1929-1995), New Statesman (November 15, 1963):
The two most fascinating subjects in the universe are sex and the eighteenth century.


Latin Intoxication

André Crépin, "Bede and the Vernacular," in Famulus Christi: Essays in Commemoration of the Thirteenth Centenary of the Birth of the Venerable Bede, ed. Gerald Bonner (London: S.P.C.K., 1976), pp. 170-192 (at 171):
Latin was all the more easily learnt as children entered the monastery quite young—Bede at seven (HE v.24)—and henceforward were submitted to a kind of Latin intoxication. They had to learn Latin by heart, read Latin, chant Latin, speak Latin, write Latin, think Latin, dream Latin.


A Useless Burden on the Earth

Homer, Odyssey 20.377-379 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
Here, for one, somebody brought you in this vagabond
who wants his food and his wine, who does not know how to do any
work, who has no strength, but is just a weight on the good land.

οἷον μέν τινα τοῦτον ἔχεις ἐπίμαστον ἀλήτην,
σίτου καὶ οἴνου κεχρημένον, οὐδέ τι ἔργων
ἔμπαιον οὐδὲ βίης, ἀλλ᾽ αὔτως ἄχθος ἀρούρης.
Cf. ἐτώσιον ἄχθος ἀρούρης = a useless burden on the earth (Iliad 18.104), a favorite phrase of mine to describe certain people.


All Flesh

1 Peter 1.24 (KJV):
All flesh is as grass,
    and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.
The grass withereth,
    and the flower thereof falleth away.

πᾶσα σὰρξ ὡς χόρτος,
    καὶ πᾶσα δόξα αὐτῆς ὡς ἄνθος χόρτου·
ἐξηράνθη ὁ χόρτος,
    καὶ τὸ ἄνθος ἐξέπεσεν.

αὐτῆς: ἀνθρώπου
Textus Receptus, LXX Isaiah 40.6


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