Vale DO!

Vale from the mezzanine! As we enter our last week at Dumbarton Oaks, the three of us  cannot believe how quickly our time here has passed. Has it really been 70 days since we settled into bare desks? Regarded the book conveyor with wondrous awe? Feared death by mobile library shelves?

Over the past ten weeks, we have done our best to make upcoming publications conform to DOML style guidelines. At all times, a small army of computer programs, online resources, and reference books has defended Fort Mezzanine against the forces of error, confusion, and bad punctuation. Aside from the DOML style guide itself, our most constant companions are probably Dropbox, Word, the Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition!), and Merriam-Webster.

What do our holy commandments dictate? Format of the Latin and English must match, more or less. Punctuation and capitalization must be in accordance with CMOS.  Words split across lines must break, like fine diamonds, into the pieces prescribed by Merriam. And most importantly (and subjectively), translations must be fluid and accessible to the general public while still remaining faithful to the original language.

Striving to abide by these tenets, we have overcome conflicting files, superfluities of en-dashes, and countless capitalization conundra (to say nothing of intentionally and unintentionally alliterative translations). We have encountered spellings and uses of English and Latin that confound our wildest expectations.

For more technical problems, a large cohort of crack resources always stands in reserve. Mysterious abbreviations, odd acronyms, Latin titles, and bizarre surnames abound on our desks and computers. TLL, DLD, Cetedoc (aka CDS aka LLT-A + LLT-B + MGH + ACLL + ALD), AH, Vetus Latina (online and Freiburg editions), Frede, Gryson, Sabatier, Deshusses, Lexikon des Mittelalters, MEL, CALMA, BISLAM, ODCC, DHGE, PL, AASS, Vogel, and Väänänen (yes, that’s right, Väänänen) are just some of our allies on the mezzanine.

Our neighbor up here, the very learned Scott Johnson, is always generous with his OLD and his DMLBS when things get really hairy. Fortunately for us, we have never needed to borrow any of Scott’s enormous collection of Syriac lexica, although we did once have to look through his dictionary of biblical Greek to see whether “cherubs” in the plural end with a nu or a mu in the Greek.

Memorable moments include catching errors in standard editions by looking through online digitizations of the original manuscripts (it’s deponeretur, Father Hanssens!), finding the perfect variant after sifting through 245 possibilities on the Vetus Latina, learning that certain priests find it meet to spit the body of the Lord…

From Alan to Amalarius, Hymns to Henry, our work at Dumbarton Oaks has certainly been unique in its frustrations and rewards. But if we’ve learned anything here, it’s that DO is much more than texts and gardens, edifices and artifacts, resources and reference books. This community of incredible people has inspired and guided us throughout our stay–we’ve learned so much from all of you.

Though our time here must end, we depart with a much-enriched perspective, in many ways greeting life anew. Šlāmā, dīy ‘ōw. Peace out, DO. We’ll miss you.

Reconstructing the Scripture

Rebecca Frankel, July 27, 2012

Salve from the Mezzanine! Atop the main house at Dumbarton Oaks, I have spent the past six weeks bonding with my good friends Paul, Jesus, Allen and Greenough to help create the framework for a bilingual edition of the New Testament. This version of New Testament will form the sixth and final volume of the Vulgate Bible series to be published under the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library.

The Vulgate Bible, translated by Jerome from ancient Hebrew and Greek texts, dates back to the late 4th century. Seeking to promulgate the scripture among a wider audience, Pope Damascus commissioned Jerome to compile and revise previous versions of the Bible in a new Latin translation.

Though this text remained wildly popular up through the 15th century, its Latin is no longer a “vulgar” attribute as we round the first decade of the 21st. By publishing Jerome’s Latin next to Richard Challoner‘s literal but legible 1752 translation, we at DOML have been striving to make this text accessible to a wider contemporary audience.

Our process is not quite as simple as it might initially appear, consisting of far more than the juxtaposition of these two texts. Challoner’s translation is chock-full of bizarre punctuation and archaisms, requiring its own 2012 revision in conformance with the Chicago Manual of Style. Take Challoner’s translation of Revelations 21:8:
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, they shall have their portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.

With a little bit of modern grammar-policing, this verse will read:
But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable and murderers and whoremongers and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, they shall have their portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

Words such as “linnen,” “chearful,” and “murtherers,” though adorable, get the axe, becoming comparatively mundane cheerful linen murderers.

Complications extend to the process of formatting the Latin text. From the start, we face a major challenge in that there is no one definitive version of Jerome’s Latin. Conflicting manuscripts abound, and though we believe Challoner was primarily consulting the 1592 Sixto-Clementine edition, the two often diverge. Seeking to reproduce the Latin text which Challoner was reading as closely as possible, we must embark on a back-translating treasure-hunt to find the version that best corresponds to his English for any given phrase.

Thus, the Latin in this

is actually a holy hodgepodge of these

As deadlines approach, our work has begun to near its finish, and our commander in chief, Angela Kinney, prepares to depart. Most patient of pedants, most devoted of DOakers, she shall be sorly missen by her worker beeves.


About Me:

I am a rising sophomore at Harvard College from Temple, Texas.