Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Oxyrhynchus! Time to brush up your translation skills.

Oxyrhynchus, site of a large and significant papyrus discovery as yet not entirely public, is a significant site in the ancient world.
It's basically the closest thing we have to discovering the Library of Alexandria in a landfill. Academics familiar with it throw around terms like "unparalleled importance" and "holy grail" and aren't trying to be hyperbolic. It contained a lot of other ancient literature that would otherwise be totally lost–most famously a Sophocles comedy and the poetry of Sappho–not to mention extensive details about everyday life in Egypt, Greece, and Rome. It also held the biggest cache of early Christian manuscripts ever discovered.
Oxyrhynchus was the site where a Greek fragment of the Gospel of Thomas was found. Here's a link to P.Oxy.1, P.Oxy. 654, and P. Oxy. 655 the Greek fragments of the Gospel of Thomas at Oxyrhynchus. The translation is an older one.

To accelerate translation of the materials, Oxford University in the UK recruited more than 250,000 volunteers who were willing to learn the ancient Greek alphabet and decipher the texts online. Now, they’re making their way through hundreds of thousands of them.
"By allowing public access to one of the largest unfinished archaeological projects in the world, we have been able to move beyond one scholar with a papyrus and a magnifying glass, to transcribe between 100,000 and 200,000 more texts - some of which had been partially eaten by worms, or used to wrap fish, or worse," Obbink told Adam Lusher at The Independent
Launched in 2014, the Ancient Lives Project gives anyone with a basic understanding of the ancient Greek alphabet the opportunity to access these texts online and try deciphering them. The transcripts are then cross-checked using software that draws data from existing texts and transcripts to verify the translation. 
"Even school children who have simply been taught the letters of the Greek alphabet can do it," Obbink told The Australian.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

First Printed Bible in 1535 annotated the Latin text in English so that Latin and English speakers could read it

England's first printed Bible was published in 1535:

"We know virtually nothing about this unique Bible - whose preface was written by Henry himself - outside of the surviving copies. At first, the Lambeth copy first appeared completely 'clean'. But upon closer inspection I noticed that heavy paper had been pasted over blank parts of the book. The challenge was how to uncover the  without damaging the book" said Dr Poleg.

Dr Poleg sought the assistance of Dr Graham Davis, a specialist in 3D X-ray imaging at QMUL's School of Dentistry. Using a light sheet, which was slid beneath the pages, they took two images in long exposure - one with the light sheet on and one with it off.
The first image showed all the annotations, scrambled with the printed text. The second picture showed only the printed text. Dr Davis then wrote a novel piece of software to subtract the second image from the first, leaving a clear picture of the annotations.
The annotations are copied from the famous 'Great Bible' of Thomas Cromwell, seen as the epitome of the English Reformation. Written between 1539 and 1549, they were covered and disguised with thick paper in 1600. They remained hidden until their discovery this year. According to Dr Poleg, their presence supports the idea that the Reformation was a gradual process rather than a single, transformative event.
"Until recently, it was widely assumed that the Reformation caused a complete break, a Rubicon moment when people stopped being Catholics and accepted Protestantism, rejected saints, and replaced Latin with English. This Bible is a unique witness to a time when the conservative Latin and the reformist English were used together, showing that the Reformation was a slow, complex, and gradual process."
The annotations were written during the most tumultuous years of Henry's reign. The period included the move away from the Church of Rome, The Act of Supremacy, the suppression of the monasteries, and the executions of Anne Boleyn, Thomas More, and John Fisher, as well as the Pilgrimage of Grace, which moved Henry to a more cautious approach.
Dr Poleg was also able to trace the subsequent life of the book, after the point at which Latin Bibles had definitively fallen out of use. On the back page he uncovered a hidden, handwritten transaction between two men: Mr William Cheffyn of Calais, and Mr James Elys Cutpurse of London. Cutpurse, in medieval English jargon, means pickpocket. The transaction states that Cutpurse promised to pay 20 shillings to Cheffyn, or would go to Marshalsea, a notorious prison in Southwark. In subsequent archival research, Dr Poleg found that Mr Cutpurse was hanged in Tybourn in July 1552.

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