Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More Books Than Sense

(just a small section of my bookshelves)
The ever-excellent Barbican bookshop - of my favourite local emporia - has recently acquired a whole swathe of second-hand International Critical Commentaries, including (as luck would have it) Robertson and Plummer's 2nd Corinthians. Needless to say at a mere £6, I snapped it up. I also spotted the Plummer-only 1st Corinthians nestling alongside and was about to add that to my basket when I just couldn't remember whether I already possessed that one or had only borrowed it from the library in the dim-and-distant days of my undergrad final year. So, pausing a moment, I tried to picture my bookshelf: I knew that I had Fee's First Corinthians, a number of Galatians commentaries (inc. Lightfoot and Betz - remnants of my MA year where it was easier to buy than run up overdue charges and chance someone else requesting them), books on Pauline theology, Lightfoot' Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, other ICC's - OT and NT; Proverbs, Isaiah vol.1,Matthew, John, Thessalonians, Phil&Philem, Hebrews, Pastorals and both volumes of Revelations...but could I remember if I had 1st Corinthians? No, I could not. Guessing that there probably would not be a run on them overnight, I went home and made an inventory. No 1st Corinthians in sight, so this morning saw me add it to my collection. What a sad case!

I have to admit that they are pretty ancient - 1st Cor. published in 1911 and 2nd Cor. a 1925 reprint - but to say that the oldest is nearly 100 years old, in fine condition. Looking at some of the more recently produced books in my possession, and particularly at the new Oxford or Bristol Classical texts (not cheap!) with their photocopy-quality pages and glued spines, I'm fairly certain that they will not be doing the rounds a century hence. The quality of books today is appalling: I'm sure I'm not the first old reactionary to say this, nor will I be the last. During my earlier years of Greek study I bought the Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary because it was one of the few Greek dictionaries with the English to Greek section essential for prose composition. It didn't even weather the degree years, the middle leaves coming loose at the end of the second semester. What on earth is the good of a poorly-made dictionary? A book that will almost certainly see heavy use, lots of back-and-forth page turning? I had to stump up for the middle Liddell, a vast improvement, and when I got truly serious, the Big One, which is still giving good service.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tired but Happy

Well, Rome WAS lovely and we managed to pack a lot in our two days. The weather was merciful in that the rain occurred mostly during the hours of darkness (except for a magnificent thunderstorm while we were sat on the steps of San Francesco in Ripa, waiting for it to open), and the temperature was pleasantly mild. Highlights? Apart from the usual stuff (Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps etc.) I really enjoyed exploring the Mithraeum under San Clemente, going up the new panoramic lift at Il Vittoriano (staggeringly good views) and some new churches in Trastevere. We'd not really explored that side of the Tiber before - last time we ventured into it it felt a bit 'other' so we'd scuttled back over the river. This time however, armed with an itinerary and opening times we boldly strode through the winding streets and were utterly entranced by the area. Santa Maria in Trastevere had the most wonderful mosaic apse that easily rivalled (when we fed 50 centys into the metered light) those of Santa Prassede and San Clemente. San Francesco in Ripa housed Bernini's 'Ecstasy of the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni' and in the basilica of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere we saw Maderno's marble recreation of the saint's remains (see photo). Diligent searching ensured that we enjoyed some excellent meals at the oldest pizzeria in Rome (on the via Genova), La Gallina Bianca off the via Torino and La Fontanella Sistina (via Sistina off Piazza Barberini) where our rather grumpy wait for a table was rewarded with the finest tiramisu ever tasted. Tazza d'Oro just off the Piazza Navona provided a reviving caffe corretto. A tour of St Peter's (up the cupola, down into the crypt) was, of course, mandatory. A wander up and down the via Veneto ended in the atmospheric ossuary of the Capuccins at Santa Maria della Concezione - a sobering reminder of mortality. An unpleasantly early start Saturday morning (5am) saw us trudging up to Termini to catch the Leonardo Express to Fiumcino, and our early (and rather turbulent) flight saw us back in the UK by half-ten.

Exhaustion caught up later in the day: sitting slack-jawed in front of the telly heads started nodding in the very early evening. Bed summoned by 8.30pm.