Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Mea Culpa - Well, this is embarassing . . .

I've temporarily suspended the Carmen from sale for some fairly substantive revisions.  Having received the digital images of the manuscript yesterday, I've been able to check those transcription sections that were particularly problematic against the manuscript.

I'm crushed to report that the agent of the City's negotiations with King William was not William the Norman, Bishop of London, celebrated for just this achievement in the City for over 700 years - until nudged aside by the mythical Ansgar the Staller.  However, the agent wasn't Ansgar the Staller either, so at least I was in good company being misguided by the text.  It was someone else entirely.  The manuscript - clear before me - suddenly revealed the answer in a blinding flash of insight.  This section of the Carmen now makes perfect sense, even without changing a word - as all the transcribers have done to make sense of the section.  And I'm chagrined to admit he really did have enfeebled loins and walked slow.

I'd be gutted if I weren't so thrilled to be working with the manuscript at last.  It's amazingly liberating to be free of received transcription, checking each word individually against the manuscript to ensure the accuracy of my own transcription.  And the script is very beautiful.  I've fallen in love with the Carmen all over again.  I worked on it for 12 hours continuously yesterday, and could happily have worked all night too.

Until now I've been making emendations as infeliticies are brought to my attention, one of the benefits of publishing in print-on-demand format.  That was never very satisfactory, even though each time I thought I had it finally 'right'.  As I go through the manuscript I'm now also checking each word of Latin to ensure the translation suits case/declension/tense/etc.  Having the manuscript to work from means I'm not imagining earlier transcription errors in compiling my transcription or translation (as I admit I did with kidney and kingdom).  There may still be transcription errors in the manuscript from its copying, but that's still an improvement on using the 19th century transcriptions.

The Latin to English translation will now be much more precise.  In my amateur enthusiasm I had thought conveying the sense of the text would be enough, but the Latin pedants have schooled me harshly otherwise.  I'm determined to be as literal as I can get without sacrificing too much readability.  I am still aiming for the popular history market rather than exclusively academic libraries, but hope to find a balance between meticulous reflection of the Latin and a melifluous cracking good read.

I'll save the answer of who saved London for another day, having learned the hard way that a bit of diligence in private is better than infelicities in the translation in public.  I'll discuss it with those at the Battle Conference this weekend first to get their reactions.

In other news, I've finally received from the British inter-library loan system the only available copy of the Barlow Carmen.  As I suspected, it came from the British Library.  It's a good thing I'm not relying on libraries for my sales with that track record to go by.  I wonder if it broke double digits.  Anyway, I'm grateful to have it, and will compile a concordance of Merton & Muntz / Barlow / Tyson translations for academics that want to enquire about discrepancies between the translations.  There are going to be enough to make the exercise well worth while in establishing credibility for the new translation.

For those happy or unhappy few of you who bought the Carmen between April and now, whether in Kindle or print formats, I'll exchange for a new one if you want to be updated.  Drop me an email: carmenandconquest (at) gmail (dot) com.  I can't say fairer than that.

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