In a recent project of mine I have been researching early Christian hymns in Greek, and from the book Early Christians Speak by Everett Ferguson, I was referred to an old volume Anthologia Graeca Carminum Christianorum, written by W. Christ and M. Paranikas. The title looked promising (Anthology of Greek Christian Songs for those who aren’t familiar with Lingua Latina), and I knew if it was written in Latin, it must be old.
So where does Benjamin go to find old and obscure books in foreign languages? Straight to the Interlibrary Loan page at the library website! I was surprised to find that quite a few libraries owned it, and I hoped to have better luck than the last time when I asked for an Italian book about Greek verbs (or that course for learning Huastec Nahuatl written in Spanish). I was overjoyed when the UT library agreed to send the book, and the other day I picked it up at the library.
It was all I had imagined. An old book, published in MDCCCLXXI (I’ll let you translate the date, you probably need practice with Roman numerals anyway), and entirely in Latin—except for the great number of Greek hymns from the Byzantine and pre-Byzantine time periods. There is also an unexplicable group of German hymns in the middle of the book, and I haven’t yet figured out how they fit in.
But back to the story. As I paged through the yellowed pages, reading with glee about the Byzantine modes and other such fascinating topics, I tried to decide which pages I would copy before returning the book. I wistfully thought how nice it would be to own the book, and thus have time to plow into it and increase my Latin reading comprehension (even I, the Philogloss, am not very fluent in Latin yet!). I couldn’t find the book on Amazon (they don’t have much from the nineteenth century anyway), so I checked BookFinder.com. The result: This old book would cost me about $105! I immediately gave up the thought, but upon I bit more browsing I came across it on Google Books, a resource which I had not ever tapped before.
I absentmindedly clicked the “Download PDF” link on the site, and then opened the file, expecting to find the first few pages, by way of a preview. Great was my surprise and delight when I discovered the entire book, cover to cover, scanned into PDF, all on my computer!
I was ecstatic. Think of it! A rare, $100 book about old Greek hymns, made available for free to everyone in the entire world! Of course, few are the remaining scholars who can read the thing, but I aim to be one of them. It may take me a very long time, but I think it will give me some practice reading modern Latin, and also a chance to gain some very interesting knowledge on Greek hymnography.
When I excitedly told my dad about my amazing discovery, he commented that he must not be related to me. It is true that I do not come from a linguistically-inclined family, but there are plenty of other traits which I have inherited that link me to the great and prestigious family of Brousse. Of course, who but me could find so much joy such a book?