Nifty things post: BiblioLife

Having discovered that the USyd library either doesn’t have a copy of Chrétien’s Philomena, or haven’t entered it into the catalogue database1, I recently embarked upon a quest to buy Cornelius de Boer’s 1909 edition of same.

I can’t remember which seller I bought it through – I use, and pretty much indiscriminately. The book turns out to come, though, from a printing company called BiblioLife, who digitise out-of-print books and then print and sell them as paperbacks. So my copy of Philomena turned up in a flimsy paperback form, looking like a (very nice) self-published book. Inside, though, is a complete scan of the 1909 original – blown up just slightly, and on bright white paper, which makes for a much easier reading experience than one would have with the now-discoloured original. The margins are very wide, which is great for my compulsive annotating-and-scrawling habit.

Also – and I find this adorable – here and there, in very tiny ink pen, you can see neat annotations made by someone onto the page of the original which had been scanned. They look like useful annotations – one emends “queres” to “qu’elle”, which, sure enough, makes more sense – which beats the bubble-writing twit who carefully made utterly wrong notes on my second-hand copy of Cliges.

The Bibliolife website says they use the profits from their paperback sales to fund further digitisation projects. Sounds pretty spiffy to me!

On the other hand, let it be stated now that if Cornelius de Boer weren’t already dead I would inhume him myself. Extremely meticulous edition, with copious notes and even a complete index, but no glossary. Why, if you’re listing every instance of a given word in your text, would you not give a definition of it at the same time? Oh, right, because it’s 1909 and you’re allowed to assume everyone knows as much as you do. HOWEVER, I’ve just remembered that one of my several (why do I have several???) translations of Cliges has an English translation of Philomena in it, so at least I can cross-reference something.


1. One day I will learn how to use a card catalogue. Again. Primary school library lessons were a long time ago! I can use the card catalogue in Rare Book, but only if I’m looking for one specific book – I’ve no idea how I’d fare looking up a general topic without the ability to keyword search. Perhaps I should ask a librarian.


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