Friday, March 26, 2010

From a Footnote to a Book Auction

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Yesterday I was working on my article on the Greek New Testament MSS in Sweden revising some notes. I was going to add a reference to German and Italian translations of the published travel letters of the adventurer and scholar Jacob Jonas Björnståhl whom I mentioned in the previous blogpost. Here are the editions:
Swedish original: Carl Christoffer Gjörwell, Resa til Frankrike, Italien, Sweitz, Tyskland, Holland, Ängland, Turkiet och Grekeland beskrifen af och efter Jac. Jon. Björnståhl (6 pts. in 4 vols.; Stockholm: Nordström, 1780–1784).

German translation: Jacob Jonas Björnståhl . . . , Briefe auf seinen ausländischen reisen an den königlichen bibliothekar C.C. Gjörwell in Stockholm (trans. J. E. Groskurs; 6 vols.; Rostock-Leipzig: J. C. Koppe, 1777–1783). [Notably the German translation was published before the Swedish original.]

Italian translation from the German: G. G. Bjoernstaehl, Lettere ne' suoi viaggi stranieri di Giacomo Giona Bjoernstaehl professore di filosofia in Upsala scritte al signor Gjorwell bibliotecario regio in Stoccolma (transl. Baldassardomenico Zini di Val di Non; Poschiavo: G. Ambrosioni, 1782-1787).

The funny thing was that when I googled the Swedish edition in order to check some details one of the hits I got was a book catalogue indicating Katalog Bokauktion 25/3 16:00. What? Was Gjörwell's publication of Björnståhl's magificent travel letters, which I had read in a special reading room at the library, going to be sold at this auction just in a couple of hours...? Yes! Unexpectedly I decided to participate in this auction and bid on those books. That's what can happen these days with the world wide web – from working on a reference in a footnote to bidding on the book in the note the next minute.

So Craaford auktioner phoned me a minute in advance and then I started bidding. The starting price was 1500SEK (=€150/$200). However, as you can see on that webpage, the final selling price landed on 6000SEK (=€600/$800), which was way beyond my budget. It would have been nice to have those books in the shelf ...

I was more lucky a few years ago, when I was working on P72. I had such difficulty getting hold of a published facsimile of a part of this Bodmer codex (with only 1-2 Pet) on international interlibrary loan. It turned out that the facsimile was at the same time a beuatiful piece of art, and that was probably the reason why some European libraries would not lend the book. However, with the help of Wieland Willker I tracked down a copy offered by an antiquarian bookseller in Switzerland, and eventually the book arrived in Sweden, and it was a bargain.

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