Open Book Publishers.

A few years ago I posted about a book available from Open Book Publishers, but I had no idea how wide a net they cast or how many interesting fish they caught. Now Owlmirror has started posting links to two particularly attractive sections of the site: Cambridge Semitic Languages and Cultures (see Owlmirror’s recommendations here) and World Oral Literature Series (here). All pdf’s are free (though you have to pay for physical books), and David Eddyshaw has already downloaded Oral Literature in Africa. Enjoy!

Addendum. Today I found in the mailbox an Amazon package with 50 Writers: An Anthology of 20th Century Russian Short Stories, edited by Mark Lipovetsky and Valentina Brougher; it is a spectacular selection of authors and looks wonderful. Thanks, D20!


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    I’m finding a lot of good stuff in Oral Literature in Africa.

    The chapter on proverbs is particularly interesting. Among much else, it flags up the fact that proverbs in Africa can be very allusive and nigh-on incomprehensible if you don’t know the context: you can understand all the words and still have no idea what they mean. (Unfortunately a lot of collections of African proverbs omit this vital information. It’s very frustrating.)

    One I do understand in Kusaal, but only because someone actually told me, is

    Ku’om zɔtnɛ bian’ar zug. “Water runs on mud.”

    which actually means “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.” Finnegan makes the highly plausible suggestion that the vagueness and opacity of sayings like this is actually part of their usefulness: you can get your point across without being too blatant about it, so nobody has to feel offended. “It’s just an observation, guv …”

    A lot of interesting material on the various ways different African cultures actually use proverbs in practice.

    Very interesting chapter on drumming, also explaining why it does indeed belong in an account of oral literature. (The drummer clan are the traditional genealogists and historians of the Dagomba, which makes perfect sense once you know. The Dagomba traditions are more extensive and reliable than those of the Mamprussi, despite the fact that the Mamprussi kingdom is the senior, because the Dagomba drummers are better organised.)

    I also liked the long rant at the beginning of Chapter 12 about Western exoticising and misinterpretation of African oral prose genres.

  2. David Eddyshaw says

    The references to Azande culture make it sound horrible. Obsessed with status and performance, continually on the watch for rivals seeking to undermine you. As bad as academia.

    The Zande term sanza means both proverb and spite (or jealousy) and, in addition, refers to the whole range of circumlocutory expression in which there is a hidden as well as a manifest meaning, usually malicious.
    The Azande have many proverbs […]

    Mind you, the references seem all to be to Evans-Pritchard’s classic works from the 1960’s. Perhaps they’ve got better since …

  3. That bit about, “circumlocutory expression in which there is a hidden as well as a manifest meaning, usually malicious,” actually makes a fair amount of sense. Many Azande believed (at the time of Evans-Pritchard’s fieldwork), that it was possible to place a hex on someone else just by speaking too negatively of them. So there were cultural taboos against direct verbal attacks on anyone other than dire enemies.

    By the way, I love the sound of the word “circumlocutory.”

  4. Why is there a History of the Book section, with only six books? (One of them is
    In the Lands of the Romanovs: An Annotated Bibliography of First-hand English-language Accounts of the Russian Empire (1613-1917)
    , so it must be of interest to someone.)

  5. It would be great to have that anthology in Russian, but I haven’t found anything similar. Is the Anglo-Saxon world better at anthologizing than other cultures? I have also had difficulty finding decent anthologies of short stories or modern poetry in German, other than Reich-Ranicki approved collections.

    Are there no German, French or Russian equivalents of Penguin anthologies?

  6. @Vanya: I just commented to a friend yesterday about the use of “Anglo-Saxon” to mean “English-speaking”:

    It used to be common to use “Anglo-Saxon” to mean “English-speaking,” and apparently that terminology still comes up sometimes in non-English-speaking Europe. It’s largely fallen out of use in the English-speaking world, with the understanding that that most native English-speakers are not primarily descended from the Germanic inhabitants of Britain in the Dark Ages, and using it to mean ‘English-speaking” today could be confusing or even considered offensive. However, I did see an interesting example of it recently. I watched the 1961 film The Guns of Navaronne, in which the main character is played by Gregory Peck. The leader of the World War II commando team in the film is British (played by Anthony Quayle), the organizers of the mission are British, and the explosive expert is British (David Niven, described by TV Tropes as “by a considerable margin, the most English man ever to go to Hollywood”). Other members of the team are local Greeks (with one played by Anthony Quinn, who was Mexican-American but could play just about any Caucasian role; if you do an Google Images search for “Auda Abu Tayi,” it can hard to tell with some of the pictures whether they are of the real Auda Abu Tayi or of Quinn playing him in Lawrence of Arabia) or of unclear ethnicity. However, it is implied by some of the dialogue that Peck’s character is also supposed to be British (and is clearly based on an amalgam of two famous Everest mountaineers, the British George Mallory and New Zealander Edmund Hillary; in the book, the character is Australian). However, Peck uses his regular American accent, which is very, very obvious, especially when he is playing against Niven. At one point, during a discussion about the differences in their methods between Peck and some of the Greeks, he attributes his reticence to kill someone who needs to be killed to his “Anglo-Saxon” background, thus side-stepping this question of whether he is supposed to be British, American, or other.

    The context was my friend pointing out that “Saxon” has a history of use by racists to mean something roughly equivalent to “white.” I think it was somewhat advantageous for them that no listener would have expected all whites to be literally of Saxon descent; the term is merely suggestive, perhaps even metaphorical. So a racist speaker or listener had some freedom to draw the line between ethnic in-group and out-group wherever exactly they found it convenient. It occurs to me that this imprecision over who is white enough to be encompassed is shared between the old endonym “Saxon” and the more current exonym “Anglo.” Depending on the context, I who have no British or Protestant blood, might or might bridle at being lumped in with the “Anglos.”

  7. PlasticPaddy says

    Have you tried reclam Verlag? Their site search is not perfect (and the production and typography is sometimes basic) but here is a title from amazon:
    I have also seen these sort of books from Fischer klassik or Suhrkamp Insel. …

  8. David Eddyshaw says

    It occurs to me that this imprecision over who is white enough to be encompassed is shared between the old endonym “Saxon” and the more current exonym “Anglo”

    The English are merely “Saxons” in Welsh and Gaelic: Saeson, Sasannaich (though I believe that the latter was originally applied to lowland Scots too, as opposed to Albanaigh, the true people of Albion.)

  9. The Guns of Navaronne

    One -n-, and I automatically associate that title with the Skatalites (though I think I did see the movie long ago).

  10. John Cowan says

    In New Mexico, Anglo is both an exonym and an endonym, and includes everyone who is neither Native or Hispanic.

  11. Bacha posh in Afghanistan: factors associated with raising a girl as a boy

  12. Just thought I’d point out that two of the books previously listed as “Forthcoming” at the Cambridge Semitic Languages and Cultures page are now available:

    Studies in the Grammar and Lexicon of Neo-Aramaic (Khan and Noorlander)

    Jewish-Muslim Intellectual History Entangled: Textual Materials from the Firkovitch Collection, Saint Petersburg (Adang, et al)

    Still forthcoming:

    Diversity and Rabbinization: Jewish Texts and Societies between 400 and 1000 CE.
    Gavin McDowell, Ron Naiweld, Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra (eds)

    A Handbook and Reader of Ottoman Arabic
    Esther-Miriam Wagner (ed.)

    Hexapla Hebrew
    Benjamin Kantor

  13. I thought I had posted about the Hexapla, but apparently not; it’s been mentioned in comments several times, e.g. in 2005, 2006, and 2017 (DE: “Similarly, the Hebrew transcriptions in Origen’s Hexapla use the Greek consonants just like the LXX, including φ θ χ for unequivocal stops, which by then must surely have been out of step with contemporary Greek”).

  14. Stu Clayton says

    @Vanya: I have also had difficulty finding decent anthologies of short stories or modern poetry in German, other than Reich-Ranicki approved collections.

    No good reason to deprecate RR. He put his money where his mouth is, whereas other lit crits tend to do the opposite.

    I recently had the devil of a time locating a complete 5-paperback box set of Deutsche Erzählungen des 20. Jahrhunderts by RR as editor. I finally found and ordered one (new) at Augusta Antiquariat for 36 Euros. Mostly the boxes have been broken up into single volumes. I’ve had one volume for decades.

    As PlasticP wrote, you should check out reclam, Fischer …. for the newer anthologies. Otherwise, the times being what they are, you must have recourse to used book seller brokers such as ZVAB dot com. Where I just now found the set for 40 Euros.

  15. In the time since I wrote the comment of January 31, 2021 at 6:19 am, two more of the formerly forthcoming books in the Semitic Language series have become available:

    A Handbook and Reader of Ottoman Arabic
    Esther-Miriam Wagner (ed.)

    Diversity and Rabbinization: Jewish Texts and Societies between 400 and 1000 CE
    Gavin McDowell, Ron Naiweld, Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra (eds)

    The list of forthcoming books has been expanded:

    The Neo-Aramaic Oral Heritage of the Jews of Zakho
    Oz Aloni

    Points of Contact: The Shared Intellectual History of Vocalisation in Syriac, Arabic, and Hebrew
    Nick Posegay

    Hexapla Hebrew
    Benjamin Kantor

  16. I wondered if Kantor had perhaps published anything else relating to the Hexapla. Kantor’s page is not hard to find, and his doctoral dissertation is in fact:

    The Second Column (Secunda) of Origen’s Hexapla in Light of Greek Pronunciation

    As those who are familiar with the Hexapla already know, the second column is the Hebrew transliterated into Greek characters.

  17. J.W. Brewer says

    I am amused to see that the wiki article on the Hexapla is itself an instance of scholarly polyglottism and transliteration gone awry, referring at one point to Origen’s “condemnation by Epiphany of Cyprus and Vikentiy Lirinsky.” Okay, Ephiphany for Ephiphanius (or -os) isn’t a big deal, but who’s the Slavic fellow? Turns out to be the Russified-and-then-back-transliterated monicker of Sanctus Vincentius Lerinensis/Lirinensus (“St. Vincent of Lerins” to us Anglophones, although our name for him is I suppose just as anachronistic as the Russian one).

  18. Yes, and Henri Crouzel > A. Cruzel.

  19. It was user Jairon Levid Abimael Caál Orozco, who, in the dreary morning (or maybe sunny evening, depending on the part of the world where you were) of 22 October 2017 translated this from Russian Wikipedia: Scholary work by Origen and its methods

    According to A. Cruzel (1992), Origen never tried to “determine” his theological thought and was completely dependent on the biblical text, which he followed in his comments step by step, so his own theology was a matter of exegete. The basis of his exegetical activity was the deepest conviction that the whole Bible contains meanings besides direct reading, which was the basis for his condemnation by Epiphany of Cyprus and Vikentiy Lirinsky

    The Russian book (Саврей Валерий Яковлевич, Александрийская школа в истории философско-богословской мысли, p 511 and 513) cites:
    Crouzel H. Origen / / Encyclopedia of the Early Church. Oxford, 1992. Vol. 1. P. 620
    for two passages about Origen:
    Epiphanius Salaminius, Panarion omnium haeresium, 64. 5.
    Vincentius Lirinensis, Memorabilia, XVII

    …and for the claim that Epiphanius was the first to accuse Origen,
    Bienert W. A. «Allegoria» und «Anagoge» bei Didymus dem Blinden von Alexandria. Berlin, 1972. S.7.

    But I am not ready to add links to WP because you do it (fix links, format it pretty), and then you read the source and the source is discussing a different actor with a similar name….
    P.S. sorry, I think it does not belong to here. I thoguht my note will be shorter. But I won’t delete it.

  20. I particularly enjoy our Ksaverij < Xaverius < Xavier < (Basque). One would not expect an almost predecessor of Athos, Porthos, Aramis and a King's Guard and a fellow [how do you call people from Navarre and Béarn [and Gascony]?] to have this -ij.

  21. OK, I fixed Crouzel, Epiphanius, and Vincent. Thanks!

  22. The recent mention of the Hexapla (in A Greek Papyrus in Armenian Script) reminded me to check if Hexapla Hebrew is available yet. It is not, but this is:

    Points of Contact: The Shared Intellectual History of Vocalisation in Syriac, Arabic, and Hebrew, by Nick Posegay

    I note that The Neo-Aramaic Oral Heritage of the Jews of Zakho, by Oz Aloni, is no longer listed at all. Not sure what happened there.

  23. Weird. But thanks for keeping us updated!

  24. I checked the web archive of the page, and as recently as a few days ago (Feb 04), the page had Aloni’s work as forthcoming. It looks like there was a manual edit that removed the line and link from the page when the book was supposed to be in the section for published works.

    The link itself works:

    The Neo-Aramaic Oral Heritage of the Jews of Zakho, by Oz Aloni

  25. Since I last checked the page, it seems to have changed/been redesigned. All current works appear here (the old link redirects here):

    Semitic Languages and Cultures

    After Aloni’s work, there is a perhaps surprising list of new publications:

    Neo-Aramaic and Kurdish Folklore from Northern Iraq: A Comparative Anthology with a Sample of Glossed Texts, Volume 1
    Geoffrey Khan, Masoud Mohammadirad, Dorota Molin, Paul M. Noorlander

    Neo-Aramaic and Kurdish Folklore from Northern Iraq: A Comparative Anthology with a Sample of Glossed Texts, Volume 2
    Geoffrey Khan, Masoud Mohammadirad, Dorota Molin, Paul M. Noorlander

    Sefer ha-Pardes by Jedaiah ha-Penini: A Critical Edition with English Translation
    David Torollo

    Diachronic Variation in the Omani Arabic Vernacular of the Al-ʿAwābī District: From Carl Reinhardt (1894) to the Present Day
    Roberta Morano

    Studies in the Masoretic Tradition of the Hebrew Bible
    Daniel J. Crowther, Aaron D. Hornkohl, Geoffrey Khan

    The Bible in the Bowls: A Catalogue of Biblical Quotations in Published Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Magic Bowls
    Daniel James Waller

  26. I don’t see any “forthcoming” section anymore. I don’t know what’s going on with Hexapla Hebrew, but as best I can tell, Kantor is still listed as Cambridge Faculty

    I also found an article by him from 2019, about a Hexapla fragment from the Cairo Genizah:

    The Oldest Fragment of Origen’s Hexapla: T-S 12.182

    It occurs to me that working with ancient manuscripts may take a long time, for various reasons. Dealing with the bureaucracies of museums and libraries and other institutions; being very slow and careful with fragile documents once accessed, and so on.

  27. Thanks for your interest! There are two main works that I am developing with respect to the Hebrew of the Secunda in the Hexapla, one is a critical edition and the other is a grammar.

    The critical edition (with Peeters) should be out within a year or two.

    The grammar of Secunda Hebrew (with OBP) is well underway but will be a while before it is completed.

    It was important to finish the critical edition before the grammar, as you can imagine 🙂

  28. Thanks for the update, and the good news!

  29. It’s been a year, and more works have been added. The link hasn’t changed since 2022-11, but here it is anyway

    New works (following on from the list posted 2022-11):

    The Historical Depth of the Tiberian Reading Tradition of Biblical Hebrew
    Aaron D. Hornkohl

    An Introduction to Andalusi Hebrew Metrics
    José Martínez Delgado

    The Linguistic Classification of the Reading Traditions of Biblical Hebrew: A Phyla-and-Waves Model
    Benjamin Paul Kantor

    Linguistic Theory and the Biblical Text
    William A. Ross (editor) and Elizabeth Robar (editor)

    The Standard Language Ideology of the Hebrew and Arabic Grammarians of the ʿAbbasid Period
    Benjamin Paul Kantor

    Synopses and Lists: Textual Practices in the Pre-Modern World
    Teresa Bernheimer (editor) and Ronny Vollandt (editor)

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