When I was a child… An interesting acknowledgement of scholarly immaturity in Ogilvie’s Books known the the English

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Cor. 13:11)

I just bought a copy of J.D.A. Ogilvy’s Books Known to the English, 597-1066. Well actually not just “a” copy: the fly paper tells me it used to belong to R.H. Rouse, the famous UCLA historian and part of the great team with M.A. Rouse, who did such wonderful work as Manuscripts and their Makers.

Books Known to the English is an intensely learned volume. It catalogues all books that either are known from early medieval English manuscripts, library catalogues, or fonds, or can be assumed to have been known due to their quotation, citation, or near-direct influence in works written by early medieval English writers. It is the result of years of careful, painstaking, old fashioned (in the good sense) scholarship. Indeed, in Ogilvy’s case, scholarship that goes all the way back to his thesis in the 1930s, when he first wrote what became Books known to Anglo-Latin Writers : Books Known to the English is a revision and expansion of that earlier work, written 25 years later.

But it was the second half of the last paragraph that really stuck out to me:

Finally, I should like, however belatedly, to acknowledge the kindness of the late M.L.W. Laistner, who, when he discovered that I was working on a book dealing in part with Bede, sent me a pre-publication copy of his “Bede’s Library.” Unfortunately, it reached me when my book was so near publication that all I could manage was a brief and, I fear, distinctly ungracious addendum slip. (A young scholar who discovers that a good part of his first serious effort at publication has been paralleled by an older and much abler scholar is not likely to be delighted by the discovery.) As youthful pique wore off, however, I was more and more impressed by the graciousness of Professor Laistner’s action, and I am glad of this opportunity, belated though it is, to acknowledge his kindness. Noth only “Bede’s Library,” but a number of his other writings have been among my most useful sources. (xix; emphasis added)

Been there. Done that. But never acknowledged it as gracefully!



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