Process for preparing Patristic Reader texts

I’m not sure I’ve written about this before, but here’s how I prepare a text for a patristic reader (and if I plan to teach it closely).

Step 1: I obtain a clean, digitised version of the text. Depending on the text, that changes where and how I try to obtain it. Basically, I want a version without any copyright claims on it. Personally, I don’t think copyright inheres in edited or critical editions anyway, but I don’t have the legal resources to test that kind of claim in a court. So, open texts it is.

Step 2: If I can’t get a digital copy of an open text, I’ll use a text with claims on it, and re-edit it based of an open text. Texts are copyrightable, not origins, so conforming it to a rights-free edition removes any legal issues. Usually this means a PG or PL version. Thanks Migne, you were a hero in your own way.

Step 3: I alphabetise the base text. I then open up two files: the alphabetised base text, and a “Master Patristics Vocab file”. The latter has every word I’ve written a vocab entry for in previous texts. The current Greek file has 1911 entries. I then work through the base text file and (a) cut and paste entries for which I’ve already got data, (b) analyse any words that don’t have entries, (c) compile frequency numbers as I go, (d) note any words that are morphologically ambiguous. At the end of this, I revisit (d) words and look at them in context. Resolving (d) words is usually much easier for Greek than Latin.

Occasionally there are (e)-class words: words that aren’t easily analysed/parsed. For these I will find them in context in the text, look at a translation, run a parsing program, and then try every parsing-trick that I know. Usually I can resolve them, but some are tricky little suckers. Those are the cases where you need to undo some unusual vowel contractions/formations and run guess versions of a lexical form through a couple of dictionaries. Sometimes it’s a fairly unique or neologistic word that you need to backwards derive. That’s always fun.

Step 4: Once this is done I have a master vocab list for the individual text. I then open up the clean base text file again, as well as a template document for the reader’s edition. I work a page at a time, copy and paste 10 lines of text into the template, mark the cut-off point in the base text, and then work on that page.

Step 5: for an individual page, I work through these steps:

(a) alphabetise the vocab and cut and paste entries out of this document’s vocabulary file, thus producing a vocab list for this page. I eliminate high frequency vocab.
(b) I work through the text, producing a translation of my own. If a pre-existing translation exists, I’ll leverage that for speed of comprehension.
(c) make notes on any grammar I think is interesting or difficult
(d) tidy up the page and move on.

Step 6:
Each page is on average 90-100 words. It takes 20-30 mins to work through a page, depending on complexity and issues. So it’s not a fast process to produce a full text. But it does get me up close and personal with a text. At the end of all the pages, I go through and convert them all to pdf, and compile into a single file. I then add front material (introduction) and end material (vocab lists).

And that’s pretty much it. That’s how I produce a patristic reader text.

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