Christmas in May!

What follows is I’m sure one of the dorkiest things I’ll ever write. If you don’t mind, keep reading.

As I drove to the library today, I drove with a purpose. You see, last night I received word that one of my Interlibrary Loan (ILL) items had arrived. I request quite a bit through ILL, not because Marquette’s library is somehow deficient, but because the nature of my work is such that not many people are interested in it. Anyway, because I request a lot through ILL, I generally don’t even check to see what is waiting for me at the front desk. Last night, however, I caught a glimpse of which request had been fulfilled:

“The Greek Manuscript Tradition of the Protevangelium Jacobi,” a dissertation completed at Duke University in 1956 by Boyd Lee Daniels.

Here it is, in all its glory:

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I have been trying to get my hands on this thing for close to two years, and for whatever reason, my requests were continually denied. I imagine I would have had an easier time talking my way into the Pope’s personal library at the Vatican (you know, the place he keeps all the “secret books”). Needless to say, I didn’t sleep too well last night knowing that this baby was waiting for me.

Here’s where things really get dorky.

This 1,000-page dissertation is essentially a catalogue of nearly all the manuscripts known to contain a copy of the Protevangelium. I say “nearly all,” because it is not exhaustive. The remaining manuscripts were catalogued thirty years later by another Duke scholar, George Zervos (whose dissertation is also quite hefty). To my knowledge, there is only one hard copy of this thing in the world, and it is at Duke.

Why, you ask, is it necessary for me to have such a book in my possession? Well, the answer is simple. To date, no critical edition of the Protevangelium Jacobi has been produced. There are rumblings that one (or two) are in the works, but then again there have been rumblings for ten years. In the meantime, those of us interested in studying it must resort to doing some of the text-critical work ourselves.

The downside of all this, of course, is that the copy I received is on microfilm. I am lucky on one count and unlucky on another. I am lucky in that Marquette has a scanner that can transform microfilm to .pdf — slowly, page by page. I am unlucky in that I will have some free time next week.

Anyway, it would be remiss of me to not thank the ILL department at the Marquette Library. You have made one big dork extremely happy!

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