Finishing things: Bevan’s House of Ptolemy

I like to think that there are 114 books on my site (62 primary ancient sources or authors, 29 modern works on the Old World, 23 works on American history — yes, a large American history site too); but it’s only partly true. Not that I’ve gone and cheated: if I count the 31 pages of Ampelius as one book, I also count the 3000+ pages of Diodorus, or the complete works of Claudian, each as only one book, or the 5 volumes of Gayarré’s History of Louisiana together as just one, so that concern balances out pretty much.

But not all those books are complete. One of them (Ptolemy’s Geography in the Stevenson “translation”) is actually abandoned, as intractably bad: I should never have started it in the first place; and some few are still in progress and not announced or much linked to (like the Annals of Tacitus, or Henry Adams’ History of the United States during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson). Quite a few, however, are not “quite” finished. Usually, it’s detailed proofreading — a dull, thankless chore — but sometimes it’s images that need to be scanned, or an index completed, or a combination of things like that.

Edwyn R. Bevan’s House of Ptolemy used to be one of these unfinished items; now it’s done. (Well … see below!) It is, in the words of its subtitle, A History of Hellenistic Egypt under the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Published in 1927, it is, of course, like most of what copyright law allows us to read online, superseded; but it’s very readable, and good enough that only in its finer points are we omniscient moderns likely to quibble with it: it’s therefore a useful introduction to its subject. Not my fault that the photographic illustrations in the 1968 facsimile edition I worked from are dark and pasty; so for now, no illustrations — fortunately, not essential to the text, although not merely decorative either — and I’ll have to find an original edition to get good scans from. Drat; not “finished” after all.

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