“How Soon Will It Be Published?”
“How soon will it be published?” “Does it really date from the century?” “Does the collection own it?” Those questions (or variations of them) are among the most often-asked questions I’ve received since stepping into the position of Executive Director of the Green Scholars Initiative (GSI)—and more than one “it” has been the focus of the questions.
With regard to any ancient artifact, answering questions such as these requires one to balance several complementary and sometimes competing interests. These interests include the need: (1) to acknowledge the privacy and ownership rights of the owner of the artifact; (2) to minimize distractions for the researcher investigating the artifact; and (3) to satisfy the legitimate curiosity of the scholarly community and other public audiences. Owners, for example, may have good reasons for not wanting to publicize their ownership of an artifact; scholars working on an item often prefer not to be distracted by a seemingly endless series of e-mail questions and statements; and scholars and non-scholars alike have an understandable desire to learn as much as possible as soon as possible about new discoveries or findings. In some respects, all of these interests simply reflect various aspects of our common human nature.
Opinions about how best to balance these different interests can and will differ. In the present circumstances, which for me include stepping into matters “mid-stream,” as it were, I would like to offer the following comments, which represent my attempt to balance the competing interests:
- Artifacts of various sorts have been assigned to GSI scholars, who will, under the supervision of experienced editors, investigate and prepare them for publication. These artifacts include jar handles, inscribed bowls, DSS fragments, and a variety of Greek papyri, both documentary and literary (including, but not limited to, fragments of the LXX, gospels, epistles, and patristic writings).
- For every item published under the auspices of GSI, the goal will be to give, as part of the initial publication, as much detail as necessary regarding (a) provenance, both ancient and modern (subject, of course, to any legal restrictions attached to the terms of purchase); (b) authenticity; and (c) date—along with, of course, all the other information that usually accompanies such publications.
- Items will be published in the order that they become ready for publication—a status that is difficult to predict. (Some items, for example, are easily identified, while the identity of others can be difficult to determine. For example, the presence of canonical material in a fragment does not necessarily mean it is a copy of a canonical document; it could be a citation that is part of a patristic homily or sermon. Some items are easily read, while others require special photographic or other treatment to reveal the writing, etc., etc.) GSI will seek to move items to publication as quickly as possible—but not at the expense of dealing with critical issues as fully as necessary.
In many respects, the above comments reflect a continuation of traditional scholarly practice and procedure: publication of the editio princeps marks the beginning of the public discussion of an artifact. Such an approach allows the researcher(s) an opportunity to make full and carefully considered judgments and to share fully the reasons and evidence upon which those judgments are based—a foundation, as it were, for any ensuing public discussion.
In the age of the Internet, this traditional approach stands at odds with the ethos and speed of the Internet, and it is no doubt time to explore other ways of publishing or sharing the results of the investigation and research of artifacts. Others perhaps have already started such discussions, which I would be very glad to learn from. But in the meantime, the above comments represent my attempt to balance the competing interests.