The other morning I happened to finish reading a relatively recent translation of The Encheiridion by Epictetus (well, via Arrian), which is a text I almost always find to be a tonic (if not taken in excess). In addition to soothing my temper, though, the present reading also left me somewhat unsettled, not with the text and its ideas, but with the little book itself. Its intended market (i.e., why in fact it was published in its present manner) was not entirely clear to me: in design – veneered erudition or self-help for the board/bored room1 – it appears like the sort of thing one might include in an office white elephant exchange, but given its content, that would be an impressive level of snark from either a boss (‘Your job is to put on a splendid performance in the role you have been given, but selecting the role is the job of someone else’ ) or an employee (‘it is enough if each person performs his own job’ ). It is also not informative enough for a textbook, nor sufficiently grounded for the general reader. As one blurb sagely observes: ‘There really isn’t anything else out there quite like this book.’
There were numerous places (beyond that included on the erratum) where the value of and need for a proofreader were apparent. The inclusion of the Greek text (the same as that used in the Loeb) was particularly perplexing (again, for whom is this book intended?) and led to several infelicities of design (blank pages, awkward white space for the translation to catch up, etc.). It feels odd to comment on such things, however, when Epictetus would advise that they are not under the reader’s control and therefore not something about which a reader should feel disquiet: say rather that the principles of typographic elegance have been returned, and the skills of the proofreader called back to their maker (cf.).
- Part of the ‘Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers’ series. [↩]