Some Letters of H. B. Swete – Part II

In my last post I mentioned that some of my research has taken me into the exploration of some late-19th century letter correspondence of the iconic Septuagint scholar Henry B. Swete.* The University of Cambridge Library has a special archive search system that allows you to explore the (quite extensive) collection for perusal in the manuscripts room (pictured right). This is at once a terrific resource and a real temptation, since there is an ocean of interesting things waiting to be dusted off and read.

Swete’s Reply

I’ve been giving in to the temptation somewhat recently as I’ve been reading through most of Swete’s mail and wandering off into interesting subjects not directly relevant to what I’m actually looking for. Oh well.

In the first post, I provided photographs and a transcription of a letter dated to 1883 from Edward Atkinson, then master of Clare and (I assume) member of the Syndics of Cambridge University Press. Atkinson writes to ask Swete if he is interested in taking over the editorship of a “smaller” edition of the Septuagint. As you can read below, Swete accepted – much to the benefit of the next century of scholarship – and went on to produce a critical text based on the main codices.

Letter Transcription

Again, I have transcribed each page, with the symbol | indicating a line break. The images have been enhanced for clarity, and can be clicked on and enlarged. I’ve also taken the liberty to include relevant links. If you think I’ve gotten something wrong – or can decipher some of what I have left as [?] lacunae – please say so in the comments below!



Ashdon Rectory
Linton, Cambs
Feb. 15, 1883

My dear Master of Clare,

Allow me to thank you | for conveying to me in so kind | a manner the proposal of the | Press Syndicate.

I do not know any work | in which I should prefer to be | engaged, and I am sincerely | grateful to the Syndicate for | having offered it to me. My | first impression was that with








so slight a knowledge \of the subject/, I ought | not to venture upon such a field; | but this feeling has been | modified by the prospect of | there being no lack of conditions[?] | to undertake particular portions | of the work, and by the pro-|posed appointment of a Subsyn-|dicate charged with the super-|vision of the whole. There is | however another difficulty which | must be stated. My time is at | present very fully occupied; and





before I could enter upon the | preparation of the preliminary | imprint, it would be necessary | to fulfil one or two existing | engagements, and to obtain the | assistance of a Curate. These | arrangements might possibly | take three months to complete.

If the Syndics of the Press | do not consider this delay to be | objectionable, I will gladly | accept their offer; and upon | hearing from you again, or | from Mr [C. J.] Clay, I will at once | take steps to secure the






necessary leisure.

Believe me,
my dear Master,
Yours very sincerely,

H. B. Swete

The Rev.

The Master of Clare College







Next Up

It is hard not to be amused at Swete’s humility, but there is a lesson there for all of us.

There is a boatload of Swete’s correspondence that I’m sorting through, and I will likely post more of it here in the future. Next, however I’ll be posting a letter written by a different Henry, namely Henry A. Redpath.


* I will repeat that I have not looked too diligently into whether I am permitted to share these images publically. If you are someone in charge of such things and wish me to take them down, do let me know at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.