Spare change, anyone?
Hi all, welcome to the blog.
I love writing. The trouble is, writing about Late Antiquity is only just becoming ‘acceptable’. Even twenty years ago there were few writers who were interested in the period, thanks in large part to the dearth of reliable sources and the focus on the Early Empire. As a result, the period was seen as a ‘minority’ subject and so textbooks and sources were extremely difficult to find.
Things are improving fast. More writers have turned their attention to Late Antiquity, so interest is growing. As an added benefit, the new books are easily obtainable and relatively inexpensive. But that doesn’t change one pertinent fact: many of the translations and commentaries on the sources were produced in limited quantities in the mid-twentieth century and are both rare and expensive. Even new ‘textbooks’ can still be costly. For example, to write my next book I need ‘Failure of Empire: Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D.’ and ‘The History of Zonaras’: combined cost over £100.
For an established author, things aren’t too bad. They can buy expensive books knowing that they are going to be used again and again. Their cost is spread over the production of several books and justifies their acquisition. For a new author, things are different. It would be quite easy to spend several times my income on books which are relevant to my work. To put it simply, I can’t afford it. So I take on copyediting and map-making jobs to pay for my research. To be fair, I also enjoy doing them.
Up until recently I have relied on the local library for help, and they have done a fantastic job of finding books which they couldn’t even pronounce. Due to government cutbacks and incentives, the cost of inter-library loans has gone up and continues to rise. So, you borrow a book and take notes, then return the book only to find that you missed one note. With books such as ‘The Theodosian Code’, this is all too easy. Add the time it takes for the book to arrive and there’s a problem.
Thankfully, Pen and Sword have given me contracts for two more books. As a result, I’ve started to enlarge my collection. ‘The Theodosian Code’ is now part of my library: I use it too much to have to keep borrowing it. Other books which I know I’ll need for future projects are now on my wish list.
For any multi-millionaires reading this, my birthday’s in June and I can easily send you a list of books I need!