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Don Buchanan



Why the Issue Was Delayed

There are many factors responsible for the delay in publication of volume 24 of ESOP. Previously, Dr. Fell, with the aid of his wife, René, was totally focussed on ESOP, to the exclusion of everything else. He was able to turn out a volume most years, since he wrote many of the articles himself. In addition to professionals, there were substantial contributions by amateur enthusiasts. This was a strength of ESOP because some of these findings were remarkable, and there was no other practical venue in which to disseminate them. Whenever the work or its presentation did not measure up to professional standards, ESOP and the Society were criticized appropriately. When Barry Fell died, Norman Totten, Jon Polansky and I, along with others, stepped in to keep the Epigraphic Society alive. It was and is our dream not only to maintain the Society, but to improve it.

As is natural in such circumstances, there was some disagreement among the original board members as to how to achieve these goals. Some wanted to focus the Society’s efforts on establishing a library, although our funding was inadequate for that task. We knew that Barry regarded the core of the Society to be ESOP. In other words, the main role of the Society was to produce a journal. We knew that getting out the publication had to come first, and we finally arrived at a board which had that as a goal.

The next problem that arose was the fact that none of us is exclusively focussed on epigraphy, as Barry was. We have health problems, family problems, professional obligations, and all the rest of the baggage that everyone else has. In recent years the Epigraphic Society Occasional Papers became more "occasional" than we wanted. The Society was understaffed, all-volunteer, and under-funded. I now wear three Society hats at one time: Secretary, Treasurer, and Editor. Steve Jett and other board members will step in as Co-editors of future issues of ESOP. We are fortunate to have two trained archivists, Chandler and Fell, to deal with our library materials. Chandler will also serve as one of our webmasters (right now, I am the other one). We badly need more --and younger-- Board members to take over the load (frankly, I'm getting a bit long in the tooth). After a series of unfortunate setbacks, Volume 24 is here before you. Volume 25 is in the planning stageis planned and hopefully can be available a year after Volume 24, consistent with our goal to make ESOP less "occasional."

Our goal for ESOP is to achieve a publication which welcomes qualifying work by amateurs and professionals alike. This further develops Barry’s goal for the publication and addresses certain criticisms by those who are upset by the findings recorded: namely, that Dr. Fell and others have not been rigorous enough in methodology and attention to detail. Thus we are attempting, insofar as possible, to have published articles reviewed by knowledgeable people, requesting authors to make revisions where necessary. All this takes time. In contrast, Barry often reviewed the articles he published without approaching outside scholarship and, although he was certainly knowledgable, this did little to respond to the objections of the critics.

Also, as has been pointed out, Barry was not always right. None of us is. We need to acknowledge that fact. Where we can, we need to recognize what he did that was right and/or made a substantial contribution; and not be afraid to admit where he was wrong. As an example, note the article on the 6-Month Inscription from Anubis Cave in this issue. Barry pioneered, for the most part correctly, that decipherment; but it has been possible to further improve on his work. Again, on one famous Iberic inscription, I know that he read it backwards and across the puncts (like reading a word across a period) —but I wouldn’t have had the knowledge to know this in the first place if he had not inspired me to undertake the study of Iberic. We hope to deal with other examples in future articles, to set the record as straight as is possible based on current scholarship. And, where current scholarship is incorrect, we should not be afraid to say so. It should be understood that Barry himself never really minded if you pointed out an error, so long as you could prove it (naturally he fought like a bull terrier for his position). He was always, in the final analysis, able to face up to an error.

We in the Epigraphic Society should emulate Barry by displaying a similar level of intellectual courage. Some of us, beleaguered by what appears to be unfair criticism, have adopted a defensive "siege" mentality, and cannot bear to have Barry’s work (or our own) challenged at all. To be successful in our intellectual quest, and to be faithful to Barry’s vision, we must beware of this attitude. Barry’s greatest gift to us was his ability to make us think. To challenge previous notions. We need to continue that practice.

All three of us, Norman, Jon, and I, have had to deal with health issues in recent years. I am now a diabetic and spending far too much time with doctors and health regimens than I would like. Jon and Norman have had their own major difficulties. This has without doubt hindered our activities.

Producing a scholarly journal is not easy and it is expensive. We had a very heavy outlay when we published Volume 23 in November 1998. This was compounded by expenses relative to establishing the Society website (that site has now undergone updating and a thorough reconstruction). Therefore, we look forward to a period of relative calm in the business of the Society, and to more regular publication of ESOP. Board Member Steve Jett, has recently established an independent publication, PreColumbiana, which we unanimously and enthusiastically regard as an important contribution to the process. This effort on Steve’s part provides an alternative to ESOP for getting research findings before our colleagues and the public. Other individuals, annoyed with the "occasional" release of ESOP, have sought to establish their own projects, websites, and other activities related to epigraphy. Provided these activities do not legally infringe on Epigraphic Society materials, if done correctly, they can only increase the health of epigraphic studies across the board. For our part, we carry on towards our goal, to provide a respected vehicle for the exchange of carefully acquired information about epigraphy and epigraphic sites and findings. We believe this is consistent with Barry’s vision for the Society, and we look forward to making it a reality. It is a privilege to follow in his footprints.

Donal B. Buchanan,Secy, The Epigraphic Society, Editor, ESOP


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