Translating and Publishing Christian
Classics from the East in 1700s London
In 1791, many years after the death of Philip Ludwell in 1767, the Russian Ambassador in London wrote to his brother in St Petersburg that Ludwell “took it into his head to read in the original all the Fathers of the Church and become convinced that our religion was the only true one.” Whilst there is much more to be said of the story that lies behind Ludwell’s embrace of the Greek Church, his reading matter was clearly a very important component.
Ludwell not only read about the Greek Church: he also wrote and published about it. In 1762 his translation of “The Orthodox Confession” of Metropolitan Peter (Moghila) of Kiev was published in London, with a preface by Ludwell.
At some point, probably in the late 1750s, he embarked upon the translation from Greek of the three most commonly used forms of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy as well as other services and prayers. These have come down to us in handwritten manuscripts. In recent years, Ludwell’s translation of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts – an ancient Lenten liturgy that is still widely used in the Eastern Orthodox Church – has been transcribed, prepared for use with a deacon, and published for liturgical use.
To date we have been able to locate copies of books and manuscripts owned, translated, or authored by Philip Ludwell in a number of locations throughout Britain and America, from Oxford to London and Virginia to Texas. Our goal is to make one central collection of these texts, including both original documents purchased or loaned from their current holders, together with digital copies, for the benefit of further study and research. We also need to employ the services of handwriting specialists and modern technology to further determine the provenance of some of these works and their journey across time to the present day.