Loebs to be Digitized!

Excerpt of an item from Inside Higher Education (in medias res) … the Thomas mentioned is Richard Thomas (and for the record, I don’t buy the confusion about ‘fortune favours the bold’ at the beginning):

But Thomas and his fellow trustees of the Loeb Classical Library — a 515-volume series of essential Latin and Greek texts with their English translations — are hoping to make things a little easier for non-classicists to mine the literature of the ancients. Along with the Harvard University Press, which publishes Loeb’s compact, colorful print volumes, the Loeb trustees recently announced that they are preparing to convert the Loeb series to a digital format that would allow any authorized user to search the English translations of the Loeb works for specific words, ideas, and phrases. Libraries would buy licenses to provide students and other authorized users access to the digital Loeb, which is expected to go live in 2013. (The Harvard press will continue selling the print versions.)

The goal of the digital iteration of Loeb, say several academics involved with the project, is to allow students, scholars, and others to draw out themes from ancient literature even if they don’t know where to look and don’t speak the languages. A religion scholar who wants to learn more about Greek and Roman conceptions of the soul would be able to search the entire body of ancient literature for soul references, says Thomas. The scholar could also refine a search for references to the soul by specific authors or time periods, he says.

Being able to search within the confines of the ancient canon will give users more breadth than searching digitized versions of individual texts while allowing them to avoid the detritus that tends to accumulate in searches of less well-defined vaults, says Thomas. A general Web search of “Homer” and “soul” might turn up some relevant material, he says, but “I would probably get Homer Simpson and soul music.” Google Book Search, meanwhile, turns up a slew of secondary literature.

The forthcoming Loeb digital library will not be the first digital database devoted to the classics. For a field that deals in old forms and dead tongues, the classics adjusted to the medium rather nimbly. Projects such as the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae and the Perseus Project already provide digital versions of ancient texts. But those projects focus primarily on the original language, and do not always include translations. This is fantastic for classicists, says Thomas, but not so good for everyone else.

… now if only we can get them to put some of these things in some sort of eBook format …

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