CJ Online Review: Bérard et al., Guide de l’épigraphiste

posted with permission:

François Bérard, Denis Feissel, Nicolas Laubry, Pierre Petitmengin, Denis Rousset, Michel Sève, et al., Guide de l’épigraphiste: Bibliographie choisie des épigraphies antiques et médiévales. 4th Edition. Paris: Rue d’Ulm, 2010. Pp. 448. Paper, €30.00. ISBN 978-2-7288-0443-6.

Reviewed by Gil Renberg, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

The fourth edition of the Guide de l’épigraphiste, appearing a decade after the last edition in 2000 and a quarter-century after the first edition, is an even more valuable reference tool, since in addition to its inclusion of ten years’ worth of new bibliography it also includes older works that were omitted from the third edition. The new Guide presents 2975 entries, and overall the work has grown by nearly 400 entries, with obsolete studies having been removed in addition to new ones having been included. The Guide is particularly useful for those engaging in epigraphical research due to its nearly comprehensive geographical listing of corpora and other works in which Greek and Latin inscriptions are edited or presented, but the part that is arranged thematically will be useful to all ancient historians as well as scholars in a number of related fields. Thus despite its title it is not a work from which only epigraphers can benefit, but rather one for all manner of ancient historians, classicists, historical linguists, archaeologists, art historians, and numismatists, among others.

Roughly 900 of the entries comprise the geographical survey, which for every political and geographical region begins with the primary corpus (usually part of Inscriptiones Graecae or the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum) and then provides references for secondary corpora (e.g., corpora devoted to sub-regions, individual cities, or museum collections), journal articles in which epigraphical materials not yet included in corpora have appeared, and other pertinent publications limited to that area. The result is that for any region or urban area in the whole of the Latin West and Greek East as well as more distant lands in which the presence of the Greeks or Romans is epigraphically attested (e.g., Afghanistan, Armenia, Nubia) one can immediately find the most important work or works devoted to the Greek and Latin inscriptions found there. The chronological span of this survey is likewise broad, extending to 1453 C.E. for Greek inscriptions and the beginning of the Merovingian era for Latin inscriptions. A later chapter for “Épigraphies périphériques,” featuring just under 700 entries, serves as a complement, surveying epigraphical sources for the languages of the different civilizations that preceded, interacted with, or were ruled by the Greeks and Romans (e.g., Celtic, Coptic, Etruscan, Lycian, Minoan and Mycenaean, Semitic). The Guide also provides extensive coverage of thematic works devoted to the major areas of ancient studies, including diplomatic and political history, literature, economics and domestic economy, military affairs, law and governmental institutions, architecture, sculpture, athletics and spectacles, and religion. Several shorter chapters are devoted to basic works and studies that are important primarily for scholars engaged in epigraphical work: introductions and handbooks; volumes of select inscriptions; reference tools covering chronology, prosopography, paleography, onomastics, and other subjects that are frequently pertinent to the study of individual texts; collections of reprinted articles by prominent epigraphers; and so on. While the main audience for the book is scholars who are actively engaged in epigraphical research, the bibliographical surveys that are not specifically epigraphical will make the Guide prove useful to a much broader scholarly community.

The book is designed to be a straightforward reference tool, and the authors have succeeded in this goal. The arrangement in terms of chapters and sections is logical and intuitive, and the three indexes (author, geography, subject) are thorough and helpful. Moreover, though annotation is relatively sparse it is usually essential, providing information about a work’s scope if that is not obvious from the title, as well as pertinent bibliography such as book reviews or supplementary studies. Among the most valuable contributions of the Guide, however, is one not to be found within its pages: the team that produces it uses the internet to disseminate a “Supplement” each year in which they present entries for all of the new works as well as some previously overlooked. These are available at the book’s main webpage, http://www.antiquite.ens.fr/ressources/publications-aux-p-e-n-s/guide-de-l-epigraphiste/article/overview. (This URL is for the English version of the website; a link to the otherwise identical French webpage can be found there.) Thus instead of waiting a decade for the next edition, scholars need wait no longer than a year for the Guide to be updated. The Guide’s website also provides other useful materials, including a concordance between the 3rd and 4th editions (http://www.antiquite.ens.fr/IMG/file/pdf_guide_epi/concordance_3_4.pdf) and a file with links to all of the websites covered in the Guide (http://www.antiquite.ens.fr/IMG/file/pdf_guide_epi/sites_www_guide_4.pdf).

Overall, the Guide continues to be among the most fundamental tools for scholars at any stage of a research project involving Greek or Latin epigraphical sources, as well as one of the best sources of bibliography for those engaging in the study of the ancient world.

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