We went live this week with the digital Loeb Classical Library, a platform representing only the most recent in a line of many technological upgrades survived by “the beauty and learning, the philosophy and wit of the great writers of ancient Greece and Rome.” Loeb Classical Library General Editor Jeffrey Henderson introduces the site in the exchange below.
Q: What inspired the creation of the digital Loeb Classical Library, and what needs does it seek to meet?
When he introduced the LCL in 1912 James Loeb wrote, “means must be found to place these treasures within the reach of all who care for the finer things of life,” and in the 21st century that means online as well as print. We wanted to assure that the LCL made that transition as soon as it was technologically feasible and in a form befitting the elegance of the iconic print volumes. The digital LCL meets needs thinkable only in this form: not merely another format for reading a given volume but for having the whole Library, a wallful of volumes, on any connected device anywhere, all the Latin, Greek, and English easily searchable, with a personal online workspace for storing, sharing, and teaching.
Q: How long has it taken to create the digital Loeb Classical Library? What have you and your colleagues learned along the way?
Five years. We’ve learned a lot: machines can reveal many things we take for granted after a couple of millennia using books with pages, for example we needed a new unicode font that would look good online and in print, and to determine what characters it should have—which ones are in the Library now and which are we likely to need in the future? how we would represent footnotes, marginal notes, textual variants; how we could navigate the works themselves, since each has its own internal reference system; and who knew that the LCL has over 300 different style sheets!
Q: What is the relationship between the more than 500 print Loeb Classical Library volumes and the DLCL?
The content is exactly the same and the two formats will stay in sync, so you can sit and read a volume either way: the difference is that the DLCL has all the volumes together and fully searchable at once, anywhere the internet is available.
Q: How do you foresee the site being used, and by whom? What kinds of responses have you received to previews of the site?
As ever, by anyone who wants access to classical texts—scholars, teachers, students, general readers—but now it will be much easier to explore and discover all that this vast collection has to offer, and to share and study it. For instance, a philosopher could instantly find out where any classical author used a term or discussed a subject and have the translation right there if needed—a laborious and lengthy project by conventional methods, and you might not even think to look in a text you didn’t know about. But it will be interesting to see what users do with the DLCL: there’s nothing else like it to go by. Previewers are surprised by its elegance.
Q: Will the digital Loeb Classical Library change the way you teach?
Absolutely: building course-packs will be a snap, students can easily be referred to (or challenged to discover) readings without having to buy the texts or go to the library, and searching the classical corpus can be done in new ways even by inexperienced students.
Q: What would James Loeb think of the digital Loeb Classical Library?
He would be delighted about the new format and utility of the Library: he personally designed the size of the volumes so that each would “fit in a coat pocket” and now all 520-plus (and counting) volumes in the Library will fit there!
Digital Loeb Classical Library access plans are available to both individuals and institutions. Learn how to subscribe at www.loebclassics.com.