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!