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Loeb Classical Library

This. This has got my inner bibliophile excited once again.

I’ve been a bit of a late-starter on really getting to grips with the classical world. My education went down the scientific route for the most part and, aside from your usual Homer and Ovid, never really dabbled much with classical writings.

This has all changed with my recent obsession with classical history, of course, and it’s been a very nice experience in choosing a new section of a bookstore to get my teeth into.

So, when perusing such a section in Blackwells in London, I stumbled across the Loeb Classical Library, which:

gives access to all that is important in Greek and Latin literature. Epic and lyric poetry; tragedy and comedy; history, travel, philosophy, and oratory; the great medical writers and mathematicians; those Church fathers who made particular use of pagan culture—in short, our entire classical heritage is represented here in convenient and well-printed pocket volumes in which an up-to-date text and accurate and literate English translation face each other page by page

I’ve bought number 58, Marcus Aurelius, and there are quite a few texts to go, too. I don’t think anyone outside of an academic institution would ever have a full set. The books are a little on the pricey side for a classic: the cheapest I’ve found them is at Blackwells, where they retail at £12.50 each (or, bizarrely, 2 for £25). So these books are the sort where you can add a couple now and then, one a month, or perhaps binge on your birthday.

Still, it’s nice to dream that one day I will have a library full of them.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

4 replies on “Loeb Classical Library”

I’m looking right now at the approx. 30 vols of Loeb I own — wonderful books: useful in terms of content, but also well designed, a good size. I even like the colour coding.

When I was doing my degree, and then my PhD (English/Classics, both) I used a lot of Loeb. One of the features of the old (ie original) iteration of the series that I loved, although it was rather frustrating, was that the green Loebs would translate the Greek text (on the left) into English (on the right) except when the editor considered the Greek material was in some way indecent.  In that case — quite often with some of the authors I was working on: Aristophanes for example — he would translate it on the left hand page into Latin. The assumption presumably being that if you were educated enough to understand the Latin, you were beyond being depraved and corrupted by the Greek.  The newer versions of Loeb no longer do this, of course.

I was always under the impression that many Romans found Greek text to be more desirable, aspirational (and generally non-plebian); or that the good philosophy came from Greece, hence wrote in that language. Was there snobbery to be found among translators? 

Alas, our school never taught Latin. The grammar school I attended had a little Anglo Saxon, but no Latin. Maybe learning Latin can be my challenge for 2012. 

Egad. I studied Latin after failing French (my logic: you don’t speak it, so it is only half the work). It is an amazing and ridiculous language and I’m still nervous that someone will stumble on my hideous test scores and repossess my degree. I tried hoarding a few Loebs at the time, but they all went when I left Chicago. Big fan of Penguin Classics though – also very pretty books, but they don’t make me feel quite as inadequate.

I’m useless at languages in general, I fear, so perhaps my efforts next year to learn Latin will be as good as yours. The thing is with the Penguin Classics is that they don’t look quite as splendid on the book shelf, and tend to get battered rather quickly. 

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