How to Decipher a Jacoby FGrH Citation

November 11, 2014

TL;DR Version (skip to the long version if you like storytelling and don’t want spoilers):

For a given Jacoby citation in the format (example) 3F11, parse as follows:

  • 3 is the author number. Each author has a unique number. There is an author index in the original print set, in volume III, part C, pp. 947-64, if you know the author’s name but not the number. The authors appear in the print volumes in numerical order (depending on your binding, the author numbers in a given book may well be printed on the spine. Author 3 is in the very first book in the set, natch, following authors 1 and 2.)
  • F is for fragment; T is for testimonial. Once you find the section on a given author, the fragments appear before the testimonia.
  • 11 is the number of the fragment being cited. These appear in numerical order in the print volumes, so 3F11 will follow 3F10 and precede 3F12.

The Long Version

The origin of this post was a plea by IM from a librarian friend who was staffing the chat reference service at an academic library. A student had the citation “3F11” and the knowledge that this referred to Jacoby’s Fragmente Der Greichischen Historiker (usually abbreviated FGrH, so the student had probably already done some work before turning to a librarian.) My friend was able to tell the student that their institution owned the print volumes (WorldCat), although they did not have access to the digital version available through Brill, and that it was a 15-volume set, but the student really wanted a volume and page number.

My friend was hopeful that F stood for “fascicle” and that 3F11 somehow meant volume 3, fascicle 11, and then some unknown page. Jacoby citations are not that straightforward, though; the work is tricky enough to use that a three-volume freestanding index was published by P. Bonnechere in 1999 (WorldCat).  In his 2000 review at BMCR, J. Marincola explained the difficulties:

… although a masterpiece, FGrHist has never been an easy work to use. Jacoby insisted on a peculiar arrangement by sub-genres of historical writing (as he conceived them). This by itself would have been difficult, but it was then further complicated by a concession to practicality, namely, an arrangement by author rather than by individual work. And yet if an author wrote works in a variety of (Jacoby’s) sub-genres (as many did), he could, nevertheless, appear in only one section. Jacoby seems to have decided what work of the author was most important and then assigned him to the category that best described that work. So, for example, Arrian wrote a Parthika (on Rome’s wars with Parthia from the first century BCE to his own time) and a Bithyniaka (a history of his homeland Bithynia), but he is to be found amongst the historians of Alexander’s Successors — no doubt because his Affairs after Alexander is his most important (i.e., for us) fragmentary work. Before the volumes under consideration here, the only help we have had in using FGrHist has been an alphabetical list of authors at the end of III.C., pp. 947-64 …

If either the student or the librarian had been standing in front of the print volumes, this problem of “what does 3F11 mean?” would have been pretty easy to solve. I found out that 3 was the ‘author number’ via the review of the index quoted above, but if you pulled the first volume off the shelf and flipped through, it would have been reasonably apparent that the volume was organized by numbers assigned to authors, and happily enough, author 3 is in the first volume. I could walk up to the books and start flipping and using logic get to the correct page pretty quickly. (A student might still have been kind of intimidated by the sheer volume of information available, plus the fact that nothing is in English.)

Jacoby FGrH volumes on shelf


Sorry for the blurriness of some of the iPad photos. I seem to have shaky hands. Here’s our fragment!

Jacoby FGrH 3F11

Now, if you did’t have a citation, but knew that you wanted a fragment of Glaukippos, or whoever, you’d turn to the Author Index in the original print set (vol. III part C pp. 947-64) and find out your author’s number, then find the correct volume for that author. So looking at the page below, Glaukippos is author number 363 and is found in vol. III part B.

Author index in III C of Jacoby FGrH

For a more detailed treatment in list form of the sources of the fragments, the Bonnechard index is the right place to look.  Here’s the page on our friend Author 3 (Pherekydes of Athens):

from 1999 index to Jacoby FGrH

My librarian friend’s institution doesn’t subscribe to the digital Brill’s New Jacoby (which is bundled with digital versions of the original Jacoby volumes in Jacoby Online, and which is not yet complete but estimated to be so in 2017) but I was at the University of Cincinnati Library and they do, so I checked it out.  A search for 3F11 netted 5 results (and unfortunately our fragment was last on the result list for some reason).

Search Results 3F11 - Brill Reference 2014-10-07 13-52-55

Here’s the entry for our fragment 3F11, :

Pherekydes of Athens (3) F 11 - Brill Reference 2014-10-07 13-54-58




Resource Review: Digital Loeb Classical Library

October 14, 2014

Recently I spent some time at the the University of Cincinnati Classics Library playing with their trial of the Digital Loeb Classical Library. This new subscription resource became available in mid-September. I’ll start with some commentary and screenshots on how the Digital Loeb works, and follow with some more big picture thoughts.

As a note, there are many older, out-of-copyright Loeb volumes that have been freely available in digitized versions for some time. E. Donnelly’s Downloebables first made them easily findable, and Ryan Baumann’s Loebolus offers an alternative format.  I also recently ran across a fun tumblr blog that collects snippets of some of the antique translations that appear in these older Loebs.

What Digital Loeb Does

When a user arrives at the Digital Loeb site, the search box is prominent, but there are also browse options available at the left.  The user is given the choice of browsing Author, Greek Works, Latin Works, or Loeb Volumes (arranged by number).

Home - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-02-37

Each volume can thus be approached through a table of contents page, which reproduces the print volume’s table of contents, except that each section heading is clickable, and one can also search within the entire volume.

Euripides, Cyclops. Alcestis. Medea - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-19-24

Although I’ve just begun to explore the site, two things have already become clear: the site’s aesthetic is fairly elegant and generally pleasant, and the overall structure of the site very closely replicates the print versions of the Loeb volumes. The site is giving me the clear message that this is a digitized version of the existing Loeb Classical Library, not a re-envisioning of the LCL for an internet environment.

Librarians always skip basic search boxes and go straight to Advanced Search, so I did that. It defaults to a Boolean structure, with two boxes connected by AND but the option to add more boxes, and to change to OR or NOT.  The fields available to search are: Author, Editor/translator, Front and back matter, Main text, Notes, Recto, Verso, Work Title, and DOI (Digital Object Identifier). (I once wrote an intro to DOIs, if you need a refresher on that.)

Advanced Search - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-06-36

Any of the fields can be searched using Greek characters, using a handy pop-up keyboard; this makes searches of the Greek text quite easy. The user can also select a period to limit the search chronologically (only by 100 year intervals, i.e. 600 BC – 500 BC, and note that one cannot select more than 1 period – are authors whose writing lives took place in two different centuries out of luck?)

I did a complicated Boolean search to try to identify a remembered quotation for a friend, and blogged about it last week.

Below are the results of a simple author search for Sophocles. Works display in alphabetical order, and one can ‘facet’ the search (narrow it further) using the left column in results (although in this case the choices are not particularly useful).  The one user experience problem I had using the Digital Loeb happened here – I found it not obvious how to get to the actual text of one of the works in the search results. I first clicked on Show Results Within under the entry and got nothing (since I had done an author search, not searched the text of the works). It turned out I needed to double-click on title of the work to get to the actual text.

Search Results Sophocles - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-08-19

Another aesthetic touch I really liked – the green line on the screenshot above, and the green edge of the digital page of Sophocles’ Antigone below, carrying on the color-coding of the print Loeb volumes.

Once inside a work, the Tools at the bottom of the page allow the user to search for words within that text, again using English or the pop-up Greek keyboard.

SOPHOCLES, Antigone search within- Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-12-16

Below are the results of a ‘search within’ for a specific Greek word.  Note that it seems as though there is not any sophisticated lemma searching going on here – the search engine can only do exact character matches (and ignores accent). So this is useful if you are trying to place a Greek quotation, but not useful if, for example, you wanted to investigate all discussions of “mother” in Antigone – for that, TLG would be the right resource.

Search Results meter in Antigone- Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-13-31

If you want to make these results printer friendly, they are very pleasing-looking. (In general it didn’t seem possible to print more than one page of a text at a time, but I might have missed a way to do this, so please correct me if I’m wrong!) In addition to printing a page/search result/etc., one can save it (to a personal account, discussed in more detail below), email it, or share it on social media.  I tested sending search results to twitter, and they were visible to those not currently subscribed to Digital Loeb (thanks, @s_margheim and @magistrahf!)  It’s also easy to change the font size, a nice touch for those of us quickly approaching ‘reading glasses age’.

Search Results printer friendly - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-14-49

To navigate within a text, the experience very closely replicates paging through the print volume.  One can move forward or back one page at a time using arrows on the page images, or go to a specific page using the box at the top right corner of the screen (see below).  There isn’t, as far as I found, any easy way to jump to a specific line number within the text you’re looking at, however. I wanted to get to line 1060 of Aeschylus’ Suppliants at one point, and found myself guessing what page it would be in the volume by seeing what page I was on and how many lines appeared per page.  It later occurred to me that it would have been faster to ‘search within’ the text for “1060,” but that seems like a silly workaround to have to resort to when navigating by line number is such a fundamental way of interacting with a text (including print Loebs!) Note that the Green “LCL 145” below is hotlinked and will take you to the table of contents for the volume – I probably would not have stumbled across this early on, but instead learned it from the Frequently Asked Questions page at the site.

AESCHYLUS, Suppliants nav to TOC - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 13-08-58

Happily, the footnotes in the texts do take advantage of the digital environment and pop up if one clicks on them:

AESCHYLUS, Suppliants footnotes - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 13-31-21

Several additional features are available to users who sign up to have an account. The only information one is asked for is name, email address, and a password, so presumably one could remain pseudonymous if one wished.  The web site did not mind that I was on guest wifi at the University of Cincinnati and only using a trial of the site; I was able to create a personal account with no trouble, using a gmail address. Account features include creating bookmarks, saving searches, and creating annotations. One simply highlights a word or phrase in the text and can add a note.

AESCHYLUS, Suppliants annotation - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 13-15-17

The ability to share one’s annotations with other account-holders, and especially the ability to create groups with which one can share, makes annotation an excellent teaching tool on a campus with a subscription: all students could be asked to set up accounts, and the instructor could share annotations with the group or ask them to share amongst themselves.

My Loebs - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 13-17-58

What Digital Loeb Does Not Do

The Digital Loeb does not do much if anything to advance the scholarly conversation around digital texts in classics. It’s a closed, subscription resource; as far as I can tell its texts cannot be downloaded for any purpose at all (for example, to do specialized scripted searches looking for patterns in style or content across texts, like Tesserae has done with Perseus texts). It hasn’t got lemma searching (like TLG). It hasn’t got grammatical or dictionary support for students (like Perseus). It’s not in dialogue with developing digital text projects involving multitext, annotation, or commentary (like Homer Multitext, the Digital Latin Library, Arethusa, Dickinson College Commentaries, and many other worthy projects I hope I don’t offend by not mentioning here). Now, was Digital Loeb required to do any of those things? Of course not. But is it appropriate to point out these limitations, and even mourn a lost opportunity? I think so. Interested in reading further commentary on these sorts of issues? See Greg Crane’s long essay from Feb. 2014 on the Digital Loeb in contrast with his vision of Open Philology; and another essay from Sept. 2014 now that Digital Loeb is available.

Should You Subscribe to Digital Loeb?

If you really like it, and you’re an individual, it is available at an individual price of $195 for the first year and $65 for each additional year.  You can figure out for yourself what it might cost to buy a full print set of Loebs and update as new volumes are released – my guess is you come out ahead even if you subscribe as an individual for 20 years! But there’s not any way for an individual to have trial access – you’d need to talk to a librarian, so if you’re not affiliated with an educational institution, that becomes tricky.  (If this is you, I am sure your local public library would be willing to apply for a free trial on your behalf, but I am sure many non-academic people would never think to ask.)

Pricing for institutions more complicated and less transparent, and one is encouraged to email directly for a quote for an individual library (or presumably consortium). Subscription and perpetual access plans are offered, which is nice for those with deep pockets and fatigue with the ‘annual subscription for digital resources’ problem. There is also a note that secondary schools are offered discounts for institutional pricing.  Anecdotally, what I have heard is “it’s expensive.”  What that means is of course highly variable.

If you’re a librarian reading this and pondering what your institution should do, it certainly makes sense to do a trial and beg, bribe, or threaten students (undergrads and graduate students) and faculty to give you feedback. I’d be most interested in hearing from students, plus faculty who teach the languages at the middle levels and/or have a special interest in pedagogy. My guess is a lot of people will like the Digital Loeb – it’s aesthetically pleasing, and easy to use, and lets you put the whole Loeb Library on your computer (maybe even in your hand – I wasn’t able to test it on a iPad, but I see no reason it wouldn’t work, and the effect would basically be an e-book – it’s just the right size for an iPad mini!). For the librarian, the choice is tricky – it’s a pretty product, but we mostly already get and will continue to get the print Loebs. Does the Digital Loeb add much but convenience and ease of finding passages? It doesn’t have lexical or grammatical tools; it does have quality modern translations, which the more digitally sophisticated Perseus or TLG lack. Does the price your institution has been quoted make this a good deal for you, or not?



Solving a Quotation Mystery with Digital Loeb Classical Library

October 8, 2014

I got a message from an old friend – not a classicist – recently:

Many years ago I remember reading a prayer in a Greek tragedy that had a line something like “I’ll be satisfied if my lot is two thirds good.” I believe it was a woman bargaining with the gods during the sacking of Troy. I’m pretty sure it was one of the b-side plays that came in the same book with one of the more famous ones I had to read at [College with a strong classical tradition].

She wondered if it rang a bell to me, as despite intermittent Googling over the years she hadn’t been able to track it down.  I went to Wikipedia for lists of tragedies by the Big Three (Euripides, Sophocles, Aeschylus) and used them to jog my memory for plays that might be set at the sack of Troy.  I skimmed free online translations of Euripides’ Trojan Woman and Hecuba without any luck on day 1.

On day 2, I happened to be at the University of Cincinnati Classics Library playing with their trial of the Digital Loeb Classical Library, and kind of on a whim I constructed an Advanced Search asking for all occurrences of the phrase “two thirds” in the works of the three tragedians. (Boolean searching nerdery alert: Author = Euripides OR author = Sophocles OR author = Aeschylus AND words in text = two thirds.)

Bingo! It’s at the end of Aeschylus’ Suppliants:

Image of Loeb Digital Volume of Aeschylus, Suppliants.

So this serves as your teaser for my in-progress post about the Digital Loeb – and also a reminder of the timelessness of classical literature. As my friend wrote, “It stuck with me because it’s just such a humble and reasonable request.” I, too, hope for a life that’s two-thirds good. (And because I am not currently standing in the ruins of a sacked city, I’m feeling like I’m ahead of the game.)


Update on Google Art Project / World Wonders / Cultural Institute

November 19, 2013

I posted some time ago about Google Art Project, in which Google did a “street view”-like walk through of international museums. They have also done this at archaeological sites, in a set of locations now called Google World Wonders.  Here’s a list of museums and sites relevant to the classical world that now have detailed access through these projects, now collected under the umbrella of Google Cultural Institute:

World Wonders

I may have missed some European cities with Roman-era stuff – there are a lot of “Old City of X” (especially in Spain) and I don’t know my Roman Europe well enough to know all the cities that may have visible architecture (if I’ve missed a doozy, please say so in comments!) There are a LOT more, from multiple parts of the world; if you teach world history or art history at all, it’s well worth a scan for classroom tools. Makes me want to plan some trips!

Art Project museums:

Note that not every display or object in a given museum is included; these are generally selections from the collections. There are 290 museums in total and I haven’t looked at all of them for relevance – there are lots of large city and national museums that probably include a few items from the ancient Mediterranean.  Coverage is thoroughly international, with especially good coverage of Europe, North America, and Asia. Have a look!


L’Annee Philologique – EBSCO Interface

November 1, 2013

Last month an embarrassingly long time ago now that it’s November, I spent a day off work at the  John Miller Burnam Classical Library at the University of Cincinnati, and among the errands I undertook was a look at their trial of the EBSCO interface to L’Annee Philologique.  Following are my notes, keeping in mind I probably only spent an hour or two total with the database, and several things occurred to me afterwards that I did not have the ability to go back and check on. I welcome comments from others who have tested, or adopted, this interface for L’Annee.

Overall they have done a surprisingly good job of translating the quirks of L’Annee into the standard EBSCO format (when I worked at UGA, we subscribed to a large number of EBSCO databases, so I have spent a lot of time with the blue-and-green logo ball).  But for those of us pretty intimately familiar with both, the mashup is kind of weird and takes some getting used to!

The Basics
The Cincinnati trial put the user by default into the “Advanced Search” interface. In my experience, academic libraries usually get to choose where the user lands, and “Advanced Search” is a pretty obvious choice for a complex index like L’Annee.  A major advantage of Advanced Search at EBSCO (and indeed at most database providers) is it nudges the user in the direction of Boolean searching by presenting 3 search boxes.  They are initially connected by “AND” but there is a drop-down menu allowing the user to change to “OR” or “NOT.”

L'Annee in Ebsco interface Advanced Search

The choices of “fields” (indexes) to search from Advanced Search are as follows, with [notes in square brackets] made by me:

  • TX (All Text Fields) [this is the default]
  • TI [title, obviously]
  • AU [author, ditto – modern author]
  • RW (Author, Reviewed by)
  • SU [appears to search all subject headings by keyword, i.e. both of below]
  • DD (Subjects and Disciplines Prior to Vol. 67)
  • DG (Subjects and Disciplines Vol. 67 & After)
  • AB (Abstract)
  • AN (Accession Number) [N.B. these are unique numbers for each citation in the database]
  • AC (Ancient Authors and Texts) [note of course searching “homer” here gets you nothing – more on this below]
  • SA (Archaeological Sites)
  • ED (Editor)
  • GE (Geographic Subject) [What is this searching? “athens” found 2 results – both Athens, GA. ]
  • IS (ISSN)
  • LA (Language)
  • PE (Name of Scholar) [looks like it searches scholar’s name in subjects]
  • NT (Notes) [cannot figure out WHAT this is searching?!]
  • RS (Publication Name, Reviewed By)
  • DT (Publication Date)

Some of these are rather strange or opaque, as my notes indicate. While being able to search all the indexed fields available in a database is nice, in this case the labels on the fields can be misleading or simply perplexing. There are some that seem so obscure they might better have been left out, in my opinion.  Most entry-level searchers may do best to stick to TX, which does a keyword search of the record (equivalent to a “full text” search in the L’Annee native interface).

What is lost here from the native interface of L’Annee is the extremely useful autofill feature for searching (modern) Authors and Ancient Authors and Texts.  In the native interface, if you start typing “hom” in the box when searching Ancient Authors and Texts, you will automatically be directed to a list of possible matches, which usefully demonstrates that “homer” is not indexed but “homerus” is (in L’Annee, all ancient authors and texts are indexed under their latin names.)

The EBSCO interface does attempt to replicate these useful features by allowing the user to browse some of the indexes – accessed by  More -> Indexes.  Browsing the Ancient Authors and Texts index does not include the autofill feature, however, and there’s no “did you mean” feature here, leading to what I call the classic “Juvenal Fail” in L’Annee:

L'Annee in Ebsco interface Ancient Authors search for Juvenal Fails

Imagine how boggled an undergraduate would be by this! And there’s no help text to tell you to try the latin name.  Browsing for a modern author is less likely to result in failure:

L' Annee in Ebsco interface, Browsing the Author Index

One can also browse the Archaeological Site index, which is very useful for archaeologists, once you get over the hurdle that the site names are all exclusively in French and must be browsed by the strict format “country (site name)”.  So my test of “ath” to try to see what Athens was indexed as brought me sites in Austria:

LAnneee in Ebsco interface Browse archaeological site Site test using Ath

One can also browse the two Subjects and Disciplines indexes, and these operate exactly as in the native interface, where one can expand the broad terms by clicking to reach deeper levels of the subject classification.

Good Things
L’Annee in its native interface abbreviates the titles of journals, which only expand when hovered over with the cursor. In the EBSCO interface journal titles are expanded by default, but abbreviations are also included, and can be searched interchangeably with the full titles.  I tested a search for “aja” and found it returned the same results as a search for “american journal of archaeology.” Yay!

Things I Might Change
The EBSCO interface is in English, of course, but subject headings that appear (i.e. in the sidebar to facet a search after it’s been made, and in individual records, see image below) appear in both French and English (duplicates), which I can see as confusing and/or off-putting to undergraduates who are wary of languages they don’t know.  This seems a strange choice – why not simply include the English translations and leave out the French originals?

L'Annee in Ebsco interface - Record

Another EBSCO feature included in this version of L’Annee is the suggestion of alternative search terms when a search returns few/no results, displaying “did you mean…”.  I found this only appeared some of the time – perhaps the less common vocabulary of classics sometimes stumped EBSCO’s recommender – and when it did appear was sometimes useful and sometimes not. (This is not a problem unique to L’Annee – at one point I had a small collection of wildly irrelevant things databases would suggest to me I ‘might have meant’.) Overall, in assessing whether this feature added value or complicated matters, I might well have chosen to leave it off.

Who might consider purchasing L’Annee through EBSCO in addition to the native L’Annee interface, adding L’Annee at EBSCO when they do not subscribe to the native interface, or switching?  Factors will vary at different institutions.  For starters, I have no information about price.  Anecdotally, I heard from one person that the EBSCO interface was more expensive than the native, and from another person, the reverse.  (This is by no means unlikely – pricing for library subscription databases is generally not transparent, and will vary according to the size and classification of the institution as well as local and/or consortial deals involving purchase of multiple products from a given vendor.)

A second question to consider is who uses L’Annee.  In my anecdotal experience, faculty use it occasionally to rarely – they tend to conduct research by bibliographic chaining out from known items, and looking for new publications by scholars whose work they already know.  Graduate students, especially PhD students, are probably the heaviest users, given their need to move from a position of little knowledge on a subject to mastery of it, often including a full historical literature review.  Graduate students also have a minor tendency to become obsessed with bibliographic completeness (raise your hand if this is you.) In my experience, undergraduates are generally slow to be exposed to L’Annee, even those majoring in Classics at top-ranked institutions. They are unlikely to be using it at all unless a librarian or faculty member has both recommended it and taken the time to demonstrate its value. The EBSCO interface might make L’Annee an easier sell for undergraduates – since after all, you can plop “homer” into a keyword search box that looks pretty standard and get (some) results. Grad students and faculty are more likely to resist change, and in my opinion the EBSCO interface doesn’t add anything valuable enough to the native one to be a dealbreaker.

A third question is, does your institution already subscribe to a large number of EBSCO databases, and is your library promoting a unified search of the local catalog and subscription databases (like GIL-Find/Multi-Search at UGA or Summon at Cincinnati)? If you’re already heavily EBSCO, you’ll likely get a better price, and your students will already feel pretty comfortable with the look and feel of EBSCO.  More classics-themed results will be included in a catalog-and-database combined search. That might make switching worth it.

Who else has had a trial of the EBSCO version of L’Annee? What was your evaluation, and what has your institution chosen to do?


Online Continuing Education Class Sequence in XML and RDF

October 22, 2013

If I had a) time and b) money, I would certainly be considering taking the classes for the Certificate in XML and RDF-Based Systems at Library Juice Academy.  It starts next February, and comprises 6 4-week sessions at $175 a pop. It’s taught by Robert Chavez, who has a PhD in Classical Studies and worked at Perseus for 8 years. Course descriptions for each session are available at the link, and they seem pretty hands-on – like you might actually build stuff, not just talk about it. Library Juice does continuing education classes, all online and asynchronous, for library professionals.

Note I have no personal experience with Library Juice and don’t know Robert Chavez, but boy those classes look just right for someone who’s interested in LAWDI and Linked Open Data and is not a great self-starter in terms of teaching oneself technical stuff (i.e., me). If only I had a) time and b) professional development money.


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