Posts Tagged ‘resource reviews’


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?



Resource Review: LIMCicon and LIMCbiblio

May 18, 2012

I have mentioned before that LIMC – Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae – is one of my favorite Classics reference resources, so I was excited to receive notice of an online version of LIMC through The Ancient World Online. Upon review it’s not quite what I was expecting, and it might not be a the best place to send undergraduates, but it’s a wonderful, free online resource for the serious study of classical myth and religion.

The first important thing to note is that LIMCicon, the main of the three databases at the site, is NOT a digital version of the print LIMC volumes, which was what I was expecting.  (It nicely tells you this on the landing page.) Instead, it contains “contains the iconographical documents kept both in France and elsewhere that have been catalogued and analysed by the French LIMC team.”  Thus, it is a searchable database of the visual sources used in compiling LIMC (although, as the site states clearly, it is not comprehensive of everything published in the print volumes, and adds material not in the print volumes.)

The “detailed search” interface for LIMCicon is complex. I found it simplest to choose the name of the mythical figure I wanted from the scroll-down list available under Iconography; I would guess this would be useful for many researchers, who want images of Apollo or Hera.  One can also choose an iconographic keyword – “drinking horn”, “abduction” – to find images with these elements.  The results display in a short list; clicking on the image will take one to a full digital “ID card” for the object, with the essential information about it, including bibliography, and close-up images.  Unfortunately for the majority of results, no images are available in LIMCicon; to actually see the images, one must search elsewhere, often in a print-only reference.  I would guess this had to do with copyright issues in an open digital resource.  The “expert search” allows the researcher to combine searches using Boolean operators; one is cautioned that it is not fully implemented.

LIMCbiblio, the second database, is an important source of bibliography on classical mythology and religion.  I couldn’t find an explicit statement of what is included, but I think it covers additions to the bibliographies published for each entry in the print LIMC volumes. As a result, the dates vary by topic, with the earliest citations about 1984, and with citations coming down to the late 2000s.  Bibliographic citations include books and articles, and are in multiple languages (I saw one in Polish, so they extend beyond the major European languages.) The database can be searched by the entry titles that have appeared in the print LIMC volumes (generally the names of important mythological and religious figures); these can also be chosen from a scrollable alphabetical list. Bibliographic citations about specific images included in the LIMCicon database are included, and can be searched for specifically, although they also show up when you search by entry/topic.

LIMCabrev is fairly straightforward searchable database of the bibliographical abbreviations used by LIMC.  It works in both directions: one can choose an abbreviation (available in a scrollable alphabetized list) and see what the full title is, or find a title and see the abbreviation LIMC uses.  This part of the site should be included, with the American Journal of Archaeology and Aristarchos, in the scholar’s free digital toolkit for deciphering obscure journal and series title abbreviations.

Overall, the site is stylistically similar to many serious scholarly websites in Classics; it is rather dense and the search interfaces are especially visually cluttered (although very detailed).  The entire site is available in French, English, German, Greek, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Hungarian, and Arabic interfaces (I didn’t test all of them!)  Unicode is used for non-Roman characters.  Free registration is required, and somewhat detailed personal information is requested.  There is also a detailed statement about intellectual property.  I did not try to fill out the required fields with false data to see if I could be truly anonymous, but if you’d like to try, let me know if it works. Upon registering, I got a screen that seemed to imply my registration had not worked, but then when I tried to log in using the account I had just created, it worked, so don’t let that stop you.

Who is it for?

Although the interface is available in English, this isn’t a great site for undergraduates as a whole; it’s too complex, and doesn’t give a 100-level Mythology student what he really needs (the basics).  I would show it to honors or upper-level classes doing projects in classical mythology or classical art history/archaeology involving images of the gods and mythical figures; the LIMCbiblio section gives valuable references to complement and bring up to date the print volumes, and LIMBicon gives a nice listing of images.  For graduate students and faculty doing research in these fields, it is an excellent and useful resource, although it does not replace the print volumes.


New Classical Art Resources – CLAROS and ArtStor

May 23, 2011

Late last week the new CLAROS digital image system debuted.  This open project, based at Oxford with many international partners, provides access to digital images of classical art (and other collections). The images are searchable and browseable, with multiple facets possible (i.e., one can show all  skyphoi from Vulci).  Of special interest are the image-matching searches, available for classical sculpture and pottery, which use digital technology to examine an image you upload or link to and find matches in the CLAROS database.  The project also makes use of structured metadata (RDF, JSON, KML) and advanced users can create detailed SPARQL queries.

Not new, but new to UGA subscribers, we now have access to ArtStor (link takes you through the UGA system and will ask for a password if you are off campus).  This resource includes high-quality digital images with good metadata from museums and other collections around the world.  The site is searchable and browseable, and the creation of a free account allows the user to save images in groups and download sets of images to use offline.


Resource Review: The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies.

April 28, 2011

The UGA Libraries has The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies in the Main Library stacks (4th floor, DG209 .O94 2010) and the Classics Department also purchased a copy for the Alexander Room.  I looked it at a few months ago, but the recent Bryn Mawr Classical Review by Angela Kühr (which includes full publication data and the list of contributors and chapter titles, all 55 of them) prompted me to look again, and more closely.

As a librarian, I find “handbook” to be a fairly squishy category; my first question is always “what do they mean by handbook”?  One could quibble about this category for such a hefty book – it’s certainly bigger than my not-very-dainty hand, and heavy enough that it cannot be consulted one-handed; with the index it’s nearly 950 pages.  Plus there’s a foot (the colossal one of Constantine) on the cover!  Not a handbook at all, by my lights.  The copy on the front cover flap admits as much:

It is intended less as an encyclopaedia of the well-established, and more a research tool to aid the development of the subject: a guide that does not just inform but inspires.

The essays that make up the volume are diverse, divided into five sections (Tools, Approaches, Genres, History, and Ideas) and given broad titles like “Archaeology” (as Henry Hurst, the author, reviewer Kühr and I all note with sighs, a “Tool”), “Power” and “Spectacle” (both “History”) and “Roman Identity” (an “Approach”).  There’s no major topic glaringly absent to me, but then, over 950 pages and 55 essays it’s easy to cover a lot of ground.  The authors are an international bunch, and big-name senior scholars predominate.

Who is this book aimed at?  It is not really a reference work, although like many non-reference works one can consult it usefully for ideas and bibliography.  One might assign relevant sections of it to entry-level undergraduates, but I find the approaches the authors take tend to be nuanced and sophisticated; their observations are more suited to upper-level undergraduates and graduate students.  More senior scholars will find it thought-provoking as well I suspect, a chance to step back and look at a big-picture overview of Roman Studies, not a synthetic one, but a mosaic of scholarly voices and approaches. I doubt many will read through the entire volume, preferring to dip into the essays of most relevance to one’s own work (as I myself have done in preparing this review.)


Resource Reviews: Philosophy Bibliographies

April 11, 2011

Jenkins lists four notable general bibliographic works on classical philosophy; several of these are also described in Hans Bynagle, Philosophy: A Guide to the Reference Literature (Libraries Unlimited, 3rd ed., 2006) which we have at UGA (currently at the Repository, I hope soon to move to Main Reference), which is a useful volume in general but its coverage of ancient philosophy is much more limited than Jenkins’.

  • Bell and Allis, Resources in Ancient Philosophy: An Annotated Bibliography of Scholarship in English, 1965-1989 (1991), Main Library 6th Floor B171 .B46 1991.  This is a true annotated bibliography, with short introductions to each section and then a listing of sources with annotations.  Jenkins (no. 855) calls it “an excellent single source” that is “aimed primarily at college students” and notes its focus on recent works in English. Bynagle notes the limitations of the index.
  • Gill, Greek Thought (1995), Main Library 3rd Floor PA25 .G7 no. 25.  This book consists of four essays, on the topics of psychology, ethics, politics, and nature in ancient philosophy, making it a useful resource for those interested in the range of ancient thought on these topics.  Jenkins (no. 857) notes that coverage is from the mid-20th century onwards and there are “extensive bibliographical notes.”
  • Navia, Philosophy of Cynicism: An Annotated Bibliography (1995), Main Library 6th Floor B508 .N38 1995. This is a selective bibliography that contaisn popular as well as scholarly works and cover from the mid-19th century on.  Jenkins (no. 858) is critical of this work, suggesting that it “mingles the introductory, the advanced, and the banal”.
  • Donlan, ed., Classical World Bibliography of Philosophy, Religion, and Rhetoric (1978); we don’t have this at UGA – link is to WorldCat record. This is one in the series of bibliographies that compile essays that originally appeared in Classical World, so its coverage is not comprehensive.  Jenkins (no. 856) gives a useful summary of the topics covered and almost no critique, except to note the lack of an index.

Note I am beginning to collect online open-access scholarly bibliographies on topics in ancient philosophy at the Ancient World Open Bibliographies Wiki.

Previous post in my series on Philosophy resources:


Resource Reviews: Ancient Philosophy

March 30, 2011

The UGA Classics department does not specialize in ancient philosophy; the philosophy department does have a 3000-level class on ancient philosophy. But philosophy comes up all the time in my work with classics students. For example, last semester I worked with an undergraduate who was looking at a relief sculpture and wanted to tie in Plato’s allegory of the cave, so we tried to get a sense of what contemporary attitudes towards and knowledge of Plato would have been (in the later Hellenistic period.)

We have relatively few works in the Reference department in the Main Library at UGA, but we do have the big ones:

  • Guthrie, A History of Greek Philosophy (1962-1981, 6 volumes), Main Reference B171 .G984h (with another copy on the 6th floor available for checkout.) Jenkins discusses this as no. 867, calling it “long established as the standard work in the field.” The six volumes cover the Presocratic philosophers through Aristotle, and focus on discussion of the philosophical works themselves. While Jenkins calls Guthrie “accessible to the lay reader” it is probably for more sophisticated undergraduates or graduate students, not entry-level students.
  • Armstrong,The Cambridge history of later Greek and early medieval philosophy (1967), Main Reference B171 .A79 (also with a circulating copy on the 6th floor.)  This edited volume covers the period from the 4th century BCE to the 12th century CE, giving  “a good general survey of later Greek philosophy and its influence.” (Jenkins no. 863)
  • Zeyl, et al., Encyclopedia of classical philosophy (Greenwood Press, 1997) Main Reference B163 .E53 1997. Jenkins (no. 883) calls this work “an excellent encyclopedia,” and it is where I would send most entry-level students.  It has signed articles with scholarly bibliographies, and covers philosophers and philosophic schools from the 6th century BCE to the 6th century CE.

We also have:

  • Preus, Historical Dictionary of Ancient Greek Philosophy (Scarecrow Press, 2007), Main Reference B111 .P74 2007.  This came out too late to be reviewed by Jenkins.  It is a dictionary, with short entries of a paragraph or two. It is definitely aimed at undergraduates, and might be most useful for those looking for definitions of common philosophical terms and concepts, though it does have thumbnail sketches of specific philosophers and movements.

Kindle Report: Kinds of Texts

February 7, 2011

I’ve had a Kindle for six weeks now, and I really like reading on it.  It doesn’t give me the eyestrain that reading on a computer screen does, and I appreciate that I can read before bed as a wind-down – my perception is that screen-reading before bed makes it harder to fall asleep, as the lit screen messes with one’s circadian rhythms or something.  I though I’d list the types of texts I have read or tried to read on it, and how they have worked, as a starter.

  • Kindle Books bought (or free) from the Amazon Kindle store.  Kindle format gives “location numbers” instead of page numbers; in class we all have the same edition so to refer each other to a passage we use the location numbers.  We haven’t read any critical editions that would have footnotes, so I am not yet sure how these would be handled.
  • Books from Project Gutenburg in Kindle format.  These have been indistinguishable from Amazon Kindle books.
  • Word documents converted to Kindle format by emailing them to one’s free Kindle converter address.  The professor transcribed a passage from a book into a Word file (.doc) and I converted this to a Kindle format.  It worked just fine, assigning location numbers.  The professor included the page numbers in the transcription, so those show up in the Kindle text, which would be useful if one wanted to cite the original text in a paper.  This was a simple document, without footnotes or any unusual formatting.
  • Scanned .pdf. I scanned a scholarly article from an older bound journal into .pdf, for another purpose, and decided to try to send it through the Kindle converter process.  The journal was tightly bound so the scan was a bit distorted (lines not fully horizontal on the page), and as a result when the Kindle sent the text through its OCR process there were large areas that were rendered unreadable. I would judge this a failure.
  • .pdf from Jstor.  I downloaded a Jstor article in .pdf and sent it through the conversion to Kindle. The Kindle could not handle the footnotes and two-column format of the article (I used a 2005 article from the American Journal of Archaeology).  This was a worse failure than the above; the sentences were so mixed and jumbled that I could not make head or tail of it.

It’s my understanding that .doc and .pdf files can be moved directly onto the Kindle – as one would move a .doc file onto an external drive – and read in their native formats.  Since the page size is generally larger than a Kindle screen, reading them requires scrolling, and one can’t change the font size.  It’s just like reading a .pdf file on a too-small computer screen (except it’s e-ink and not backlit).  I haven’t actually done this yet, and personally I think that the benefit of the e-ink would be outweighed by the annoyance of all the scrolling (which is not easy on a Kindle – it’s not like it’s a touch-screen!)

Conclusions so far: I love to read free fiction books on the Kindle.  I would like to experiment with reading a scholarly book formatted for the Kindle (i.e one with footnotes), and to experiment with different sources of .pdf files to see if I can get any to convert well.