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Where to Buy Affordable Classical Texts

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Where to Buy Affordable Classical Texts

Postby logos14 » Mon Sep 03, 2012 9:05 pm

I've been trying to put together a small private library for a couple years without much success, finding that, aside from the Loeb editions, it's practically impossible to any person of average income to afford studying the classics without resorting to the use of a university library.

This is particularly frustrating since the Loeb editions, by including English, make me pay full price although I only want the Greek half of the book, which means they take up double the space on my shelf as well. The Teubner, Oxford, and Cambridge editions are all outrageously overpriced. No one of average income is willing to pay $125 for one tenth of Demosthenes' works, and yet this is precise what they ask in many cases. Ideally, I'd like to find an estate sale, a bulk auction, or some special sale of these, but I'm having a great deal of difficulty in this, and I suspect I'm not alone. It seems that as studying the classics has become less popular the prices of good editions become more and more exorbitant for the few persons left who do want to study. It's really quite depressing. I've tried using a search aggregator but without any luck. Does anyone have advice in purchasing a fair number of the classics without breaking the bank?
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Re: Where to Buy Affordable Classical Texts

Postby ivanus » Sun Sep 16, 2012 9:37 pm

I deeply understand the attraction to a wall of like minded volumes on a shelf. I might not be interested in the Classics today had I not seen those red and green Loeb volumes on the shelf in my college library. For serious academic study, I doubt even today you can replace access to a good university library.

From your post I conclude you want physical volumes in the original languages. That is always going to be expensive. Academic collections are meant to be purchased by libraries and the sales volumes are low. I only know of one bookstore in the UK that even carries the Loeb and Oxford editions in stock and it's in London (where I am not).

I can buy used Loeb editions in the UK locally, but I pay at least half the cover price for part of the series in an old edition. If I buy new I can at least get the same translator/editor. I've been scouring used book stores for several years and you can at best find bits and pieces. Growing my library has been patience, persistence and opportunity. In the US, I never once recall seeing a Latin volume in a used book store, even in university towns. Based on my experience, what you want isn't available without the good fortune to stumble into an estate sale or something similar.

However, there are several on-line collections of classical works that are universally accessible. Additionally, there are resources such as google books and a growing collection of scanned manuscripts. I saw a posting from the historian Tom Holland where he was referencing a favourite Greek text which he referenced from Perseus.

We are deeply fortunate that the information and the texts are much more freely available now than they have been. While the format may be less attractive, and harder to use in some ways, it is far more accessible. For example, I have the contents of 'The Latin Library' web site on my Kindle along with a Latin dictionary that will look up the inflected words in the text. This would be hundreds of £/$ to purchase in paper editions and I have them with me wherever I am, on whatever device I have running the Kindle application.
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Re: Where to Buy Affordable Classical Texts

Postby Bedell » Sun Sep 16, 2012 11:04 pm

It is extremely difficult. I, too, have been trying for years. Abebooks.com is about the best source I know of online. Otherwise, I look out for old schools' editions in second-hand book shops near the older universities. Sometimes I look up titles on Amazon and then see if I can find them on Abebooks second-hand. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. :(
nothing should arouse more suspicion than a cross-party consensus - Antidemocritus fl. 2010
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Re: Where to Buy Affordable Classical Texts

Postby thesaurus » Mon Sep 17, 2012 6:46 pm

If finding physical volumes doesn't work out, one possibility would be to find all of the out-of-print pdf versions you can on Google Books and then have them printed off. That way you could have a personal collection of all of the texts you want.

The downside is that it may not save you much money, and of course you lose out on the "authenticity" of having the original cloth versions on your shelf. You're also stuck dealing with out of print books.

The advantage is that you can also get very old and obscure books without having to wait for a publisher to sell them or for them to pop up on Abebooks (and at what price?).

I'm tempted to try this via Google Books: http://www.ondemandbooks.com/ebm_video.php

Here's a book I was looking at randomly: Historia reipublicae et imperii Romanorum. On Demand Books tells me I could pick it up in my city for $19. Seeing that it only appears to exist in one library (in Germany) and isn't for sale anywhere, this seems like a great deal if I am really in need of a hard copy. I would be interested to inspect the quality of binding etc. to see how an old text like this reads in person.
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Latin texts on Kindle

Postby Carolus Raeticus » Tue Sep 25, 2012 10:43 am

Salve Ivane!

I read your comment concerning Latin and Amazon's Kindle:
ivanus wrote:For example, I have the contents of 'The Latin Library' web site on my Kindle along with a Latin dictionary that will look up the inflected words in the text.

Sounds interesting. I own a Kindle, too, but I do not know which Latin dictionary to choose (there are several Words-editions available. Which one did you choose? And how did you persuade your Kindle to choose this Latin dictionary to look up a word? Normally, the language is indicated by some meta-information in the book-file itself which does not, of course, work for mere text (or in this case probably html) files.


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Re: Where to Buy Affordable Classical Texts

Postby ivanus » Sat Sep 29, 2012 7:56 pm

The Kindle dictionary and library is: An Electronic Latin Dictionary; The Latin Library Edition by Lucas Nicolato. To use the inflected lookup function, you have to replace the default dictionary for the Kindle with this one. Once you do, you will be able to highlight a word and the dictionary will (slowly) make it's best guess as to what it is. It is not 100% but it has been very helpful on those occasions when I have no idea what the root word to look up is.

It does work with other Kindle texts that are in Latin. I have a copy of the Vulgate from another publisher and it works fine with that. It will not, of course, work with image based PDFs that you would get from external sources such as Google Books (or Textkit).

The definitions are short, typically one or two lines. They provide more than the basics, however. The provide part of speech as well as declension/conjugation.

It can be used as a normal dictionary by opening it and entering the word in the search box. It is much faster at this than the inflected lookup. As my iPhone tends to be with me always, I tend to use either Collins on Lexidium (which will also look up inflected words) for 'normal' lookups. If the text is on the Kindle, I will always start with this dictionary.

1) If you replace the default dictionary, you will lose access to the regular Kindle dictionary for in book lookups.
2) I've not tested this on the software versions of the Kindle so I don't know if the same trick works there or not.
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Re: Where to Buy Affordable Classical Texts

Postby timeodanaos » Sun Sep 30, 2012 1:15 pm

If you can live with what are probably the worst-quality hardback books ever produced in the history of book-making, I would recommend you buy Oxford Classical Texts. Cheap and sometimes even reliable if of more recent date.
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