Loebs Ancient and Modern

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seneca2008
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Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by seneca2008 » Tue Aug 09, 2016 8:13 am

I used some vouchers provided as a bribe by my interent provider the other day to buy some new Loebs. I had intended to replace my copy of the Homeric Hymns having read a good review in BM classical review but it wasn't in stock at my local Waterstones (the erstwhile Dillons, which lives on as the name of the cafe and occupies a large amount of space previously devoted to selling books ) so I chose the two Hesiod volumes by Glenn Most ( I have always thought I should have read the catalogue of women ...) and Vol 3 of Aristophanes (Birds et al) by Jeffrey Henderson ( I have the Budé and a few Aris and Philips). Dipping into both has been a pleasure. Do others have recommendable new Loebs?

I found an interesting article in part on the history of Loebs and their place in contemporary culture "The bright ghosts of antiquity" by John Talbot in the New Criterion. here which some may find interesting.

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Paul Derouda
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Re: Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by Paul Derouda » Tue Aug 09, 2016 3:42 pm

All the new Loebs (from the nineties on or so) that I've set my eyes on are good. Among these are Aristophanes, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides (1 drama or more from each, not everything of course, but I suppose it's a representative sample), Iambic, Elegiac, the revised Homers, epic fragments, Homeric hymns - basically all the newer stuff I've seen is good, so I'm pretty confident that all the Loebs produced in the last quarter of a century live up to the same high standard. I've especially enjoyed Aristophanes (what a contrast to the older bowlderised rubbish, and not just in the Loeb series! Interestingly enough the old Budés, from the 30's maybe, are pretty good. The French weren't too prudish even then I guess.)

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Re: Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by Hylander » Tue Aug 09, 2016 8:02 pm

The new Latin Loebs are also very good.

G.P. Goold, one of my professors in several courses when I was an undergraduate (and to my mind, the best), was responsible for initiating the turnaround and himself contributed several volumes to the Latin series. I also had a tutorial with Zeph Stewart, the trustee who played a critical role in rescuing the LCL when was at its nadir (and coincidentally the brother of US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart).

The new LCL volumes are generally at the highest level of scholarship--not just handy translations. And not all of the old ones are irredeemably atrocious (though some are worse than that). The Loeb project is essential, at least to the English-speaking world, in making the Greek and Latin classics available to scholars in other fields (e.g., English literature) who don't have a strong background in the ancient languages but need access to ancient literature, as well as to the public at large.

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Re: Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by mwh » Wed Aug 10, 2016 4:19 am

Let me put in a word for the Greek Lyric set too (5 vols. by David Campbell). A quarter-century ago a reviewer wrote “This is a Loeb which scholars need not be ashamed to be seen using.”

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Re: Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by Paul Derouda » Wed Aug 10, 2016 9:14 pm

mwh wrote:Let me put in a word for the Greek Lyric set too (5 vols. by David Campbell). A quarter-century ago a reviewer wrote “This is a Loeb which scholars need not be ashamed to be seen using.”
I've read Sappho from the Sappho & Alcaeus volume and agree with you, but I left it out just because there have been significant new papyrus finds since the volume appeared. But I suppose it'll probably be many years before we're going to have the new Sappho poems in a Loeb or some other accessible format anyway.

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Re: Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by Hylander » Wed Aug 10, 2016 9:27 pm

New papyrus finds don't render the Campbell volumes any less useful. The same is true for the new Loeb volumes of fragments of the dramatists, which are really valuable for making this material available in a reasonably priced format.

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Re: Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by ailuros » Wed Aug 10, 2016 11:28 pm

has anyone else used the loeb library website? i joined ($65 annually seemed quite reasonable for accesss to all of those volumes), but i was disappointed in the site. found it awkward to use, hard to navigate, and it seemed to constantly require one to sign in, over and over. nor were texts comfortable to read on an ipad. i did not renew the subscription.

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Re: Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by truks » Thu Aug 11, 2016 8:42 am

ailuros wrote:has anyone else used the loeb library website? i joined ($65 annually seemed quite reasonable for accesss to all of those volumes), but i was disappointed in the site. found it awkward to use, hard to navigate, and it seemed to constantly require one to sign in, over and over. nor were texts comfortable to read on an ipad. i did not renew the subscription.
I agree with all these points. Another problem I've noticed is that the search function isn't always reliable, which is very irritating.

I have access through my library. But because the website is so unwieldy, I hardly ever consult it.

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Re: Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by Dante » Thu Aug 11, 2016 1:08 pm

the search function is occasionally useful for example if you want to see how various translators have translated a certain word or short phrase, or in the other direction, to see how an english word or phrase could go into G or L.
Last edited by Dante on Thu Aug 11, 2016 2:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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seneca2008
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Re: Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by seneca2008 » Thu Aug 11, 2016 1:17 pm

i joined ($65 annually seemed quite reasonable for accesss to all of those volumes)
I was excited by this but unfortunately it costs $150 for the first year and $65 thereafter. I suppose thats not much more than spotify, but spotify saves me money as I buy very few cds now.

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Re: Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by Manuel » Thu Aug 11, 2016 3:09 pm

Hopefully the digital Loeb library improves in the future. It seems like a great idea to me since I'm not really that fond of the printed Loebs. The old ones with the sewn binding are great, but the more recent ones are pretty poor quality considering the price.
seneca2008 wrote:I was excited by this but unfortunately it costs $150 for the first year and $65 thereafter. I suppose thats not much more than spotify, but spotify saves me money as I buy very few cds now.
Sounds like you have better luck than me...Spotify barely works for me on my desktop let alone with bluetooth in my car.

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Re: Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by idoneus1957 » Thu Aug 11, 2016 6:53 pm

Yes, I like the new Loebs better. There is a joke I read once, about the translations of poetry and drama in the old Loebs, that you have to use the Greek to figure out the English. They certainly are not very helpful (especially Gilbert Murray) for someone who is trying to understand the Greek.
In my Loeb Aratos (1921), in the introduction, the editor keeps throwing in long quotations in Greek and Latin without translations.
There was this remark once in a book by James Branch Cabell about footnotes and bibliographies "with their flattering assumption of the readers' knowledge of all languages and possession of all printed books.
And when I was reading Livy, I only had one volume at a time out from the library, and the index was in the last volume.
The only thing I miss about the old Loebs is that the volumes of the history writers had little maps in the back that folded out.
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Re: Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by Hylander » Thu Aug 11, 2016 7:02 pm

Considering the price, Loebs new and old are a bargain. A huge amount of work goes into not just typesetting the Loebs--in one of two dead languages, one of which uses very complicated diacriticals--even if it's easier to do electronically, but also making sure that with all the diacriticals they're as error-free as possible. In addition, the entire series is maintained in print continuously and none of the volumes is exactly a Da Vinci Code bestseller. So while they may cut corners on the binding, you're getting a lot more than your money's worth.

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Re: Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by Manuel » Fri Aug 12, 2016 12:42 am

Hylander wrote:Considering the price, Loebs new and old are a bargain. A huge amount of work goes into not just typesetting the Loebs--in one of two dead languages, one of which uses very complicated diacriticals--even if it's easier to do electronically, but also making sure that with all the diacriticals they're as error-free as possible. In addition, the entire series is maintained in print continuously and none of the volumes is exactly a Da Vinci Code bestseller. So while they may cut corners on the binding, you're getting a lot more than your money's worth.
I don't know, I think I'd rather buy a cheap translation than pay $26 for a hardcover volume that I can't even lay flat on my desk. If the digital LCL ever comes of age I think it would be a lot more appealing.

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Re: Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by Hylander » Fri Aug 12, 2016 11:46 am

If you're satisfied with cheap translations and you're someone who judges a book by its cover, then Loebs aren't for you.

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Re: Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by jeidsath » Sat Aug 13, 2016 1:16 am

I've begun dreaming about a complete set. I'll need to make a spreadsheet of what I have, to have with me at used bookstores. But lately I haven't been using Loebs very much. I've been going through Plato dialogues with Bryn Mawr commentaries. However, maybe I'll try a Loeb with the next dialogue.
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Re: Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by Victor » Wed Sep 14, 2016 12:37 pm

Manuel wrote:Hopefully the digital Loeb library improves in the future. It seems like a great idea to me since I'm not really that fond of the printed Loebs. The old ones with the sewn binding are great, but the more recent ones are pretty poor quality considering the price.
Manuel, I'm not quite sure what undesirable attributes you're saying the modern Loebs have.
Most of the Loebs I have are oldies (many secondhand) bought years ago, but I do have a dozen or so I have bought new within the last ten years or so.

All of the new volumes I have are section sewn (not adhesive-bound) just as the old ones were, all are covered in a kind of cloth not apparently inferior to earlier kinds, and one thing that makes them superior from a bibliophile's perspective is that the paper they're printed on is declared to be acid-free; some of the paper used in the older printings/editions I have has browned fairly conspicuously.

There are two small anatomical downsides to the newer Loebs:

1. They are not letterpress printed, so there is no agreeable type impression on the printed page, and if you're buying a new reprint of an older edition the photographic reproduction may be slightly defective in places.

2. The binders of the new Loebs sometimes overdo the amount of rather inflexible glue* they put on the backs of the sections, and this can restrict their opening more than is desirable. This can usually be largely overcome simply by opening the book with a little more force than you would normally use when opening a book so as to crack, or at least weaken the restrictive power of, the glue on the spine. If this fails to improve things it's a fairly simple matter to uncase the book, remove the spine glue with a hair dryer and dinner knife, and re-case it with new endpapers and spine linings.

*On new Loebs the glue is typically a synthetic "hotmelt" type glue: on old Loebs it was animal glue, which was not only generally applied in only a thin layer but obligingly cracks of its own accord when it ages.

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Re: Loebs Ancient and Modern

Post by scotistic » Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:33 pm

I agree with everything Victor says. I have over a hundred Loebs, ranging from fifty or sixty years old to brand new ones (a few old library copies I have might go back to the 1940s), and the quality is remarkably consistent. The new ones are not badly done at all, good durable cloth covers and sewn bindings with acid-free paper. When you think of the hideous degradation in quality as well as the high prices of, say, Oxford University Press books*, the Loebs are a treasure. I also wish I had a complete set.

The only issue I can think of is in the print. As Victor says, the new ones aren't letter-pressed. Reprints of old volumes sometimes have slightly thick or uneven letters. The new volumes' font, especially the Greek font, can be a little harder on the eyes than the old ones: even though it's clear and crisp, it's rather small and the strokes are thin. Just the other day I was reading one of the Homer volumes in a new edition (the revised one, printed in the last ten years) and one of the old Greek Anthology volumes from a printing done in the 1960s, and I was struck by the superior quality of the print in the older volume. However, really beautifully printed new books are so rare today that this is a mild disappointment rather than a real criticism.

*OUP books today really make me sick. I have a good number of old copies of their scholarly books, both classical texts and English literature and scholarly monographs, and up to the 1960s or so they were really well-made, beautiful books that are still wonderful to hold and use today. The books they print now are so ugly, expensive, and shoddy it's disheartening.

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