The Loeb Classical Library. A Word about its Purpose and its Scope

   The idea of arranging for the issue of this Library was suggested to me by my friend Mr. Salomon Reinach, the French savant. It appealed to me at once, and my imagination was deeply stirred by the thought that here might be found a practical and attractive way to revive the lagging interest in ancient literature which has for more than a generation been a matter of so much concern to educators. In an age when the Humanities are being neglected more perhaps than at any time since the Middle Ages, and when men’s minds are turning more than ever before to the practical and the material, it does not suffice to make pleas, however eloquent and convincing, for the safeguarding and further enjoyment of our greatest heritage from the past. (ii) Means must be found to place these treasures within the reach of all who care for the finer things of life. The mechanical and social achievements of our day must not blind our eyes to the fact that, in all that relates to man, his nature and aspirations, we have added little or nothing to what has been so finely said by the great men of old.

   It has always seemed to me a pity that the young people of our generation should grow up with such scant knowledge of Greek and Latin literature, its wealth and variety, its freshness and its imperishable quality. The day is past when schools could afford to give sufficient time and attention to the teaching of the ancient languages to enable the student to get that enjoyment out of classical literature that made the lives of our grandfathers so rich. The demand for something “more practical,” the large variety of subjects that must be taught, are crowding hard upon the Humanities. To make the beauty and learning, the philosophy and wit of the great writers of ancient Greece and Rome once more accessible by means of translations that are in themselves real pieces of literature, a thing to be read for the pure joy of it, and not dull transcripts of ideas that suggest in every line the existence of a finer (iii) original from which the average reader is shut out, and to place side by side with these translations the best critical texts of the original works, is the task I have set myself.

   In France more than in any country the need has been felt of supplying readers who are not in a technical sense “scholars” with editions of the classics, giving text and translation, either in Latin or French, on opposite pages. Almost all the Latin authors and many Greek authors have been published in this way by the well-known firms, Panckoucke, Firmin-Didot, Hachette, and Garnier. In Germany only a handful of Greek authors were issued in this form during the first half of the nineteenth century. No collection of this kind exists in English-speaking countries.

   Before venturing on so large an undertaking as is involved in the task I had set myself I consulted a number of distinguished scholars as to the desirability of such a series. My correspondence ranged from St. Petersburg to San Francisco, and the replies to my inquiry conveyed an almost unanimous and unqualified approval. I was also encouraged by the opinion of several experienced publishers, who agreed that the time is ripe for the execution of such a project. I therefore set (iv) to work, and after two and a half years of not inconsiderable labour I now have the privilege and the satisfaction of accompanying the early volumes of the series with this preface.

   The following eminent scholars, representing Great Britain, the United States, Germany, and France, kindly consented to serve on the Advisory Board:

 EDWARD CAPPS, Ph.D., of Princeton University.

MAURICE CROISET, Member of the Institut de France.

OTTO CRUSIUS, Ph.D., Litt.D., of the University of Munich, Member of the Royal Bavarian Academy of Science.

HERMANN DIELS, Ph.D., of the University of Berlin, Secretary of the Royal Academy of Science, Berlin.

J. G. FRAZER, D.C.L., LL.D., Litt.D., of Cambridge University.

A. D. GODLEY, M.A., Public Orator of the University of Oxford.

WILLIAM G. HALE, Ph.D., of Chicago University.

SALOMON REINACH, Member of the Institut de France.

(v) SIR J.E. SANDYS, Litt.D., Public Orator of Cambridge University.

JOHN WILLIAMS WHITE, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Harvard University.

   I was also fortunate in securing as Editors Mr. T. E. PAGE, M.A., until recently a Master at the Charterhouse School, and Dr. W. H. D. ROUSE, Litt.D., Head Master of the Perse Grammar School, in Cambridge, England. Their critical judgment, their thorough scholarship and wide acquaintance with ancient and modern literature, are the best guarantee that the translations will combine accuracy with sound English idiom.

   Wherever modern translations of marked excellence were already in existence efforts were made to secure them for the Library, but in a number of instances copyright could not be obtained. I mention this because I anticipate that we may be criticised for issuing new translations in certain cases where they might perhaps not seem to be required. But as the Series is to include all that is of value and of interest in Greek and Latin literature, from the time of Homer to the Fall of Constantinople, no other course was possible. On the other hand, many readers will be glad to see that we have included (vi) several of those stately and inimitable translations made in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, which are counted among the classics of the English language. Most of the translations will, however, be wholly new, and many of the best scholars in Great Britain, the United States, and Canada have already promised their assistance and are now engaged upon the work. As a general rule, the best available critical texts will be used, but in quite a number of cases the texts will be especially prepared for this Library.

   The announcement of this new Series has been greeted with so many cordial expressions of goodwill from so many quarters that I am led to believe that it will fill a long-felt want, and that it will prove acceptable to a wide circle of readers, not only to-day, but also in the future.

   These books will appeal not only to scholars who care for a uniform series of the best texts, and to college graduates who wish to renew and enlarge their knowledge with the help of text and translation, but also to those who know neither Greek nor Latin, and yet desire to reap the fruits of ancient genius and wisdom. Some readers, too, may be enticed by the text printed opposite the translation to gather an elementary knowledge of Greek and Latin, thus greatly enhancing the (vii) interest of their reading; while the teacher of modern literature will, I trust, find these books useful in the effort to make his students acquainted with the prototypes of practically every style of modern literary composition.

   It is my pleasant duty to express my sincere thanks to all those on both sides of the Atlantic whose hearty co-operation and help have made my task at once easy and agreeable. Nor can I find a happier way of commending this new Classical Series to the public than by quoting Goethe’s words:

 “Man studiere nicht die Mitgeborenen und Mitstrebenden, sondern grosse Menschen der Vorzeit, deren Werke seit Jahrhunderten gleichen Wert und gleiches Ansehen behalten haben. . . . Man studiere Molière, man studiere Shakespeare, aber vor allen Dingen, die alten Griechen, und immer die alten Griechen.”



   September 1, 1912

Transcribed by Mirte Liebregts