The Loeb Classical Library published by Harvard University Press is 100 years old this year. I can’t speak too highly of this “library.” The Loeb series has some of the best works ever produced and each is bilingual (with English and Latin or Greek on facing pages). But the experience of owning and reading these books goes well beyond the spectacular list – one gets great enjoyment from merely holding and turning the pages of these aesthetically pleasing vessels of classical literary, philosophical, historical, and political knowledge. I first discovered them in college (reading Demosthenes’ Philippics) and have aspired since to read/own the entire series. I even bought one for my first son on the occasion of his birth (a Plutarch).
Here is a description of the LCL from one celebration of this birthday:
Over the years, the Loeb as physical object has become instantly recognizable to bibliophiles: uniform, small-format hardcovers, with green covers for the Greek titles and red for the Latin. So familiar and covetable are the Loebs that Harvard University Press recently marked the 100th anniversary by inviting readers to send in photographs of their collections. What makes such images tantalizing is their promise of completeness. There are now 518 volumes in the Loeb Classical Library — just enough to make the idea of owning and reading them all seem an attainable challenge. The earliest authors in the Loeb catalog, Homer and Hesiod, wrote in the 7th century BCE; the latest, the Anglo-Saxon monk Bede, wrote in the 7th century CE. Here, then, is 1,400 years of human culture, all the texts that survive from one of the greatest civilizations human beings have ever built — and it can all fit in a bookcase or two. To capture all the fugitive texts of the ancient world, some of which survived the Dark Ages in just a single moldering copy in some monastic library, and turn them into affordable, clear, sturdy, accurate books, is one of the greatest accomplishments of modern scholarship — and one of the most democratic.
And this is pretty cool too: