British Library posting ancient Greek manuscripts online
by Paul Oliver
No less than 1,000 ancient Greek texts will be made available online by the British Library, with another 250 coming by 2012.
Ranging from seminal editions of Aesop’s fables to the earliest known Christian Bible, aka the Codex Sinaiticus, the availability of this collection online will certainly prove a boon to researchers as well as the merely curious.
The renderings of these texts are as amazing as the scope of the project itself. The detail of the scans is such that one can read the layered and rubbed out details of other languages beneath the Greek. In other words the scans are so detailed that a cursory glance informs you that many of these volumes are in fact palimpsests.
Here’s the clincher though: It’s free. Curator Scot McKendrick explained the importance of this aspect to Raphael Satter for his AP report on the new virtual library.
McKendrick said that London could be an expensive place to spend time poring over the Greek texts’ tiny, faded script or picking through hundreds of pages of parchment.
“Not every scholar can afford to come here weeks and months on end,” he said. The big attraction of browsing the texts online “is the ability to do it at your own desk whenever you wish to do it — and do it for free as well.”
Without a doubt this is obviously a major event for all bibliophiles, but especially those who work with or wanted to work with these scarce texts.
What can’t help but occur to me is the notion that somewhere, someone is suddenly angry that their grant to travel to the UK and study these texts has suddenly vanished.
I guess that’s a little cynical though.
Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.