Setting out with the immodest ambition of publishing “the entire extant Greek and Latin literature from the time of Homer to the Fall of Constantinople”, the series reproduces bestsellers (Homer’s Iliad, Caesar’s The Gallic War) as well as niche works. Those with a touch of the trainspotter about them will find Frontinus’s Aqueducts of Rome, or Aelian’s On The Characteristics of Animals particularly diverting.The complete works of Philo and Josephus are also well-known LCL volumes. The Reader will doubtless give the whole series some welcome publicity and will serve as a useful Classics textbook.
The library has now narrowed its horizons but still commissions new translations. With long-lost ancient works (plays of Sophocles, epic poems, Christian gospels) soon to emerge from Egyptian papyri currently under infra-red examination at Oxford University, the library can look forward to some virgin material.
That is good news for academia. James Loeb endowed a percentage of the library’s profits to the Department of Classics at Harvard and, with 499 volumes in print, it harvests more than $750,000 (£435,000) per annum. In May another moneyspinner will be added: coming in at No 500, Quintilian’s The Lesser Declamations — an experimental law game for the budding attorney of the 2nd century AD.
To celebrate this 500th edition, A Loeb Classical Library Reader has been pulled together.
UPDATE: The Reader gets a positive review in the Los Angeles Times.