Snapshots of the Classics Library's Collections

The Classics Collection

The Classics collections include more than 270,000 volumes and c. 2,000 journal titles spanning all areas of classical civilization, including language and literature, archaeology, art, history, epigraphy, papyrology, numismatics, palaeography, religion, philosophy, politics, science and technology, and medicine. The collections in all areas of classical studies are outstanding, although especially exhaustive in Greek and Latin philology and Minoan-Mycenaean archaeology.  The comprehensive level of current acquisitions continues. A few highlights include some 18,000 German dissertations and Programmschriften in classics, especially philology, from the 18th to the early 20th c., a separate room of more than 2,000 books on Palaeography, the collecting of which began with the namesake of the library, Latin palaeographer John Miller Burnam, some 3,500 early imprints from the 16th-18th c. as well as various incunabula such as Statius’ Thebaid, Silvae, Achilleid from 1483, Diodorus Siculus’ Bibliotheca Historica from 1496, Tacitus’ Historiae from 1497, Justin’s epitome of Trogus’ Philippic Histories from 1497, and Josephus’ De bello judaico from 1499 as well as some exquisite facsimiles of illuminated manuscripts such as Ptolemy’s Cosmographia (Codex Urb. Lat. 277), the Joshua Roll (Codex Vat. Pal. Graec. 431), and the Vergilius Romanus (Codex Vat. Lat. 3867), and a facsimile of the oldest preserved Sophocles manuscript (Florence, Ms. Codex Laurentianus 32.9). The collections also include representations of Medieval Latin in the superb facsimiles of the Book of Kells with 24 mounted color plates (Turin), and the Lindisfarne Gospels (Cottonian Ms. Nero D.IV) from the British Museum.

 

The Modern Greek Collection

The Byzantine and Modern Greek Collections at the University of Cincinnati include some 60,000 volumes and 7,000 journal titles covering all aspects of Byzantine and post-Byzantine Greece, with special strengths in 19th c. and early 20th c. journals, such as Έρμῆς ὁ λόγιος (1811-21), the journal of the Greek intellectuals dispersed through Europe during the pre-Revolutionary period and an important source for the intellectual background to the Revolution as well as the first journal published in modern Greek. Other historical periodicals include Βυζαντίς (1909-12), Έλληνικά (1928-), Ἐπετηρὶς Ἑταιρείας Βυζαντινῶν Σπουδῶν (1924-), Δελτίων τῆς Ίστορικῆς καὶ Ἐθνολογικῆς Έταιρίας Ἑλλάδος (1883-), Ἠπειρωτικὰ χρονικά (1926-), Θρακικά (1928), Χιακὰ χρονικά (1911-), Μικρασιατικὰ χρονικά (1938-), and and Ἀθηνᾶ (1889-), the journal of the Έπιστημονικὴ Έταιρεία in Athens. Other significant publications include Μεσαιωνικὴ βιβλιοθήκη (7 vols., Venice, 1872-94), and the Ἀρχεῖον κοινότητος Ὓδρας (1778-1832) in fifteen volumes, which is of great importance for the understanding of the commercial background of the Revolution (aka the War of Independence, 1821-1832, against the Ottoman Turkish rule).

Further UC holdings include review publications such as Ἑλληνισμός (1898-), Ἑστία (1876-94), Νέα ἑστία (1927-), Νουμᾶς (1903-), and Παναθήναια (1901-), the most important organ of the Demoticists (Demotic Greek or δημοτική. “Demoticists” refers to individuals who favored Demotic Greek over Katharevousa, the more formal version of Greek which was closer to the ancient language. This debate, referred to as “the language question,” engulfed much of the 19th and 20th c. until 1976 when “Demotic” won the day and is now the official standard Greek). The library further owns an extensive collection of studies related to humanist scholar Adamantios Koraes (Ἀδαμάντιος Κοραῆς), probably the largest in any American library. Koraes was instrumental in the lead up to the War of Independence as well as for the creation and development of Katharevousa (see above).

Moreover, the library possesses a rare copy of the great Greek poet Constantine Cavafy’s Ποιήματα (including poems written from 1905-15), printed in Alexandria in 1930 and carrying the author’s signature; a rare edition of Nobel Prize winner Nikos Kazantzakis’ Ὀδύσσεια (Odyssey: A Modern Sequel), Athens 1938, as well as Greek Cubist artist Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas’ illustrations to Kazantzakis’ work, including a facsimile of a letter from Kazantzakis to Ghikas, dated February 15, 1944. Other collections of note include a large number of army corps maps of Greece from World War I and II.

The collecting of Greek materials began in earnest with archaeologist Carl W. Blegen, UC classics professor from 1927 to his death in 1971.  Blegen excavated extensively in Greece and served as Assistant Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, and was able to acquire many publications for the UC classics library on his frequent stays in Greece, but also on visits to Istanbul, Paris, London, and New York. The collection focused initially on standard editions of ancient texts published by modern Greek scholars as well as on Greek works in ancient history and archaeology. It subsequently expanded to include also Greek linguistics and “the language question,” Byzantine and Modern Greek history, geography and topography, as well as Philhellenism. At that time there were even plans to make Cincinnati the center of Medieval and Modern Greek studies in the United States and to enable the acquisition of rare books such as first editions and special elegant publications through its Friend’s program to illustrate the history of modern Greek typography and book making. In 1952 the University, under the Farmington Plan of the Association of Research Libraries, took responsibility for the preservation in the United States of all scholarly materials originating in Greece. Under this plan, Professor Blegen began the acquisition of contemporary materials in nearly every field of knowledge except for law, medicine and agriculture.  Peter Topping in a survey of “Modern Greek Studies and Materials in the United States” in the early 1940’s (Byzantion vol. 15, 1940-41: 414-442) referred to the UC Modern Greek collection at that time as “the finest and largest” in the United States.

In recent years, after the retirements of Niove Kyparissiotis, the cataloger of Modern Greek, and Eugenia Foster, the curator of Modern Greek materials, the collecting in this area has not held quite the same high level, especially in Modern Greek literature, although recently the collection received a boost from a significant donation of duplicate imprints from the Tsakopoulos Hellenic Collection at California State University, Sacramento. The library’s Modern Greek holdings also greatly benefit from the many Greek scholars in the Classics Department, including faculty, Tytus fellows, and graduate students.