A Snapshot of the Classics Library's Collections

The Classics Collections

Vergilius Romanus
artifacts in the Classics library

The Classics collections include almost 300,000 book volumes and more than 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, Minoan-Mycenaean archaeology, and Latin palaeography. A few highlights include some 18,000 German dissertations and Programmschriften in classics, especially philology, from the 18th to the early 20th century, although a couple of the dissertations date from as early as the 17th century; a separate room of c. 3,000 books on Papyrology, Epigraphy, and Palaeography, the collecting of which began with the Classics Library's namesake, Latin palaeographer John Miller Burnam; a number of volumes of manuscripts acquired in Venice by Prof. Burnam as part of a household archive of mainly legal documents intended for the teaching of Palaeography; some 30 Greek and Latin manuscript fragments in vellum, several illuminated, dated 12th-15th century; three illuminated medieval manuscript leaves (a prayer book with exquisite illustrations from Aesop's Fables from Germany c. 1524, a miniature "Book of Hours" from Italy c. 1460 and a regular size "Book of Hours" from France c. 1470, both with beautiful illuminations), more than 3,500 early imprints from the 16th-18th century as well as various incunabula such as Statius’ ThebaidSilvaeAchilleid 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) in the British Museum.

The Byzantine and Modern Greek Collections

First Modern Greek journal
Cavafy's signature

The Byzantine and Modern Greek Collections at the University of Cincinnati include some 70,000 volumes and more than 1,000 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 Greek intellectuals dispersed through Europe during the pre-Revolutionary period and an important source for the theoretical 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) 
  • Χιακὰχρονικά (1911-) 
  • Μικρασιατικὰ χρονικά (1938-)
  • 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 (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-) 
  • 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 century until 1976 when “Demotic” won the day and is now the official standard Greek).

The rare 19th century modern Greek journal collection comprises some 120 titles and those from the first half of the 20th century more than 280 titles.  In most cases, the UC Classics Library possesses all volumes published of each journal. This historic collection is one of the finest of its kind in North America.

The library further owns an extensive collection of studies related to humanist scholar Adamantios Koraïs (Ἀδαμάντιος Κοραῆς), one of the largest in America. Koraes was instrumental in the lead up to the War of Independence as well as in the creation and development of Katharevousa (see above) and the first modern Greek dictionary.

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 folio edition of famous novelist Nikos Kazantzakis’ Ὀδύσσεια (Odyssey: A Modern Sequel), Athens 1938, as well as Greek Cubist artist Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas’ illustrations to Kazantzakis’ work, containing a facsimile of a letter from Kazantzakis to Ghikas, dated February 15, 1944. The library further owns a discrete collection of some 7,500 items in Byzantine and Modern Greek literature. Other collections of note include more than 1,000 army corps maps of the Mediterranean area from World War I and II, currently being digitized.

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 editions 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 acquisition of Modern Greek journals and monographs at the University of Cincinnati is still comprehensive for titles dealing with the Byzantine period, Frankokratia, Venetokratia, Tourkokratia, Enlightenment Era, the War of Independence, WWII (impact on Greeks and Greece's involvement), the Greek military dictatorship, 1967-1974, travel in Greece, Philhellenism, the language question, the Eastern question, and historiography. The coverage is more selective in the areas of general history, politics, language and literature, religion, folklore, music, theater, and the Greek diaspora.

The Classics Library’s modern Greek holdings also greatly benefit from the many Greek scholars in the Classics Department, including faculty, Tytus fellows, and graduate students and from the support of Philhellene Jack L. Davis, the Chair of the Department and Carl W. Blegen Professor of Greek Archaeology since 1993 and Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 2007-2012.

Work by Kazantzakis


By R. Lindau