Classics Library Collections

Ut conclave sine libris, ita corpus sine anima -- A room without books is like a body without a soul

attributed to Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106–43 BCE


The John Miller Burnam Classics Library at the University of Cincinnati possesses one of the world's largest (almost 300,000 volumes) and most distinguished collections of Classical Studies with particular strengths in Greek and Latin philology, Aegean Bronze Age archaeology, and Latin palaeography. It is unique in housing under one roof the full spectrum of subdisciplines within the broad definition of Classics -- language and literature, art and archaeology, history, politics, philosophy, religion, law, science, medicine, in addition to Modern Greek studies, papyrology, epigraphy, and palaeography, and more -- spanning five millennia of recorded history and the vast geographic areas of Ancient Greece, including Asia Minor, the Black Sea region, and Magna Graecia, pre-Roman Italy, including the Etruscan civilization, and the full expanses of the Roman Empire, including Eastern Rome (Byzantium) in addition to sizeable collections covering the Near East and Ancient Egypt. For a more detailed description of the collections, see the webpage "A Snapshot of the Collections."

Not only does the Library's extensive collections stimulate and facilitate discovery, study and research, but they also generate connections and discussions among our permanent and itinerant world-renowned classical philologists, archaeologists, ancient historians and others, which contribute to the productivity and creativity and knowledge of our students and faculty. Our goal is not only to satisfy the research needs of our current scholars, but also to build collections that we believe will have lasting value in order to meet future needs. For this reason our policy is not to weed the classics collections unless we have multiple copies of a book or if a book has become illegible because of poor physical condition in which case we attempt to replace it if possible. We do, however, always keep multiple editions that may differ from one another in some respect.     

Because of the uniqueness of the Library's collections, access and use have to be balanced with the need to preserve them for future scholarship. Many of the books have been acquired during more than a century and are in poor physical condition.

Books must be handled with care. Please do not pull books by their spines or photocopy books by pressing down on them or make notes in them. Food and drink inside the Library are not allowed since spilled water and humidy can cause irreversible damage to paper and food can attract mice and insects who eat paper.

For security reasons, all users are required to leave their UC or picture ID and to sign in and leave their bags in lockers when entering the Library. Bags and IDs are retrieved when leaving the Library. Handbags and laptop bags must be shown to the library staff when entering and exiting the Library. Please note that to safe-guard the collections and for everyone's safety, there are cameras at various points throughout the Library (at the entrance, in the Circulation area, in the Reading Room, and the book stacks). For additional information, see the webpage, "Classics Library Policies."

Two students do research in the Reading Room

The Classics Library's main Reading Room houses more than thirty seats around 100-year-old tables, art works featuring Greek and Roman motifs, several exhibit cases displaying Greek and Roman artifacts as well as gems from our book collections and important editions of Greek and Latin texts.

Paleography Room

The new Palaeography Reading Room (the Scriptorium) contains more than 3,000 books on Greek and Latin palaeography, papyrology, and epigraphy. The Scriptorium contains facsimiles of some of the oldest manuscripts of ancient texts in addition to facsimiles of several famous medieval illuminated manuscripts as well as materials on papyri and epigraphy.

Examining a rare book

The new Rare Book & Manuscript Room contains some 4,000 rare books and manuscripts.

Legal manuscripts from Venice

Original legal manuscripts from Venice, 14th c.-17th c., in the Rare Book & Manuscript Room.

Books on and by ancient Greek poet Homer

The extensive stacks section on ancient Greek poet Homer.

Books on and about Roman poet Virgil

The equally large stacks section on Roman poet Virgil.

Huge books, elephant folios, in classics stacks

Elephant folios in the Library's stacks.

German dissertations

The Library's collection of German dissertations, 17th-early 20th century.

Books from the 19th c. in the Classics stacks

19th century books on stack level 5.

Edition of ancient texts and an exhibition of Mycenaean figurines

The Loeb Classical Library series and a display of Greek Bronze Age figurines in the main Reading Room.

Miniature books in a glass cabinet in UC classics.

Pocket size books became especially popular in the late 19th century, which contributed greatly to literacy but also helped many school children practice their Demosthenes and Cicero.

Manuscript leaves from Books of Hours and Breviaries in UC classics.

Original medieval manuscript leaves from Books of Hours and Breviaries on display in the Reading Room.

Classics Library stack floor

The Classics Library’s stack floors house almost 300,000 print volumes in Classical Studies, including Philology, Archaeology, Epigraphy, Papyrology, and more.

Classics journal collection

The Classics Library holds virtually all print journals on ancient Greece and Rome.

Classics Library's manuscript facsimiles

The Classics Library’s Palaeography Reading Room houses many valuable facsimiles such as the “Roman Virgil” and the “Laurentian Sophocles”.

Exhibitions in the Classics Library

The main Reading Room in the Classics Library features book and artifact exhibitions and text editions highlighting some of the rich collections of UC Classics.

Detail of Rome from the so called Nolli map from the 18th c.

Detail of boats on the river Tiber in Rome from Giambattista Nolli's "Pianta Grande di Roma" from the first half of the 18th century. The Google map of that time revealing as much detail as the online search engine. It was used for all planning and mapping activities of the City of Rome as recently as 1970. This facsimile is housed in the Classics Library's Map Case.