Help with sources: Where to find a text (in its original language)?

Today’s question might seem a little silly. Of course if you need a text you can do any of the following:

Or BitTorrent (no, just kidding. It’s against many nations’ copyright laws AND you get computer viruses called Ozzy Osbourne that then infect your instructor’s computer when you email her your essays. Not that I have bad experiences with that or anything.)

But sometimes these options aren’t that great. Not all texts are on Perseus (or PHI Latin). Retyping pages of Greek is probably good for your soul, but is also a huge drain on precious time. And sometimes, you want a text that you can copy and paste — into a handout, for example, or your term paper. PDFs are not good at this (although Google’s OCR is getting better). Or an open-access text, because either your library doesn’t subscribe to the resource or you’ve temporarily lost library access. (It can happen.)

You may also be concerned that you’re using the right edition of your text. As most classicists know, the textual tradition of ancient authors varies — a lot. And with this variance can come different readings, section/chapter divisions, or (in the case of fragmentary texts) an entirely different order.

(Undergrads, you are not immune. If you’re bored one day, try comparing three different versions of Propertius. Not pretty.)

If so, the Classics Index has your back. This crowdsourced project offers links to Google books of basically everything in ancient, medieval, and biblical studies, as well as open-source text websites like the Latin Library. (The site also includes a selection of scholarship.) These books are mostly open-access, which is good for anyone whose library has limited resources.

The list of texts isn’t perfect (for example, I didn’t see the excellent or Virgil Project, or the DC commentaries), but I definitely found new resources (the entire Teubner of Diodorus!). And, because copyright laws vary by country, some of these books might be off-limits to you. But that’s not to criticize. The list is an excellent resource — and, if you’re a book magpie like I am, you should give yourself an hour or so to spend browsing. You might be surprised at what’s out there…


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