February 18, 2011

About This Project

Over the past year or so, I have been looking for old Latin readers at GoogleBooks. I started out by looking for readers with Aesop's fables in them, so that I could include those fables in my book from summer 2010, Mille Fabulae et Una: 1001 Aesop's Fables in Latin (available as a free PDF download, if you are interested). Along the way, I noticed all kinds of great reading content - historical anecdotes, mythological tales, folklore and fairy tales, etc. So, for my summer 2011 project, I've decided to harvest other kinds of stories from these great old readers.

I've got oer 250 stories now (UPDATED March 27 2011), from five different sources - the kings of Rome as told in Chickering and also in Harkness, plus two little booklets by Fowle, the complete anecdotes section of Heatley & Kingdon's Excerpta Facilia (a follow-up to their Gradatim book), and the gods section of Hart's Epitome of Greek and Roman Mythology. You can see all the stories at the blog: Bestiaria Latina: Anecdota Latina. If you look in the sidebar just to the right of the post column, you will see a listing by sources and also a "Personae et Loci" word cloud based on the contents of the stories.

Each story has the text, segmented (I am an absolute believer in this style of presentation), with accent marks to encourage reading aloud, and an image. There are some quite famous works of art inspired by these stories! At the top of each story, there is a back button and a forward button so you can "page through" the contents from a particular source. This is very helpful for multi-part stories. It is also good for following the Roman history anecdotes in order. There is an "up" button as well which takes you to the index page for the source from which the story comes.

If you look at the bottom of each story, I have linked to the source at Google Books, PLUS a link to where the vocabulary listing begins in that book. So far, all the sources I have used contain a comprehensive Latin-English vocabulary in the back of the book which you can easily consult online at GoogleBooks. I am not really keen on doing vocabulary lists since my sincere hope is that people will just read the Latin rather than immediately wanting to do an English translation!

Some of these stories are fabulous, some are just okay, and some perhaps will strike people as being "politically incorrect" - but remember, all the American schoolboys of the 19th and early 20th century were reading these books, or books just like them, in school. So, at least for me, I think it is a matter of real historical interest to look at these texts in toto, even if there are some stories you might or might not want to share with your students; personally, I think stories like the one about Socrates and his Xanthippe are hilarious because they allow us to read the text critically in addition to getting the old joke, and so too with the story of Plutarch whipping his "worthless and uppity" slave… As a critical analysis exercise, you could re-write the Latin story from Xanthippe's point of view, for example, or from the point of view of Plutarch's slave (or of the other slave who is actually administering the punishment!).

In any case, I am not censoring the texts as I transcribe the stories - my goal is instead to create a general repository from which people can pick and choose whatever suits them. Since none of these stories are under copyright and are instead in the public domain, they are yours to work with as you please! You can change the grammatical constructions, change the vocabulary - unlike the sacred text of a classical author, these are pragmatic texts meant to be useful for learning Latin. So, please don't hesitate to change the texts in whatever way will make them most useful to you!

If you have suggestions about how to make this more useful, or if you know of a Latin reader at Google Books that is a special favorite of yours, please let me know!

In addition to the blog posts, there is also a widget for your own blog or website, if you want; you can grab the javascript here. Below you see the 400-pixel wide random widget at work (the widgets are available as 200- or 400-pixel width, either date-based on random):

1 comment:

  1. Hi Laura,

    I'm really enjoying this website. I especially like the way you have segmented the stories. I copy them into a Notepad document and then use them with the Reading Acceleration Machine (RAM 4.05) that I downloaded from the Latin Teaching Materials website from Saint Louis University.

    Just seeing one segment at a time frees me from worrying about how long the sentence is and helps me to concentrate on the phrase I'm seeing and what function it plays in the sentence.

    Thanks very much for your efforts,