Thanks to the volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders, the 1904 edition of A Classical Dictionary by John Lemprière is now available in the Project Gutenberg library. The complete title, A Classical Dictionary containing a copious account of all the proper names mentioned in ancient authors with tables of coins, weights, and measures used among the Greeks and Romans and a chronological table, shows just how comprehensive it is.
Lemprière (1765-1824) began work on the Classical Dictionary in 1786 while a student at Pembroke College, Oxford, possibly inspired by the ground-breaking Dictionary of the English Language compiled by fellow Pembroke graduate Samuel Johnson. Lemprière published the completed work in 1788 under the title Bibliotheca Classica. For over 200 years, it has been an essential reference work, not just for teachers and students of the ancient Greek and Roman classics, but also for novelists, journalists, playwrights, and poets. John Keats – whose poetry is filled with classical allusions – is said to have known the book almost by heart.
The study of classical literature has long been considered a fundamental requirement to understanding the development of our modern Western culture. The lack of classical studies in recent years leaves many feeling inadequate to the reading or study of classical literature. A Classical Dictionary is the perfect companion for those who are interested in a self-study of classical authors like Homer, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides, or Sophocles. When I prepared the e-book version, with the bountiful help of fellow DP volunteer Stephen Rowland, I took the liberty of expanding most name and title abbreviations to their full commonly known names, and changed many Latin abbreviations for books, chapters, lines, etc., to their common English abbreviations, to improve ease of reading.
A Classical Dictionary identifies and explains the plethora of Greek and Roman deities with their alleged authority and powers and the myths surrounding them. Names of rivers, cities, and regions are identified, when possible, with 19th-Century names and descriptions.
With this dictionary, you can travel along with Jason and the Argonauts in the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes; learn how Helen of Troy’s abduction sparked the Trojan War in Homer’s Iliad; or follow Odysseus on his 10-year journey home after the Trojan War in Homer’s Odyssey. It will bring to life for you the Greek tragedies of King Agamemnon, Orestes, and others, or enable you to study the Roman histories by Julius Caesar, Josephus, Tacitus, and many more. Open your horizons now to these ancient works that have had such an impact on the development of today’s society.
This post was contributed by Rich Hulse (BookBuff), a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer who post-processed the e-book version of A Classical Dictionary.