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Harvard University Press’s many new diglot series

January 5, 2012

A diglot is a book edition in two languages; typically the original source language on one side of the page and a target translation language on the other side of the page.  Is Harvard University Press trying to make diglots popular?

Most of you are probably aware of Harvard University Press’s Loeb Classical Library which features about 520 volumes (the number still growing in Greek and Latin).  These are books presented in Greek-English format or Latin-English format.

Accompanying it is Harvard University Press’s I Tatti Renaissance Library which features works of the Italian Renaissance in Latin-English format.  That series has 52 volumes and is growing.

A younger partner to these existing series is Harvard University Press’s Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, which features medieval and Byzantine works in Greek-English, Latin-English, or Old English-English format.  that series has 15 volumes and is growing.

Two more series are planned:   the first is Harvard University Press’s Murty Classical Library of India.  Harvard University Press describes its mission as “The Murty Classical Library of India (MCLI) aims to make available the great literary works of India from the past two millennia in scholarly yet accessible translations. Much of the great literature of India remains locked in its original language. Many texts have never reached a global audience, while others are becoming increasingly inaccessible even to Indian readers. The creation of a classical library of India is intended to provide modern translation of these works. The MCLI will provide up-to-date English translations of classical works, many for the first time, across the Indian language spectrum, from Bengali and Kannada and Marathi to Persian, Sanskrit, Telugu, and Urdu. In addition, the text in the appropriate regional script will be provided on the facing page. A scholarly introduction, explanatory commentary, and textual notes will accompany each work with the aim to make MCLI volumes the most authoritative available. At the same time, a high value will be placed upon the readability of the translations. The series is intended to showcase for the first time on a major scale the multilingual literary treasures of the Indian past, an unparalleled contribution to world civilization.”

Another planned series is one from Harvard University Press (together with Tel Aviv University Press):  the Hackmey Hebrew Classical Library:  “The Hackmey Hebrew Classical Library, a joint publication of Harvard University Press and Tel Aviv University Press seeks to make classical Hebrew and Aramaic texts from the post-biblical era to the rebirth of Hebrew in the nineteenth century as a series of facing-page translations which are accessible to the Anglophone reader. From biblical times to the Modern Era, Hebrew and Aramaic were the languages of Jewish thought and devotion. They were the languages of the Bible, the Mishnah and the Talmud. They were the languages many Jewish intellectuals used for exegesis, halavah, mysticism, philosophy, literature, poetry and science. From the Midrash to the Cabbala, from the Spanish poets’ reinvention of biblical Hebrew to the incorporation of German folklore into Jewish piety by the Hassidim of Ashkenaz, classical Jewish texts offer the reader a chance to explore the thoughts and ideas of the lesser-known half of the ‘Judeo-Christian’ tradition.”  The advisory board for the Hackmey Hebrew Classical Library includes names well known to readers of this blog:  Moshe Idel (Hebrew University), Jeremy Cohen (Tel Aviv),  Elisheva Carlebach (Columbia), Robert Alter (Berkeley), Martha Himmelfarb (Princeton), Shaye Cohen (Harvard), Michael Fishbane (Chicago), Maurice Kriegel (Paris), and Menachem Lorberbaum (Tel Aviv).  The web site for the project includes a puff piece, which claims “The first four volumes of the series, out of 25, are slated to come out in 2011, and four more will be published every year after that.  [Tel Aviv University Press director Aviad] Kleinberg will head an international advisory board of world experts that will select the texts and supervise their translation into English.  Their first task is to choose texts from the entire body of classical Hebrew and Aramaic literature, from post-Biblical times to the 18th century. ‘Believe me,’ says Kleinberg, ‘it’s not an easy choice!’”  (Pretty clearly, the series missed the planned start date in 2011.)

What do you think of all these diglot series?  Will they make diglots popular?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 5, 2012 7:21 pm

    Is Harvard University Press trying to make diglots popular?

    Yes – and the move to the digital formats is additional evidence:

    What do you think of all these diglot series?

    I think I love all of them!

    Will they make diglots popular?

    We can only hope. There’s something about reading two languages side by side that benefits readers and brings out new things in both languages.

  2. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    January 5, 2012 10:55 pm

    Pagnini and Erasmus published diglot Bibles. I am all for them! Many original language Bibles were diglot or polyglot up until this century. See the Samuel Bagster Bibles.

  3. January 5, 2012 11:00 pm

    You know, I’m not all that excited about the electronic Loeb editions. I find that while the computer is useful for looking up references, it is not useful for sustained reading of texts. For example, if I think of the sustained arguments in Plato’s Republic or Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, I think that they required sustained attention to understand. More importantly, they require sustained attention to critique. Plato and Aristotle are very effective at putting forward persuasive arguments, and it requires careful attention to critique or refute those arguments. (For example, everyone who believes in democratic principles will have to conclude the Republic is wrong — but to do so requires sustained analysis. Popper did so in his book, and I still owe you a post about that.)

    For me the problem is that there is something about reading on computers that gives me a short attention span. I don’t think I am the only one. I’ve seen many different theories about this, but I think sustained, critical reading on a general purpose computer is quite difficult.

    I’ve used philosophical examples here, but I could just as easily made my observations using Greek tragedy, or Roman comedy, or history from any number of Greco-Roman authors.

    I’m happy about the electronic versions because they will be a wonderful supplement (and great for looking things up quickly). But I own close to two hundred of the Loeb volumes, and I think I am going to keep them.

  4. January 5, 2012 11:27 pm

    Suzanne: well, we could go back earlier — the Rosetta Stone or the Hexapla (although one was a tri-glot and the other was a hexa-glot).

    In your experience as a teacher, do you feel diglots assist or impair language learning?

    On another note, I have to admit some surprise in reaction to the Hackmey Hebrew Classical Library. There is really a vast Jewish religious literature published in diglot form; I would say that most new classical Jewish texts published in English are published with a Hebrew (or Aramaic diglot) at this point. (A notable exception is Daniel Matt’s translation of the Zohar, but in that case he has posted a critical Aramaic version online.)

    Another outstanding diglot effort that I want to celebrate is Brigham Young University’s excellent Middle Eastern Texts Initiative. For example, I’ve been meaning to post about BYU’s edition of The Incoherence of the Philosophers. Unfortunately, the METI effort seems have been stalled for several years, and I have to wonder if it is moribund at this point.

  5. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    January 6, 2012 12:05 am

    “In your experience as a teacher, do you feel diglots assist or impair language learning?”

    That’s quite different. ESL students learn English from their environment as French Immersion students are also supposed to. But I was instrumental in getting a section of bilingual books set up in our library for students to take home and read with their parents, more for an issue of pride and pleasure in their own literacy, and to encourage mother tongue literacy maintenance.

    But a language teacher will use almost any means to make the text more accessible.

  6. January 6, 2012 12:20 am

    I love diglots, which explains the NET/NA27 NT diglot being probably my favorite “Bible”, as well as my owning Ehrman and Plese’s “Apocryphal Gospels”, even though NT Apocrypha generally make me hurl. Stroker’s original language/English translation “Extracanonical Sayings of Jesus” tickles my fancy that way, too.

    I own two of the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine military manuals; they are intriguing but the Greek is another story for someone used to Koine alone.

    I only read Middle English by itself, but then, I don’t read the more difficult dialects (and have lots of footnotes). Chaucer, no Pearl Poet, thank you. And of course, Beowulf absolutely in translation, though a diglot would doubtless make interesting comparison in a formal translation.

    Diglots are cool.

  7. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    January 6, 2012 12:26 am

    The NET is the naughty Bible. 😉

  8. January 6, 2012 12:29 am

    I take the NET with more salt than I used to, indeed, with the OT and NT. It’s still a great first stop checkup.

  9. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    January 6, 2012 12:32 am

    yes, its a great place for ideas, wild or otherwise – I do agree.


  1. Diglots: remembering the Schiff Library of Jewish Classics « BLT

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