Guangqi Lecture and Seminar Series

Our friend and collaborator Jinyu Liu passes on the following exciting announcement:

Dear Classics friends: On behalf of the newly founded Shanghai Normal University Guangqi International Center for Scholars, we are greatly pleased to announce the launch of the Guangqi Classics Lecture and Seminar Series. Aiming at promoting Classical Studies in China and fostering trans-lingual and trans-cultural conversations about Classics, the Guangqi Lecture and Seminar Series invites Classics scholars from around the world to share their cutting-edge research, provide master classes, and organize international conferences and workshops on diverse aspects of the ancient world. We also warmly welcome resource sharing and collaborative endeavors in various forms.

We are very grateful to Christopher A. Francese and Marc Mastrangelo of Dickinson College, who have been instrumental in putting together the program for Season I, and Lisa Mignone and Richard Billows for enriching the academic events. We also wish to acknowledge the generous support from Dickinson Classics, Shanghai 1000 Plan and Shanghai Normal University. Season II is being planned, which will feature Walter Scheidel.

Please help spread the word, and join us in this long-term endeavor in globalizing Classics.

For DCC Shanghai Seminar, please see…/dickinson-college-commentarie…/

Thank you,

Heng Chen (Shanghai Normal University) and Jinyu Liu (Classical Studies at DePauw University)

Note: The Guangqi Lecture and Seminar Series is named after XU Guangqi (1562-1633), one of the first literati Christians in China and the great collaborator of Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), a Jesuit missionary whose role in bringing Western Learning to China can hardly be overstated.

DCC Shanghai Seminar June 12-14

A stellar line up of Chinese scholars of the western classical tradition will meet in Shanghai next month to create Latin-Chinese and Greek-Chinese versions of the DCC Core vocabularies, and to form a plan for future collaboration and resource creation. Can’t wait! Thanks to Jinyu Liu of DePauw University for coordinating the event, and Shanghai Normal University for hosting!

2015上师大DCC注疏项目Seminar poster

A New Latin Macronizer

Felipe Vogel has released a new Latin macronizer, Maccer, and I thought I would take it for a spin and share the results. It works based on a database of previously macronized Latin texts (some provided by DCC), and is still in development.

For my test I figured I would use an unusual text I have been working on lately, Historiarum Indicarum Libri XVI, about the Portuguese exploration of the Far East in the 16th century. It was published by the Jesuit humanist Pietro Maffei in 1588, and the Latin is excellent and full of interest. Book 6 is a fascinating ethnography of China, informed by reports from Jesuit missionaries who visited and lived in China over a number of years. The last print edition was 1751: Joannis Petri Maffeii Bergomatis E Societate Jesu Historiarum Indicarum Libri XVI (Vienna: Bernardi, 1751), and thanks to a tip from Terence Tunberg (who introduced me to this text) I tracked it down on the site of the Dresden Library. Since there is no fully digitized text, my students and I transcribed Book 6 this past fall. Here is an excerpt, with no macrons.

E Sinarum provinciis maxime occidua est Cantonia. Eo priusquam pervenias, multae occurrunt insulae; quas praefecti regii praesidiis et classibus tenent: neque ipsorum iniussu progredi advenas Cantonem est fas. Fernandus Andradius, ut exponere coeperam, cum ad Tamum insulam pervenisset, post diuturnam moram, transitu aegre tandem impetrato, cum duobus expeditis et egregie ornatis navigiis, cetera classe ad Tamum relicta, Cantonis portum invehitur, ac magistratuum permissu Thomam legatum exponit, cui aedes et lautia de more attributa. Ibi Fernandus, mira lenitate ac iustitia contrahendo cum incolis, haud ita difficili negotio aditum ad ea commercia nostris aperuit.

With Vogel’s macronizer this becomes

Ē ✖Sinarum prōvinciīs maximē ✖occidua ✪est ✖Cantonia. Eō priusquam perveniās, multae occurrunt īnsulae; quās ✖praefecti ✖regii praesidiīs et classibus tenent: neque ipsōrum ❡iniussū prōgredī ✖advenas ✖Cantonem ✪est fās. ✖Fernandus ✖Andradius, ut expōnere ✖coeperam, cum ad ✖Tamum īnsulam pervēnisset, post diūturnam moram, trānsitū aegrē tandem ✖impetrato, cum duōbus expedītīs et ēgregiē ✖ornatis nāvigiīs, cētera classe ad ✖Tamum ✪relictā, ✖Cantonis portum invehitur, ac magistrātuum ❡permissū ✖Thomam lēgātum expōnit, cui aedēs et ✖lautia dē mōre ❡attribūta. Ibi ✖Fernandus, ✒mīrã ✖lenitate ac iūstitia ✖contrahendo cum incolīs, haud ita ✖difficili negōtiō aditum ad ✒eã commercia nostrīs aperuit.

The symbols mean this:

unknown word, i.e. not yet in Vogel’s database.
ambiguous: uncertain vowels marked with a tilde (~).
guessed based on frequency.
prefix or enclitic detected attached to a known word.
invalid characters detected.

I made sixteen corrections in 92 words.

21 words were flagged as unknown, 10 of those were proper names (Sinārum, occidua, Cantonia, praefectī, regiī, advenās, Cantonem, Fernandus, Andradius, coeperam, Tamum, impetrātā, ornātīs, Tamum, Cantonis, Thomam, lautia, Fernandus, lēnitāte, contrahendō, difficilī). I made 9 corrections in that group, leaving alone most of the proper names for now.

3 words were guessed based on frequency, all correctly (est, est, relictā).

3 words were marked as “prefix detected,” all correctly macronized (iniussū, permissū, attribūta)

2 were marked as having invalid characters (mīrā, ea), had tildes over the vowel, and had to be corrected by hand.

Only two words were incorrect but not flagged as in any way problematic (cēterā, iūstitiā). In both cases it was an ambiguous first-declension -a. The other vowels in those words were correct.

The hand-corrected result is as follows:

Ē Sinārum prōvinciīs maximē occidua est Cantonia. Eō priusquam perveniās, multae occurrunt īnsulae; quās praefectī regiī praesidiīs et classibus tenent: neque ipsōrum iniussū prōgredī advenās Cantonem est fās. Fernandus Andradius, ut expōnere coeperam, cum ad Tamum īnsulam pervēnisset, post diūturnam moram, trānsitū aegrē tandem impetrātā, cum duōbus expedītīs et ēgregiē ornātīs nāvigiīs, cēterā classe ad Tamum relictā, Cantonis portum invehitur, ac magistrātuum permissū Thomam lēgātum expōnit, cui aedēs et lautia dē mōre attribūta. Ibi Fernandus, mīrā lēnitāte ac iūstitiā contrahendō cum incolīs, haud ita difficilī negōtiō aditum ad ea commercia nostrīs aperuit.

I would call this very good results, and it should be possible to do even better given a larger database. In theory we could do even better than that by marrying a parser and a dictionary like LaNe that has quantities accurately marked. If all goes well I hope to embark on such a project this fall with the help of a Dickinson Computer Science senior student. The other thing I would like to see is an editing environment that would make inserting macrons as easy as clicking on the vowel. This would really help in the inevitable process of hand correction.

Thank you Felipe, for this amazing tool!

Exporting and Sharing Digital Scholarly Editions

Desmond Schmidt’s recent article in the Journal of TEI about how to create a truly portable and interoperable digital scholarly editions came at an opportune time for me. DCC is entering into a relationship with Open Book Publishers in Cambridge to exchange our (Creative Commons licensed) content. They will publish some of our commentaries as books and eBooks, and we will publish some of their book commentaries as multimedia, web-based editions. But how to actually make the transference?

We are starting by delivering Bret Mulligan’s commentary on Nepos’ Life of Hannibal. OBP needs it in a format they can use and set in InDesign and publish in EPUB. But how should the transfer happen? How can we actually share the open licensed scholarly content of DCC so it can actually be re-purposed and pe-published in different formats? Not easily, it turns out. Our commentaries are just html pages in Drupal, not XML based and TEI tagged documents, and thus, in the view of one early critic of the project, “not truly digital.” XML-TEI is intended as a universal standard for editing and tagging documents of all kinds, and not adopting that for our project was at the time a decision based on cost. Anyway, after various investigations on the OBP side it turned out the best way for us to get our commentaries is to OBP deliver the via . . . wait for it . . . Microsoft Word–with all the labor and possibilities for error that that involves.

Wouldn’t things be better if our texts were marked up in XML-TEI? No, according to Schmidt. He argues, in effect, that TEI is actually hindering the sharing of digital scholarly editions. The problem is the subjectivity of TEI tagging and the diversity of the tags themselves, which in Schmidt’s view makes true interoperability of scholarly editions in TEI a pipe dream. The solution he proposes, as I understand it, is to get all the tags and metadata out completely and into separate files, preserving the text as plain text (in multiple versions if we are dealing with revisions or variants). He is evidently developing an editing environment which ends up creating zipped files that completely separate the text itself, annotation data that points back to the text, and metadata. A few choice quotes:

Syd Bauman (2011), one of the original editors of TEI P5, has since observed that interoperability of TEI-encoded texts today—that is, the exchange of unmodified TEI files between different programs—is “impossible.” (9)

One obvious remedy to this problem is to remove the main source of non-interoperability, namely the embedded markup itself, from the text. By removing it, the part which contains all the significant interpretation can later be added or substituted at will. (21)

What remains when the markup is removed is a residue of plain text that is highly interoperable, which can be exchanged with other researchers, just as the files on are downloaded by the tens of thousands every day (Leibert 2008). However, if one suggests this to someone who regularly uses TEI-XML, the immediate objection is made that this will solve nothing, because even plain ASCII texts are still an interpretation of what the transcriber sees on the page (e.g. Sperberg-McQueen 1991, 35). This point, although valid to a degree, misses an important distinction. (22)

And it goes on in this interesting vein. I would love to hear from people who are wiser and more experienced than I am about Schmidt’s critique of embedded TEI annotation and his proposed solution. In the meantime, I need to go format some stuff in Microsoft Word.

Dickinson Summer Latin Workshop 2014 Comments


002Participants in the 2014 Dickinson Summer Latin Workshop (left to right): Christine Kahl, Will Darden, Peter Rook, Catherine Zackey, Faye Peel, Wells Hansen, Ashley Leonard, Scott Paterson, Paul Perrot, Kaori Miller, Jennifer Larson, Hugh McElroy, Janet Brooks, John Landis, Will Harvard, Daniel Cummings, Andrea Millius, Jacqueline Lopata, Bernie Gygax, and Laurie Duncan.

003We met for the week of July 13, 2014, and read selections from Lucretius, led by Wells Hansen and Chris Francese. Two new elements were a daily happy hour, with drinks and light refreshments in front of East College from 4:00-5:00; and the optional session to work on the Dickinson College Commentaries project in the afternoons from 2:00-4:00, helping harvest notes for the projected multimedia edition of the Aeneid. Here are some of the comments from participants:

Thank you! For the wonderful workshop this year. Of course–I enjoyed the reading this year–very interesting selection. I enjoyed reading and socializing with my colleagues. I think the commentary and the daily happy hour provided a great venue to get to know people better.

I very much enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with other Latin teachers. Good times.

I enjoyed the camaraderie . . . the laughter . . . the intellectual stimulus.

I enjoyed the pace and friendly collegiality

I had a lovely time–favorite workshop yet.

The readings were fantastic! I enjoyed preparing the text every day and the discussions in class. Having the afternoons free was great, too–it allowed me to prep and recharge so I didn’t get too tired out.

I enjoyed spending time with a diverse group of teachers and Latin aficionados. Getting a chance to read one text in depth with knowledgeable instructors and colleagues. Just generally hanging out with Latin people and making jokes about the Dative.




Reviewing Digital Projects

It is often difficult for digital projects to get any detailed critique outside of the grant writing process, or even then. So I was delighted to see Patricia Johnson’s thorough and thoughtful review of William Turpin’s DCC edition of Ovid’s Amores, Book 1 in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review. It was full of good suggestions from Prof. Johnson and her students. She highlighted some problems of which we were already aware, especially the insufficiency of the vocabulary lists. These exclude the DCC core of the 1000 most common Latin words. The problem is that students normally do not have anywhere near that much vocabulary under their command, and access to the core items through the core database is not as easy as it should be. The solution we plan to adopt going forward is to provide two vocabulary lists, one core and one non-core. Bret Mulligan’s edition of Nepos’ Life of Hannibal has these segregated core and non-core lists, and they have proven to have real pedagogical utility. One can say to students at the lower intermediate level, “you don’t have to learn all the words right now, just the high frequency ones,” then hand them that list. One can also make reading texts in which non-core items are glossed.

She also pointed out the problems of using Google Earth for maps of places mentioned in the text. This was an expedient based on the resources we had available, but for many people having to download Google Earth is not worth the trouble, and this constitutes a real barrier to usability. We have some GIS capability to make static maps (Dan Plekhov’s excellent maps for Caesar’s Gallic War), but at the moment true interactive maps that you can dive right into seem to be beyond our budget. But I would welcome ideas about how to achieve this easily.

Prof. Johnson’s use of this resource in a classroom setting yielded some good insights and ideas from her students:

My students propose a notetaking/highlighting feature, with the ability to save both text and notes to use in class, and/or better printing capability for in-class use of the text. Some envisioned a feature allowing the creation of a unique class forum on the site where grammatical and translation questions can be posted and answered by their professor. My seminarians discovered an unanticipated advantage of the electronic format in class: I could project the text from my iPad onto a white board (in our case, green, so font color options would be useful) for in-class scansion exercises without spending precious class time writing out the Latin on the board.

Better printing capability is definitely something we need to work on. Most simply we could just provide a .pdf of the text, notes, and vocabulary. But then we get into version issues. Every time we make corrections (as I did to the Amores 1 edition yesterday based on notes sent to me separately by Prof. Johnson) we would have to go back in and fix the .pdf. Not realistic for our workflow, alas. On the other hand, Nimis and Hayes’ editions of Greek texts are a good model for print-on-demand, and I would still like to see all out commentaries appear at some point as books.

The question of social features is one that we on the editorial board discussed a lot in the early stages. Online user annotation is a fascinating area, but one in which platforms are evolving fast. It’s a moving target, and we felt it was preferable not to do it than to try, and do it badly. Luckily, possible salvation has recently emerged in the form of a developing collaboration with Rap Genius/Poetry Genius, a brilliant social annotation format. Jeremy Dean at Poetry Genius has shown interest in developing some kind of partnership with DCC so that our content can be socially annotated at their site–fine because all our content is under open license (CC-BY-SA). Such a partnership is already proving successful between Poetry Genius and another Dickinson digital humanities site, House Divided (more on that).

The idea of projecting the text on screen is a superb one, for the reasons Prof. Johnson mentions, and because it greatly alters the quality of attention in a classroom setting. If DCC can encourage this growing trend, I would be very happy about that. DCC exists within an academic culture, and within an ecosystem of print and electronic resources. Reviews like Prof. Johnson’s are a much-needed aid to help us explore this new and uncertain territory. I encourage you to read the review in full here, and more importantly to go out and write similar reviews of digital projects yourself if you can. I have started editing a little review series called DH Direct on a different blog, and would be pleased to receive contributions from scholars or students in any field, in classics or beyond.

–Chris Francese

Annotating with Poetry Genius and House Divided

David Foster Wallace’s annotated copy of Don Delillo’s Players, from the Harry Ransom Research Center in Austin, TX.

David Foster Wallace’s annotated copy of Don Delillo’s Players, from the Harry Ransom Research Center in Austin, TX.

From scribbled marginalia  to full-scale scholarly treatises that gobble the works on which they comment, text annotation is one of the most basic and diverse activities of the humanities. Its purposes embrace the intensely personal, the didactic, and the evangelical. It serves all kinds of communities, from the classroom to the law court, from the synagogue to the university research library.

The movement of text annotation to an online environment is still very much a work in progress. There are many platforms attempting to marry original text and a stream of added comments, some attractive and functional, some awkward. Crowd-sourced annotation is being tried in many corners, and sometimes it catches on (check out the remarkable wiki commentaries on the novels of Thomas Pynchon), sometimes they build it and nobody comes.

Rap Genius and its sister sites Poetry Genius and Education Genius are the most exciting recent entrants into this field. What distinguishes these sites is first the astonishing ease and flexibility of the interface. The mere selecting of a chunk of text allows one to add not just a typed comment but audio, video, links to parallel passages, embedded tweets, virtually anything digital. The other good thing about the Genius sites is the way they tap into existing communities of fans, readers, teachers, and students. Education Genius is well-funded by venture capital and has a staff that talks directly to teachers, works to make the site useful to students, and builds bridges with other sites and institutions.

A case in point is the emerging collaboration of Education Genius with Dickinson’s House Divided Project. An annotated version of Abraham Lincoln’s 1859 autobiographical sketch is now available at Poetry Genius, and represents the beginning of partnership between the House Divided Project and the Genius platform spearheaded by Dickinson College student Will Nelligan (’14). There is a general annotated guide to the sketch, which was originally written for a Pennsylvania newspaper when Lincoln was a presidential candidate, and also a version especially designed as an open Common Core platform. This is in keeping with the  strong educational outreach of House Divided and its director, Associate Professor of History and Pohanka Chair in American Civil War History Matthew Pinsker.

There is an audio recording of the sketch in the voice of Lincoln as recreated by Todd Wronski, part of a larger multimedia edition of Lincoln’s writings being undertaken by House Divided. In the Genius platform clicking on different colored text brings up an annotation. Here is one with an embedded video player. Note that annotations are fully “social,” in that one can give them a thumbs up or down, share in various ways, and leave a comment on the comment.

Clicking on different colored text brings up the annotation, in this case one with an embedded video player.

Clicking on different colored text brings up the annotation, in this case one with an embedded video player.

Some annotations simply add contextual information. Others, like the one above, hint at an interpretation, as a teacher might, in an attempt to get the reader thinking beyond the surface of the text. Others amount to polite essay prompts:

Lincoln Genius Screenshot 2

One can easily create an account and start annotating.

Lincoln Genius Screenshot  3

House Divided’s annotations often take the form of questions.

The idea of annotating with questions, in addition to statements, is a fine one, helpful to teachers and students alike. Note also the ability to brand annotations with the House Divided logo, which marks them as more authoritative and “verified.” The folks at Poetry Genius understand the power of reputation, and unobtrusively include it in the platform in a variety of ways.

The ease of annotation—one can sign up for an account in a moment and fire away—makes this platform well-suited to “class-sourcing,” the adding of content by students under academic supervision, and in fact that is how these particular annotations were created. High quality content created collaboratively for a well-defined audience in an attractive, open, and flexible format: digital humanities doesn’t get much better than that.

I am delighted to say that Jeremy Dean of Education Genius will be visiting Dickinson on April 17, 2014 to speak with a group of faculty and students about text annotation and to further develop this collaboration between the Genius sites and Dickinson College. If you would like further information about this event please contact me (

–Chris Francese


Summer Accomplishments 2013

Dan Plekhov and Qingyu Wang sitting at table in book lined seminar room, smiling

Summer Research Assistants Qingyu Wang and Dan Plekhov, both of the Dickinson class of 2014, have just completed an eight week stint working on the Dickinson College Commentaries, and their accomplishments have been substantial.  Qingyu is a Computer Science and Economics major from Nanjing, China, and Dan is a Classical Studies and Archaeology major from Glen Rock, New Jersey. They were paid a stipend and given housing through the Christopher Roberts Fund for classical studies at Dickinson.

The first order of business was to create systematic linkages between DCC and Pleiades,

Pleiades screenshotvia the Pelagios Project. Pleiades is the main hub online for linked data about the geography of the ancient Mediterranean. More than a map or gazetteer, it is a platform for comprehensively linking data from disparate sources about ancient places. DCC is now one of many digital projects whose geographical data (in our case, notes about specific places mentioned in the texts we cover) is automatically fed into Pleiades. This magic happens through the Pelagios Project, which is a third party that funnels data into Pleiades so the linkages happen without further human intervention.Pelagios screenshot

On our end what needed to be done was to create a single file that listed all of our geographical annotations. We already had Google Earth maps made last summer by Merri Wilson, that contained placemarks with all places mentioned in two of the existing commentaries, each placemark annotated with Pleiades URIs (unique identifiers). The existing Caesar map did not have the Pleiades URIs, and all the linkages in the other commentaries had to be checked for errors. As an Archaeology and Classics major, Dan was perfect for this job, which required a good knowledge of ancient geography, Latin, Greek, and solid research skills.

Meanwhile, Qingyu investigated the .RDF format we were to use for the comprehensive file, and the very specific formatting required by Pelagios. This is not exactly the kind of thing computer science majors do all day, but she dove in and taught herself the skills she needed to complete the work. She was aided by good advice from Sebastian Heath at New York University, and Rainer Simon of Pelagios, a scientist at the Digital Memory Engineering research group of the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology. We had to invent a human-readable code for our specific type of annotations-—so we could keep track of things and every annotation would have a unique designation-—then put all that into a format that Pelagios could deal with. Once we figured all that out, Qingyu created the .RDF file that specifies the linkages between a unique ancient place as referred to in Pleiades, with a specific annotation on a page of our site. Soon, when you go to that place in Pleiades (Gallia, for instance), under “Related Content from Pelagios” you will see “geographical annotations from Dickinson College Commentaries.”

Another aspect of that process, in a sense the reverse of it, was the automatic channeling of data from Pleiades into DCC, via the addition of thumbnail pop-ups on the names of places mentioned in the notes fields. As of this summer, when you mouse over such a linked place name in DCC, a thumbnail with a small map pops up, with the link to Pleiades.

Pleiades pop up screen shotThe beauty of this is that one does not have to navigate away from the text to get an idea of where roughly the place is; but at the same time, Pleiades is only a click way. Qingyu and Ryan Burke made this happen, using a bit of css code created by Sebastian Heath for use in his ISAW papers. So now DCC is comprehensively linked with Pleiades, and we owe a big debt of thanks not just to Dan and Qingyu, but to the folks at Pleiades (Tom Elliott and Sebastian Heath) and Pelagios (Elton Barker and Rainer Simon).

Dan has extensive training in ArcGIS, so I took advantage of that to have him create some new maps for the Caesar commentary. The showpiece is his beautiful new map to go with BG 1.1, the overview of Gaul. We were also fortunate to get some advice from Caesar expert Andrew Riggsby at the University of Texas, who has written extensively on the representation of space in Caesar. Dan himself did substantial research on geography in Caesar, reading through all of the BG up through Book 6, and making a comprehensive list of places and ethnic names mentioned for future inclusion in an expanded version of our Caesar commentary. He also used ArcGIS to update and beautify several of Antonio Salinas’ strategy maps.

Gaul Map screenshot

Meanwhile, Qingyu was working on her next major project, creating relational database versions of the DCC Latin and Greek Core Vocabulary lists. Derek Frymark (’13) provided spreadsheets that presented the lists in table form. Qingyu hashed out exactly what needed to be done to create the database in Drupal. She miraculously mastered the inner workings of Drupal in virtually no time, imported Derek’s spreadsheets, and the result is the attractive, flexible interface you can see here (Latin) and here (Greek). This represents a major improvement to a popular and useful feature of our site, and the feedback from users has been great.

Greek core screenshot

After finishing his mapping efforts, Dan entered the Greek vocabulary lists into our forthcoming site on Lucian’s True Story, the first known piece of science fiction. These lists had been initially created by Evan Hayes and Stephen Nimis for their print edition, but had to be adapted for our format.


He then  moved on to the preparation of our Callimachus Aetia site, which as you can imagine is a very complicated endeavor due to the fragmentary nature of that text. Just figuring out what we have and don’t have as a legacy of Stanford University’s Aetia site begun under the direction of Prof. Susan Stephens has been a real chore. Dan has created a new table of contents which, when it goes live, will be an excellent way to see the work as a whole, and to navigate within the text. Dan has been carefully checking everything on the site against the best scholarly editions (Harder, Massimilla, Pfeiffer, D’Alessio), making sure that the formatting is correct, and that the TOC accurately reflects what we are including on the site. He has also helped me to make innumerable judgment calls about what fragments are actually legible and thus to be included on the site, as opposed to so fragmentary as to be for all practical purposes illegible.

Aetia TOC

Qingyu’s third major task, and the most challenging as it turned out, was creating our own instance of Allen & Greenough’s Latin Grammar. We link out to A&G at Perseus at the moment, but for various reasons we really need to have our own copy on our servers.

The Perseus Project carried out the original digitization of Allen & Greenough with support from the National Endowment of the Humanities. Perseus makes their tagged XML version available through a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license, which means anyone can remix, tweak, and build upon it, even for commercial purposes, as long as they give credit and license their new creations under the identical terms. Paul Hudson, author of the SPQR app, provided his own copy of the XML file, along with the php code he wrote that parses the XML file and converts it to an SQLite database. It is this database version of the Perseus XML that forms the basis of our site. Qingyu created the interface based on Hudson’s code and a design by Chris Stamas, with the help of Dickinson web developer Ryan Burke. She built it in html, using css and javascript to create the effects and menus on the pages, and used php to make the page interact with the database. All of this took substantial effort and problem solving, but when it goes live I think you’ll agree the result is a fast and attractive way to consult A&G, and a real asset to the site.

We view the navigation of Allen & Greenough via the table of contents as a IMG_2507temporary stopgap, and plan in the future to create navigation via Allen & Greenough’s Index of Words and Subjects (which is the way most people actually consult the book). But the index has evidently not yet been digitized, and is not part of the XML file. So stay tuned for that. In the long run we would like to have a whole stable of such reference works. My highest priority at the moment would be digitizing Goodell’s Greek grammar. But that’s a project for another summer!


All these things sound fairly straightforward in retrospect, but they took a great deal of skill, hard work, and creativity on the part of Dan and Qingyu. This summer has been an experiment and an adventure, and in my view a highly successful one, thanks to their outstanding efforts. I am so grateful to have had the chance to work with them, and I believe that the future holds great things for them.


Latin Homographs and Homonyms

I visited the University of Virginia last fall and sat in on a Latin reading (as in reading aloud) group led by Prof. David Kovacs. I think there were something like 25 people there. Latin as performance is very much alive at UVA. It was a great afternoon, and one of the highlights was a handout Prof. Kovacs distributed with his own collection of homographs and homonyms. Here are some examples:


nitor brightness nītor try
nōta well-known < nōtus -a -um nota, mark < nota -ae, f.
nōvī I know < noscō -ere nōvī novī new < novus -a -um


adeō I approach so, so much
canis dog you sing > cano
equitēs horseman > eques you ride a horse > equito

Solid gold, I thought, and filed it away for future use. Then it occurred to me, the world needs to know about this list. I approached Prof. Kovacs about making it into a Wikipedia page, so others could add to it. Go to, he said, and I did, in my spare moments, editing and reformatting it in Mediawiki. But then, guess what, the gatekeepers of Wikipedia rejected the article. Indeed!

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and not a dictionary. We cannot accept articles that are little more than definitions of words or abbreviations as entries. A good article should begin with a good definition, but expand on the subject. Please try creating an article at Wiktionary instead.

Hmmpf! We are lucky enough to have our own instance of Mediawiki at Dickinson, so I have taken Prof. Kovacs’ marbles and gone home. You may view the full, edited list here. I would welcome any additions, and can probably get you editing access if you would like to expand it substantially. Hope you enjoy!

–Chris Francese

Students at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Contribute to DCC

This spring, with generous support from the School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, three UIUC students have been contributing to the Dickinson College Commentaries project. Pictured here are James Stark and Katherine Cantwell at a poster session last Friday, as they presented their work, which is being carried out under the supervision of Professor Arian Traill, a member of the editorial board.

UIUC_Open House_Cantwell_Stark

James has done outstanding work creating complete vocabulary lists for the selections of Vergil’s Aeneid covered in the College Board’s AP Latin course, aligning those lists with the DCC core vocabulary in a way that will greatly ease the creation of a future DCC edition. This Vergil edition will eventually form a companion to the existing editionof the AP Caesar selections. Katherine has been working on the edition of Callimachus’ Aetia by Prof. Stephens of Stanford, making the existing content conform to the format and goals of the DCC. In both cases, the key activity is working on the vocabulary lists that accompany the (untranslated) Greek or Latin text. These lists are hand-designed and human-edited, not computer-generated. The expertise of the student in making these lists correct and properly targeted to the intended readership is a major part of what makes DCC distinctive and useful.

Wes Heap (not pictured) has been working with Prof. Mulligan of Haverford on his forthcoming DCC edition of Cornelius Nepos’ Life of Hannibal.

I would like to extend a big thank you to James, Katherine, and Wes for all their work, and to Prof. Traill for applying for the grant that is funding it, and for her expert supervision.

–Chris Francese