Classics

Classics

Houghton is, of course, a goldmine for Classics concentrators: not only it holds more than 400 Latin and more than 120 Greek manuscripts—including the bill of sale for a donkey from 126 CE (MS Gr SM2223, 009956023)—but it also possesses an enviable collection of other materials in both languages that often reaches beyond the Middle Ages and into the early modern and modern eras. These items, however, are not only restricted to the subject fields most often studied by Classics concentrators, such as literature, history, philosophy, religion, and art. Houghton’s collection demonstrates that the influence of the Classics, especially the Classical languages, extends well beyond areas traditionally linked to the concentration, and, thus, the library is able to support less orthodox Classics research efforts.

Before proceeding to those endeavors and their related items, however, some of Houghton’s more illustrious items related to the Classics must be mentioned. The library owns a beautiful illuminated fifteenth-century copy of Virgil’s Eclogues, Georgics, and the Aeneid (MS Richardson 38, 009888840), a truly wondrous sight. The library also possess a large collection of incunabula—books printed in the fifteenth century—with almost 400 items, many of them in Latin. Some of the most striking examples of that portion of the archive include a blockbook depicting the Book of Revelation (Typ Inc 14, 001242636); an early printed version of Giovanni Boccaccio’s De Mulieribus Claris (Typ Inc 2496, 002534000), the first collection of biographies of females in the Western world; and a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle (Typ Inc 2084, 001527048).

However, Houghton also has a series of materials that display the pervasiveness of the Classics in other fields of inquiry long after Ancient Greece and Rome were history. Books such as A Statistical Inquiry into the Condition of the People of Color (US 5261.162*, 006658027), an 1849 Philadelphia publication, introduce the topic of slavery by drawing upon the history of the practice in the ancient world, particularly Greece and Rome. Others, such as Adam Anderson’s 1764 history of commerce (EC75 G3525 Zz764a, 001335207), discourse on the economic history of the Greek and Roman civilizations before referencing contemporary times.

Another remarkable feature of Houghton’s Classics collection is its ability to be paired up with almost any other field to promote interdisciplinary research. A particularly wonderful example of this is a collection of treatises about China that either compare the region’s traditions with Greek and Roman customs (Ch 62.22.2 (2)*, 003995563), relate religious missions to the East in Latin (Ch 62.3.2*, 002213095), or discourse about Chinese history in Latin (Ch 60.11*, 006724480). All of these items, which can be studied in conjunction with the East Asian Studies concentration, also display another current trend in the study of the Classics that, though not represented by these materials’ period, seeks to include other areas of the ancient world within the Classics and study the interaction between Greece and Rome and those regions.

The interdisciplinary nature of the Classics is even better illustrated at Houghton by the library’s huge collection of scientific treatises in Latin, which allows for students in a double concentration involving the Classics and a science to conduct research effectively and successfully. Examples of such items include Opusculum Chymico-Physico-Medicum (Chem 373.1.5, 003658899), an eighteenth-century treatise on medicine that can be studied both through the Classics and through life sciences such as Chemical and Physical Biology, and a 1540 Latin copy of books I and II of Aristotle’s Physics (IC5.N5593.508pc, 007539839).