Sunday, February 20, 2011

Round-Up: February 20

Instead of the usual round-up, I wanted to announce a new little project that I started this weekend, with a new blog address, too: Anecdota Latina.

This is a project to slowly but surely transcribe some of the old Latin readers at GoogleBooks. As a test project this weekend, I transcribed two very short little readers, both by Edmund Fowle. His First Easy Latin Reading Book has one little booklet of historical anecdotes, and a separate little booklet of Roman history (mythological history, that is, culminating in the war with the Sabines and the peace brought about by the Sabine women). Here are my transcriptions of the Historical Anecdotes and here are my transcriptions of the Roman History.

Method. In transcribing these little stories, I have used an extra large font to make it easier to read and segmented the sentences to indicate the natural phrasing. I've also added an illustration of some kind for each little story. I made very few editorial changes. I am not a fan of the use of vocalic "j" so I have used "i" instead. Fowle also was a fan of the spelling "quum" for adverbial "cum," but I have used "cum" instead. I've also made a few changes in punctuation. I have not indicated these editorial changes in the text; I'm treating Fowle's text not as something sacred but instead just something that can be useful to Latin students and teachers - which was Fowle's own purpose as well, of course.

Accent Marks. I have also added accent marks in order to encourage people to read out loud. No, there are no macrons; those of you who have participated in the "macron wars" that occasionally flare up at the LatinTeach listserve and elsewhere online know that I consider the practice of marking all macrons to be quixotic (at least for English speakers, who, with only very rare exceptions, make long and short a distinction of quality, not quantity). If someone who is a fan of macrons wants to do versions of the texts with macrons, that would be super - publish them online at your blog or wiki and I will be delighted to link to them; just let me know! Fowle's own method in this regard was typical of the nineteenth-century approach, and one I find personally very congenial. Fowle was not interested in macrons per se but used them only to indicate word stress. That is, he marked penultimate vowels as long or short in words of three syllables or more (plus an occasional macron used for disambiguation of a case ending in the final syllable). Given the awkwardness of adding breve marks to vowels, I find it easier simply to indicate the word stress with an accent mark, a style you will often see in ecclesiastical Latin texts, but rarely elsewhere; I find that is very encouraging for beginning students as they read out loud.

Vocabulary. I have not transcribed vocabulary lists for the readings, but the vocabulary is available at GoogleBooks. Most of these Latin readers have complete vocabulary lists in the back of the book; Fowle goes that one better, because he has running vocabulary lists for each little story. I have provided a link to the vocabulary pages in Fowle's book at the bottom of each of the stories in the blog.

Working through Fowle's two little booklets this weekend, I concluded that this is a very good use of my time. It is a lot of fun for me personally (I love exempla literature of all kinds, not just about animals!). More importantly, it is also very efficient: it takes me just a few minutes to transcribe and format the text, and this reformatting is a big improvement on the PDF at GoogleBooks. Now that the text is in digital form, teachers and students can copy-and-paste the text, printing, editing, and doing whatever they want to make the texts useful to them. In fact, there is a play here on the word "anecdotes" (Latin anecdota) which I have chosen as the title of the blog: in Greek, anekdota are the things un-published (an-ek-dota), but by digitizing these texts and publishing then online, I hope to make them "unanecdotal," as it were, published in an accessible format for all to read. :-)

I'll be including updates on this project in the Bestiaria Latina round-ups, which will start up again on Feb. 22 per the usual schedule. Any feedback or suggestions re: this little project would be most welcome! :-)